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Irish cuisine is at a crossroads: keen to shake off the traditional image of stews, lamb and potatoes, a number of the Republic and Northern Ireland’s best chefs are now aligning themselves more with the New Nordic movement – highly seasonal and local, with a strong emphasis on quality sea food and meats, and foraged herbs and plants – which makes sense given the island’s location. Irish chefs are now looking inwards and rediscovering the vast bounty right on their doorsteps, from some of the worlds best seafood, to local cheeses.
It’s a revival that started back in the 1990s, as this recent essay by academic Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire in the Irish Times explains in some detail. But Irish chefs are not only making a mark at home: there is a vast diaspora of chefs working in and running some of the best kitchens around the world, topping cooking competitions and picking up Michelin stars, whilst helping to spread the word about the Irish larder.
Here’s our pick of the Irish chefs you need to know about.
As founder of the Food on the Edge symposium in Galway, McMahon’s enthusiasm and networking abilities have seen him tempt some of the world’s best chefs into the welcoming warm arms of this small city on Ireland’s rugged and beautiful West Coast for the annual meet. As a result, McMahon has probably done more than most to spread the message of Irish cuisine. He also owns several restaurants in the town, including the rather fine, Michelin-starred Aniar.
Having helmed Gordon Ramsay’s flagship Royal Hospital Road restaurant for close to a decade, making her the only female chef in the UK and Ireland to hold three Michelin stars, Clare Smyth established her own restaurant, Core, in London’s Notting Hill, in 2017, with an emphasis on local products from sustainable producers, inspired by her childhood growing up on a farm in County Antrim. The World’s 50 Best Restaurants also recently named her World’s Best Female Chef.
Having established herself under the watch of both Gordon Ramsay and Phil Howard, Anna Haugh became Executive Chef of Bob Bob Ricard in London in 2016. Late last year she announced she would be leaving to concentrate on her own project, a new restaurant in the city that she describes as Modern European with Irish influences.
Robin Gill is another Irish chef that’s found success in London. Having previously worked under the likes of Marco Pierre White and Raymond Blanc, he established critically acclaimed The Dairy in 2013, with a strong emphasis on seasonality, working his menu around what his suppliers could offer him, rather than vice versa. Several more ventures have followed, including a snack bar based around leftover produce.
S.Pellegrino Young Chef Marc Moriarty focused the gastronomical world’s attention on Ireland and its produce when he took the title in 2015, with a dish based around a salt-baked celeriac with hazelnuts, with hay-smoked tea served from his grandmother’s China. Since winning the title Moriarty has travelled and cooked all over the world, with some of the world’s best chefs, a one-man promotional machine for the best Ireland has to offer.
Having won a Michelin star three years in a row at Belfast’s EIPIC, County Down-born Danni Barry decided she wanted to follow her dream of opening a more casual, family-oriented restaurant. The result is Clenaghans in the village of Aghalee. Housed in a cosy 18th century building, the elevated pub fare has an emphasis on local products and the bold flavours for which Barry has become known.
Ox, in Belfast, has helped put Northern Irish gastronomy on the map. Chef Stephen Toman honed his technique in a series of top kitchens in France – Taillevent, L’Arpège and L’Astrance – and perhaps there is a touch of Alain Passard in the way he puts vegetables at the forefront of his seasonal menus. He also met sommelier/restaurant manager Alain Kerloc’h, who has experience at L’Arpège, as well as at Mirazur, whilst there – a winning team then.
The food at chef Liam Tomlin’s Cape Town restaurant Chefs Warehouse and Canteen is a roadmap (or should that be airmap?) to this globetrotting chef’s travels: tapas-style dishes with influences ranging from the Middle East, Asia, India, Australia and of course Ireland. Tomlin, who lived in Dublin until he was 17, was also named Eat Out S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna Chef of the Year in 2017.
Andy McFadden was, at one point, the youngest chef in the UK to hold a Michelin star, aged just 25, at London’s L’Autre Pied. Now in his early 30s he’s returned to his native Dublin to open Glovers Alley, on the site of the old Thornton’s, the only restaurant to ever grace the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, way back in 2003. Expect plenty of French technique at one of Dublin’s most elegant restaurants.
Those who got to watch Cuan Greene speak at Food on the Edge 2017 will have no doubt about this young chef’s passion. Having previously worked at both Quique Dacosta in Spain and Copenhagen’s Geranium, where one of his dishes won fish dish of the year in Denmark, no mean feat, he’s now an integral part of the team at Noma, as Chef de Partie, and travelled with the crew to Tulum last year for their Mexico pop-up.
Hoping to emulate Mark Moriarty’s success in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition, Killian Crowley, who grew up in Belgium to an Irish father, beat thousands of young hopefuls to reach the Grand Finale of the 2018 competition in Milan, representing the UK and Ireland. It wasn’t to be this time for the young chef from JP McMahon’s Aniar restaurant, but we suspect this is just the start of Crowley’s culinary journey.
The pubs in Ireland are some of the best in the world of course, but how do you elevate pub food to Michelin level? Ask Aidan McGrath, who’s County Clare pub The Honey Inn was the first in Ireland to be awarded a Michelin star in the most recent Guide. All the ingredients are local of course, with McGrath serving the best the Atlantic and the local countryside has to offer.