Midway through the January 2015 Three Month course, Lynda used her strong industry contacts to organise stage placements at some of the best restaurants in Dublin for all of her Certificate students, As a result, they got to spend three full days working alongside some of the country’s top chefs and experienced first-hand what it’s like to work in a professional kitchen. Read below to see how they got on.
Paul plating up a Medjool Date & Goat’s Cheese Salad in the kitchen of the East Side Tavern
“I worked in insurance for 33 years, so I had no concept of how a professional kitchen worked. Before the course, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to walk into a restaurant or approach a chef and say look, can I do a stage because it was too much outside of my comfort zone and what I know. Now I can see that they’re quite happy to take people on.”
“What fascinated me, was how small the kitchen was, how well organised it was and how everyone on the team knew exactly what they needed to do.”
“There were only four people working in the kitchen so it was a very tight operation. We did 180 covers on the Friday over lunch and dinner between the four of us and the buzz was just fantastic. Being part of that team is very exciting and there’s a great buzz to it.”
“My strongest memory of the kitchen is the tight team. They were extremely busy but when they did have a little bit of free time, the junior chefs would take the time to say Paul, you’re holding your knife wrong or if you do this slightly differently, it’ll make it quicker for you and you’ll find it easier.”
Chef John Wyer showing Laura how to fillet a John Dory at Forest Avenue
“I’ve always enjoyed cooking. In doing the course, I’m planning for the next 10 years of my career. I’m looking at how I can combine my design background with food and my love of cooking and bring all of these elements together in a career in food styling.”
“Working with John Wyer was really good. He’d ask me to come over and taste a lot of the dishes. He’d be like, I’ve just cured this meat and have a look at this, we’ve just made our own ricotta. The kitchen was so busy when he was doing this and I think it’s a great mark of his character that he took the time to show me all of those things.”
“He was very generous with his information, there were no chef’s secrets or anything like that. I think that probably comes from his teaching background. I think he was able to judge what I was capable of doing, he didn’t throw me totally in the deep end and kept me close to the action.”
“Some of his flavour combinations were really different. I tried his marshmallows with black tea soaked prunes and that was an amazing combination. Without seeing that, you’d never think to do that yourself. It really starts to get you thinking about and challenging flavour combinations which is really exciting. I think that’s his flair.”
“I chose this course because it covered everything I wanted like poultry, meat, fish, baking, dressings and stocks. I wanted to learn how to do all of these things properly and be able to cook good food and the course has definitely given me that. When I’m older I want to start my own cafe so I need to have knowledge off all of these different areas.”
“The chef in charge of me was really good to me. He knew that I was a student and there to learn so he didn’t just give me basic jobs to do like peeling and chopping potatoes. He started off by giving me a recipe for pink macaroons and asked me to make 200 for Valentine’s Day which was a real challenge but I loved it.”
“When we were in the middle of service, Graeme asked me to come up to the pass and he would show me what he was plating up. He’d say “do you know what this is?” and if it was something I’d never seen or tasted before then he’d make up a little plate for me to try and if I hadn’t tasted a sauce he’d get me to taste that as well. I’d have to taste everything he’d take time to explain what was in everything and how he’d made it and he’d show me how to cook it afterwards.”
“Graeme said that I was welcome back to the kitchen any time so I’m planning to go back in there for a month or so when I finish the course.”
Shane prepping for lunch service at Restaurant Forty One (Residence Members Club)
Before doing the course, I did a degree in mechanical engineering and worked as an engineer for a little while.
I considered doing a Culinary Arts course but I wanted to do something that wasn’t as much of a commitment as 3 or 4 year degree. I liked the way that this course was much shorter and gave you the opportunity to get a job straight after the course is finished.
“I expected working in the kitchen to be very intense and mad busy but Graham Neville , the chef I was working with was incredibly laid back. He didn’t even raise his voice when it was really busy. He was a very chilled out person so that was nice.”
”From doing the placement I’ve realised how easy it is to get placements in kitchens and that’s been a really nice bonus to the course for me. I love the idea of working in a few different kitchens because you’ll learn and pick up different things from each one you work in. It’s almost like a job interview. If you work in a kitchen for a few days and they see you working well, they might take you on. It’s your opportunity to create a good impression.”
“The complexity of the dishes blew my mind and just the level that you can take it to. There’s no limit to what you can put on a plate. The stuff they were creating was ridiculous. There were things coming out of siphon guns and I’d ask them how they made it. They’d tell me but some of it would just go straight over my head. Every little component is so complex. It really opens your eyes to what is possible on a plate.”
“There’s a great buzz in the kitchen. You get such a kick out of it and it makes you want more of it. It makes you want to get back into another kitchen and get even more involved. You can feel the buzz just being in the background, imagine what it’s like being a chef at the centre of it all.”
“I’m an Agronomist and a potato grower by trade. Up until last I was working as an Agronomist for Largo Foods who make Tayto and Hunky Dory crisps. I was coordinating potato supply and working with growers, sourcing seeds, advising on fertilisers and in general, organising the supply of a quality potato crop throughout the potato growing season. I’m now purely on the potato supply side of things which opened up the opportunity for me to come to the school because this time of year is quiet on the growing and the farming side of things. January and February are very quiet months for me as a grower but when I finish the course her in March, I’m straight into planting the crops.”
“Cooking has always been an interest of mine ever since I was a kid. Prior to coming to Dublin Cookery School, I went to the Tannery Cookery School in Dungarvan for three days and also did six Monday’s with JP McMahon in Galway at his Aniar Cookery School. I came away from those courses thinking right, I want to know more now!”
“I definitely want to use this course as a platform to do something after the course, even if it’s converting my garage into a kitchen to do outdoor catering and one off events – that would be the minimum. What I’d really like to do is get involved with the food offering at Tayto Park which my friend owns. Tayto Park is expanding and I’ve said to him that he should try and captialise on all of the visitors that go there and make it into a food destination as well as it being a place for people to take their kids.”
“I’d like to use the knowledge I’ve gained here to tap into someone else in the industry. I couldn’t do that on my own but I now know I can ring Ross Lewis, Paul Flynn or Lynda for advice. I had a really good chat with Ross about bouncing ideas about how you would go about approaching the project and move it forward.”
“I’d never been into a professional kitchen and seen it in operation. I’d never seen one in full flow and seen how they manage everything and the adrenalin rush of a service. The interesting thing was seeing how they managed the systems and the quality control of everything they were doing in the kitchen. In Chapter One, as part of the prep pre-service, everything is tasted at around 12pm. Ross is there and the head chef is there and they go around tasting everything and tick them off the list – the purees, the sauces, the cold starters, everything bar the meat and fish which can’t be cooked until service. Any elements that can be pre-cooked are tasted to ensure that everything is right. So therefore, during service there are no mistakes – everything is done and it’s just a case of assembling the dishes.
“On the first day, I was on the pass watching what was happening, having chats with Ross Lewis and he was passing me bits of food for me to taste. On the second day, I had a really good chat with him in the afternoon for about an hour. It was really nice of him to take the time do that. By my last day, there were three or four people in the kitchen getting me to do jobs for them. For any of the jobs that I was doing for them, I’d always ask, “what is this being used for and what is the recipe?” I was helping them out with the mise en place and making myself available for anything that needed doing. I was doing interesting things that I had never done before like using the vacuum packing machine and the water baths, slicing things for the dehydrator and fermenting horseradish – interesting things that I’d never heard of before.”
“The main memory I’ll take away with me is the pace and the adrenalin in the kitchen. On the recipe side of things it was really interesting to see things like fermented horseradish being served with scallops. I would never have thought about that combination myself.”
“The afternoon I spent chatting with Ross Lewis was priceless – you can’t buy that! I was also chuffed to get invited back. They told me to keep in touch and said I could come back in any time. It was a great experience overall!”