For the first of our 'Meet the chef' features, we talked to Killian O’ Donohoe, Executive Head Chef at the Boyne Valley Hotel, who found his way to the Boyne Valley all thanks to a hurricane!
What inspired you to get into the food industry?
It was, jaysus it’s a mad story. In fifth year a group of us headed to the Isle of Man, where I ended up working as a kitchen porter. I fell in love with the excitement and ended up doing all my commis chef training there. Then it was off to Jurys in Christchurch where I was the youngest sous chef at just 23. Next stop England, then the Cayman Islands to work for Michelin starred chef, Ottmar Webbar, where we won many awards. Then I opened up an Irish restaurant in the Caribbean and was there for 7 years.
What brought you home?
A hurricane! A hurricane wrecked the place so I came home to sort out furniture for the restaurant as it was all sourced from here. While I was here a chef walked out on the opening night of a local restaurant. I filled in and they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. After that it was over to the Station House, then Conyngham Arms for three years and now here.
What’s your favourite dish on the menu here at the Boyne Valley Hotel?
When I was in the Conyngham Arms I fell in love with local products. Everything we use here at the Boyne Valley Hotel is from within a 10-mile radius. One of our most popular dishes is the scallop one – Whole Hoggs black pudding, Tuites bacon, Seamus Dunne scallops and Drummond House garlic scapes and we use Newgrange Gold to cook it in – it flies out! I love working with the producers, playing with food and experimenting. I want to help every chef understand that there is scope in your menu to use local produce. If you price it right and use it right, there’s no reason not to use local produce. We do what we can to help each other out.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Here we are basically sticking to Irish gourmet cuisine. It’s what we should be known for. The hotel sleeps over 100 and is nearly full every night. Most of the guests are from Europe and Irish cuisine is what they want to experience. The hotel is undergoing a massive refurb at the moment - new rooms, gym, full-size soccer pitches, tennis courts and the dining room we are in at the moment which we are going to relaunch in October hopefully.
What’s your go-to dish?
I’m never home to cook! Even on my days off, and this annoys the wife no end, I go to the farms to help with their products. They ask us what we think and to see if we can give them any pointers. I want the other chefs to see what I’m doing and go out there and have fun. It’s essential to see the work that goes into the produce.
What’s your most memorable meal?
No joke, myself and the wife were only talking about this! It was in Milan during fashion week and was one of the most flavoursome dishes I’ve ever had. It was fillet steak and I went to talk to the chef and where did come from… Ireland and that’s the truth.
What one ingredient do you love working with the most?
Now all the other producers are going to kill me for saying this but it’s fish, you know what I mean. Fish is easy, it’s quick and you can really get the colours out easily. Also, if you keep with the seasons everything is good, that’s what gets me, out-of-season products and you know they are coming from abroad, so you just don’t get the sweetness or quality from them.
What do you love about being involved with Boyne Valley Flavours?
Just hanging out with the producers. They are very open, I can just call them, pop down with some of my team and they’ll bring you round the fields and show you their products. They are happy to do that.
What do you like about working in Boyne Valley?
The people, the variety and the produce. I was never a big smoke fan. Here you have the freedom to check where your products are coming from. We’re right on the ocean, the farmland is beside you, it’s so easy to go out and get stuff, I can just get in care and go pick up stuff, in Dublin I’d just be stuck in traffic. I have the freedom to wander the countryside.
What’s your advice to budding chefs?
Get out and see it. See the farmers and physically talk to them, see the problems they have with the weather, see the things they do. If you’re really interested in your job go out and talk to people, hear their story, they’ll teach you all about their products. Any chef that’s really serious has to get out and see it. See the work that goes into making the product.
Tell us a bit more about your Place on a Plate dishes?
Every dish here from, breakfast to dinner, is a Place on a Plate dish. Everything is freshly cooked and it’s all local, from the bacon for our breakfast to the lamb for our dinners. Our menu is very responsive to what local ingredients are available to us.
If you would like to have a go at making one of Killian's recipes, you'll find his Trio of Pork one here. Enjoy!
This section of the blog will feature Boyne Valley chefs that excel in promoting the region, its produce and producers.
Wednesday, 16th October 2019
Friday, 11th October 2019
Tuesday, 8th October 2019
Friday, 4th October 2019
Monday, 30th September 2019