Chef networking

Chef networking

As long as I’m in the kitchen there has always been a cameraderie between members of a crew then you get out to into the world and you bump into people as you do and strike up a conversation, with them and it enviably leads to food in my experience. Then you go to events and meet more like minded people and discover that there’s another way of doing something or an alternative use for something or a better use of something, both food and equipment. For instance a small tub becomes a speaker for music from your phone aswell as a handy protection from water or liquid that’s are usually around the kitchen that have a habit of spilling, tea/coffee or water being the most common. Communication through social media, looking for pointers, tips, tricks, recipes, ideas and concepts all from other chefs from around the world. From America to Australia from Shanghai to Tralee, chefs from all over the world look for ideas from other chefs on the other side of the planet. Through social media the far reaches of the world are on the other side of a keyboard or a phone or tablet just a click away. (I feel like a travel ad).
I find that the longer I’m in the industry the easier the network becomes, I’ve a spread throughout munster, from the places I’ve worked I love going back to these places and new places where former colleagues now work. The best example of this is a restaurant in Bandon where a former colleague and friend is now the proprietor, of a restaurant serving Irish and Syrian food. The last time i was in west Cork I had to stop by. . Yes this is a gangster blog and my name is not Vinnie. So you can’t say Vinnie sent you. Back to my point I stopped by because I spent a summer in a hot box of a kitchen with this guy who commanded respect and through thick and thin remained calm and I’m forever endeared to him for pushing me through some of the busiest services I’ve ever been a part of. Pushing each member of the crew to do better tighter plates, cleaner cuts, better portioning, better trimming and filleting boning etc. This is just one example, I’ve been fortunate to have worked with a few of these type people. When someone is looking to move to another place your friends and colleagues will be the first to know, you could have recommendations from places but it’s a personal connection that will get you a job just as fast.
I worked with Johnny so and so in such and such a place. Often works or a phone call Pat will call into you on…

To me the chef network extends far beyond the kitchen to a life beyond the pass, when chefs leave the kitchen some yearn for the buzz but not the hours and pain it takes to get that buzz once every so often. I was once told you can leave the kitchen bit the kitchen will never leave you.

I suppose this may be true I’m not gonna find out anytime soon, I love what I do, I love where I do it, I look forward to a new shift no matter how tired I may be I still get to do what I do, and I love it


Bread and baking

One of the smells that truly sings of home and home pride to me is bread fresh baked, crunching out of the oven, slightly cooled add butter let that melt on and eat. I hope like me your meltinh with a craving for bread like that of the urge during the hurricane, or breadgate as I viewed it.

I suppose with my background and family where there was great bakers on both sides both grandparents and my own mother, so I suppose I’m predisposed to good bread, bad bread would not be tolerated, that’s shocking or disgusting followed swiftly by a trip to the yard for the birds or the dog whichever got it first. My only mistake in bread at home undercooked.

Some say it’s a science, others an art, others a feeling, then there are those that just know. I’m not in the latter 2 I’m more of it being an art and a feeling, aswell as therapy. To me there’s something about turning your hand into a claw and mixing all the dry ingredients, then it gets fun add the wet and it gets messy for a bit until it all comes together, into a beautiful batter or dough depending on your bread, the brown bread I make is quite wet and the white quite dry, then the yeast breads they need work by my own admission not my strong suit, can I make them yes I can are they gonna make you think OMG this is amazing no, not by a long shot, this is nice is about the reaction I get.
Just a week ago I was making bread and looked at my hand, bits of dough bits of flour and I thought hands like nans, just the way I looked at them its what I saw my nan still bakes a few cakes of bread every few days. Home cooking still brings me down, from the restaurant food I’m used to cooking, makes me more humble and ambitious to achieve this sentiment in tbe restaurant, I want to bring people to their childhood, nans cooking or moms cooking depending on your age will decide where you stand on that one.

As an Irish Culchee there’s an affinity with bread, as a staple for breakfast lunch and dinner, thats fine as long as it’s not possessed to death, if you can’t pronounce any of the ingredients on your recipe or ingredients list don’t get it. My bread has a number of ingredients depending on which I’m making, none of which is 6 syllables in length and looks like a medical condition or its photocopied from a box of antibiotics.

During the hurricane and the storm that ensued I walked into the supermarket and passed the bread aisle, what’s left is gluten free, that’s another story. I picked up 2 of my ingredients as I already had the rest and bumped into an old secondary school teacher, after a short chat which ended in but you’ve the skill to make it, there’s tonnes of recipes out there pick one. The four base ingredients I use are flour, sugar, bread soda and buttermilk. Basic Irish soda bread no salt no tricks no fancy machines bowl and hands and a tray or a bread tin.

To everyone bread is different some like it sweet some not so here’s a rough recipe not exact 500g flour 2 table spoons sugar 2 teaspoons bread soda approx 200ml buttermilk.

Mix all the dry ingredients
Add half buttermilk and mix add little by little until it all forms together into a ball.
Dust a tray with flour or put greaseproof of baking parchment on a tray
Shape the dough to a round or square shape. Score the dough to a cross shape or a square in the middle.

Bake about 45 mins @180
Its done when you can hear its “heartbeat” when tapped it should sound hollow.

As always follow our social media on all platforms @croitralee or myself @chefpaulc

David’s talks collage

Week 1 in a college kitchen (from butchery to an Irish classic)
As you guys may know by now, I am going back to college under the mentorship of Chef Noel. This week in college we were thrown in at the deep end and went straight to butchery, most people start with stocks, soups & sauces.
Us on the other hand were given a whole chicken and told to break it down (wings, chicken legs, & Supremes). We left one supreme out to use and put the rest away for a further date.
We also made a classic sauce BEURRE BLANC DE CHAMPIGNON (mushroom Beurre blanc). This sauce was made by sautéing diced onions and sliced mushrooms together on a medium heat. Once they were softened I de-glazed the pan with some white wine and slowly added cream, I continuously added butter and finished this dish with some fresh basil. The recipe for this sauce is as follows and very easy to make.
• 10g diced onion
• 2 medium mushrooms sliced
• 125ml white wine
• 125ml cream
• 100g butter
• 4-5 fresh basil leaves
From France to Ireland this week we also covered a classic dish know by everyone BACON & CABBAGE. This was not a typical bacon boiled bacon dish, quite the opposite really, we cooked a bacon steak (bout an inch thick) three different ways while combination cooking. We first seared it in a fry pan on a high heat to give it a nice colour, secondly, we slow baked it at bout 180 degrees for 15mins, and thirdly we added a few ladles of freshly made chicken stock (from the freshly broken-down carcasses) so the bacon steak was now being braised. This was a first for me to cook one item three different ways just for one dish. As for the cabbage we rolled it up and chiffonade it. We sautéed it with freshly cut lardons from left over bacon. The bacon and cabbage were served with a nice light parsley sauce. The recipe for the parsley sauce is as follows.
• 50g butter
• 50g flour
• 100ml milk
• 15g fresh parsley
That’s all for this week folks check back next week for more of my culinary college adventures



Not so much an info piece more an acecdote. Recently I’ve become a little braver with my foraging, from my childhood I have a healthy respect for nettles knowing enough to steer clear of the sting. Last year I witnessed the most unusual thing to me anyway a guy (Max, of once upon a cheese). Decides to play with them like they were a sponge or a ball, not a care in the world. If you intend to rub them they won’t sting you I’d you rub accidently they sting. Laughing at him I witnessed the afore mentioned scenario. This year as they begin to sprout and grow and gain strength I’ve decided I’m gonna use them I know they are edible and extremely good for you with ample iorn and other nutrients that the modern diet lacks.

These can be eaten raw or cooked, I too was hesitant in eating raw I didn’t get stung, delighted with myself. As much as experimenting is part of my job I also want others to experience it too I’m willing to share hence this piece. I want to assure you that there’s more to so with nettles than just soup. It makes a wonderful tonic tea, holds well as a pesto or as part of a salad once blanched and many more. Now with time time or relative opulence and an age of convenience wild food are being distanced from the general public and are almost seen as a form of destitution to go picking and eating the weeds. Grow your own is gaining in popularity and many people have made a success of growing veg, salad and flowers for use in restaurants.
In the restaurant I ate it raw as did Dave, eating it Ike anything else not to be hesitant, pretty much like handling the nettles. Chew away and no sting play with it in your mouth stung as Dave found out the hard way.

Moral of the story just eat nettles rough and intentional handling and there’s no sting accidental handling sting.

As always @croitralee on all social media platforms and myself direct on twitter and Instagram @chefpaulc

Coastal foraging , paul


Seaside and seagreens.

Anyone that knows the restaurant or follows the gangsters page on Facebook knows that we forage sea greens and use them in fish and vegatarian dishes in the restaurant, with this comes the chance to experiment with our customers the unique flavour oppertunity presented to us by our shores. Seaweeds are not my strong suit, however I plan to introduce more to my cooking over the coming months. Not for the lack of seaweeds on our shores rather the inability to look past the cultural stereotype associated with them. Most gardeners will tell you seaweeds are great fertilizers, what they won’t tell you is they taste good or are extremely healthy and free if your willing to go to the coast with a tub and a scissors.

In other cultures seaweeds are highly prized and commonplace in certain diets, and these cultures live longer and without many health problems. Now I’m not saying that these cultures are perfectly healthy without any health problems it’s the percentage of the population diagnosed with serious health issues is much less than that in this country or those similar to us.

So in addition to preserving I will be looking at seaweeds for dinner, hoping to start a better live with my future wife, sorry Jen it’s happened we’re doing it.

As always follow @croitralee on all social media platforms and myself direct on @chefpaulc on Instagram and twitter

Bookings & No shows Kevin thoughts…….

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So we opened Croí last year and we’ve been doing fairly well. We managed a building in Tralee that when you add Kevin, Noel and Paul has Croí. Heart, spirit, essence and much much more. We are so passionate about our industry that we are sick to the back teeth of others abusing it. The food system in the world is broken. We employ people from other countries to prepare our food and ignore the standard and quality we have at home. We have snobs in the country that think they are above everyone else but those are the biggest hypocrites of all. They squeeze every last drop out of service, demand service but still they believe everything is fine. All the smart people are too smart for their children’s own good. We eat mass produced mountains of garbage. I have heard of meetings taking place where the organisers of such event only care about greater yield at the expense of taste, quality and longevity. We at Croí want to break the trend. We want to support local so as that we can try to guarantee some sort of future for our kids. We want to get helped and help. We want our neighbouring restaurant to help us and in return we help them etc. etc. We guarantee we will work on sourcing “the best” our county can offer you, our people. We drive this restaurant to its limits to try to make ends meat in a society that taxes us to within a hairs breath of closure. What we ask for in return….

This is very simple, if we open and plan to stay we must make money to pay for aaaaaaalllll the taxes, wages, rates, bills, extras, even the paper the menu is printed on costs money and at the moment I have “hair-cut” written on the roster because there is so much to do it has to become part of a schedule. People come into Croí and book tables, some people walk in off the street hoping to eat and some people book tables and don’t turn up. I then have to wait 20 minutes and “i” have to ring you to see if your coming to sit at a table you booked. Knowing dam well that the 2 tables I have turned away would have enjoyed your table that is now free for the rest of the night because you couldn’t give a dam. People’s lives are at steak, weather you like the person or not is irrelevant because when you effect one of us you effect the team. You may even cost someone else their job, where does this dam get you because it could take them to the dole. One night at Christmas time, 28 people didn’t show, that’s your neighbour, your friend, your family member on the dole now. If a table goes from a 9 to 6, pick up the phone and ring, your taking up the table that I can use for the 2 to 4 people that are standing at the door of a restaurant that is trying it’s best to produce, support, employ and get through this life with as easy passage as possible by doing the right thing. If we decided to go the other way and told you we support local yet you see 1 truck pull up and deliver everything we serve then I think you would be saying to us eh, I’m not sure about that but we don’t we have several deliveries because we stand by our word. We are honest hard working people, why are you not? It takes less then a minute to do the right thing, I suggest you try it and you never know, we may hire a family member in the future…..

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

I know I did a piece last year about flowers to eat or not to eat, here’s to year to year 2 of using flowers on dishes. I’ve stood on both sides of the fence just hopped from one side to the other. I’m now looking at flowers in a different light and becoming a more integrated part of my work in tbe restaurant, as it has by many other restaurants around the world, so here’s to spring.

Spring has a magic like no other season, everything bright, colourful, fragrant, and pretty springs back to life. Primroses and dandelions, both off to a flying start, along with sweet briar also known as flowering currant or wild currant depending on where you were brought up always loved the smell that these flowers bought to the yard at home. The wild leek and wild garlic flowers have been slow to show this year due to the abismal weather over the past few months, as the temperatures gradually rise the buds begin to show. The gorse flower is still going strong and flourishing in the cool weather, be careful of the thorns use a scissors, a knife to avoid getting caught by thorns or my personal favourite get someone else to do it ( haven’t been so lucky on this one though) marigolds have also begun to pop up around gardens along with the wild mustard beginning to flower (small yellow flower on top of a plant about 2 feet tall). At this point I feel like I’m grandad from Jackie Chan adventures “one more thing”, firethorn or berberry, is flowering at the moment these bright almost luminous orange flowers bring a nice little colour pop to any plate of food. Later in the year they produce a Berry the flesh itself is not poisonous but the seeds inside are so take the seeds out. I will be doing different things with these Berries so stay tuned to all our social media channels,
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Paul talks year 2

Year 2

I suppose it’s been a while so here goes another year, spring is off to a flying start with all the herbs and wild weeds coming thick and fast at this stage. I found the winter period tough on the foraging front as it became harder to locate usable sustainable quantities of different herbs both coastal and forestry, flowers, just gorse on tbe menu, ( them damn thorns), yet another joyous start in the tunnel rhubarb straight off the mark and strawberries in 2nd place along with last year’s chard gaining a new lease of life. The radish I dropped in and the beetroot also spouting nicely.

This year is an unknown entity due to restaurant coming on stronger than ever with the number of accolades growing steadily. The feeling of bittersweet joy and pride in my work, showing results is unusual I’m not used to being a successful in work, I’ve been by my own admission a failure in my own personal life, with comparisons to to others perceived situations. So overall balanced life even if it is a little sleepless at times. The foraging has taken itself to new heights and the wild garlic talk led me to have more confidence in my own abilities, with new ideas planning with every new day in the forestry or the shore.

I’m now getting spotted and stopped more often now and most commonly known as your one of them, the gangsters or the lads from Croi. I find it amusing as people don’t believe we actually do what we say we do.

Later this year my preservation will take a serious turn with the arrival of my wedding and the meriad of preserves I plan on making for it.

As always more action @chefpaulc on insta and twitter or a feed from the restaurant @croitralee on all social media platforms

Kevin talks about the first 10 months at Croí


Croí, how it is for Kevin

I’ll start by talking about the name. It came out of Noel’s mouth at a Tralee culinary gangster meeting one night and when I heard it, it was like the pide piper was playing my song. Croí is the Gaelic for Heart but it has another meaning too….

For as long as I can remember I have been a sensitive person but my love for people has never changed. I’ve dabbed at this and dabbed at that but the one thing that doesn’t change is that I love people. Difficult people, easy people, awkward people, it doesn’t matter, people all work from love or damaged love and that’s something that I love so when I heard Noel say Croí, which in old Irish means the spirit or the essence of, it blew me away myself.

In the last 10 months I have watched us all go through our stuff, the 3 of us growing at rapid pace. Paul has developed into an outstanding chef. Literally sponging knowledge at a rapid rate, producing dishes of an exceptional calibre. Backing Noel up and giving him a freedom to work on other stuff like festivals, markets and let’s not forget our ever changing seasonal menu with dishes that tantalize our guests mouths. Finding new local suppliers to help us build our arsenal of what our stunning county has to offer. Most places have 1 or 2 Mickey mouse suppliers and then use a big huge multinational to supply them with the rest but the way we see it is, the fish monger can’t deliver steaks cos, it’s very simple, that’s not his business, if the fish monger takes his business, we see that as “NOT FAIR PLAY” so you get a red card.

Noel has the “Father figure” in Croí and Paul and I are happy to go along with this and if needed we are all well able to reign the other in because we have total faith in the other. Noel’s drive and stamina is a privalage to watch. He counts us in for everything too then as Croí is the 3 of us. He spreads the credit around and passes on the limelight and sits back and then watches myself and Paul enjoy the ride. Paul and I work really really hard to allow Noel the freedom and Noel doesn’t forget that, and that’s humbling.

I have grown so much in 10 months. The reality of the world of business and the need for survival instincts is massive but if I focus on that it will destroy the natural me which is or so I have been told is, some have said “away with the fairies” but this one isn’t really me, so, I will explain because one of my primary school teachers got it right. I like to enjoy myself, I like to have fun, I am happy go lucky and I mix that with love and the let’s do this right attitude is how I sum me up. Perhaps Noel or Paul could shine more light on that but if I use the joe/Harry window (counselling term) is how I view myself and let’s not forget my self confessed “I’m a sensitive guy”.

So to end my piece, CROÍ
You have given me so much and your just a building and a world until you add, Noel, Paul and Kevin. Then you become an institution for love, care, passion, personality, desire, belief and an awful lot more positive words. So to end I say thank you for everything, now let’s cook this motherfucker……