Kevin talks food on the edge

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Food on the Edge.
Last October I had the privilege of going to a symposium of chefs that is one of the biggest in the world. With roughly 40 Michilin stars walking around, shaking hands and spinning yarns about our trade and our responsabillity to our people. As restaurateurs we are responsible for bringing people’s attention to the right or wrong things to eat.
At Food on the Edge some of the brightest minds on the planet educated us on issues of mental health, sustainability and the joy of friendship in hospitality. With the introduction of social media it has made it easier to share stories and aid each other with issues in the trade. Also passing on local suppliers information and meeting with some of the big names in Ireland. My mind had been opened up buy two speakers especially, Anna Haugh blew me away with stories of bullying that brought tears to my eyes and James Viles who’s philosophy is still Hunter Gatherer, if you ain’t willing to slit it’s throat then you shouldn’t be eating it to begin with.
Now I’m going to speak a bit about J.P. McMahon, an Irish Michilin star chef (Anier in Galway city) that is so passionate about being Irish it’s not funny. His belief in humanity is infectious. His desire seems to be that we in the trade raise the bar on the impact chefs have on what we eat and more importantly the FACT that 50% of the world’s food is being dumped yet there is starvation on the planet. Have you ever gone to the shop to buy something and you see there’s a two for one special on for it so you buy it? You only went in for one and came out with two. Generally the second one is going in the bin so I guess there’s your 50%.
Food on the Edge is a celebrcelebration of culture, food culture and let’s face it, from birth to death every occasion revolves around food. So I wonder why we struggle to combat food that really isn’t healthy. Is it convenience, education or what? Who is responsible? Parents, teachers, politicians or people that have a love for food? To understand what I mean you’d have to hear what I’ve heard for example there are butcher’s around here selling upwards on twelve thousand foreign chicken breast A WEEK. Come on we are surrounded by fields and people, surely we can do better then what we are doing. The Amazon rain forest is being depleted by agriculture. Chopping down trees to plant soya bean to grow cattle. The Amazon is almost gone so the whole we need oxagyn to breath thing really isn’t hitting home. What do you think we can do to make things better, because we are failing miserably on this one which is our own basic existence and I would like to make the point while you read this, that saying I can’t change anything is the defeated attitude. If we don’t change then the people that have a self sustaining society in play are on the winning team but we have to remember that those people are probably the organisers of the whole downfall of the food culture. We at Croí will be attending Food on the Edge again this year, ready to meet some big name in food and to see how J.P’s action/reaction plan is going. My advise to those who care is simply spend a little more if necessary, I understand things are tight but the more you buy the cheap stuff the tighter things will get in the future. Buy from Holland, Spain, Brazil, China etc. etc. then say goodbye to OUR money because it’s now gone abroad. Please support local, please support your neighbour and please teach the kids how to eat right…..

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Kevin on reviews

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Humanity v’s Trip Advisor
So we opened Croí restaurant in Tralee 9 months ago and since then we’ve jumped through the hoops. Dealing with suppliers, sourcing food in Kerry that we believe in because, this is my county, this is my town and these are my people. Wether your from the Czech republic or China, I don’t care if you support local I support you. This is my stand point, I work hard, I love people and it’s why do it. I don’t do this just to make money, I love our local producers, it beats talking to a rep hands down. They have the same passion I do and the care and ideas are fantastic. I hear stories from Chef Noel of conversations that happen in the wee hours of the morning about nights we can put on, to put our town and county’s food on a pedestal. A platform to show off what we do in Kerry not just Croí. We employ staff and train them to a high standard. They then go out and impart information to guests regarding food and drink. The aim is to make people’s time through any establishment enjoyable. All of this is done by us because we believe.
So if you look at all that and take it that I’m being honest and then take a look at our adversary which is the almighty Trip Advisor. It is a website/app that has us competing with opinion. Have you heard the expression opinions are like asses, everyone has one? Do I have flaws? Of course I do, I’m human. To not have a flaw is to be inhuman. Would it be better to have an app that sends people to restaurants, bars, hotels, hostels and b&b’s that suit them? Instead we are left with an app that is forced to deal with everyone’s opinion. Some people don’t even say anything to the staff in restaurants anymore, if they have a complaint it’s like their content to make themselves feel more important, AKA a JOKE.

This is the crazy part, I am not the same as you, we have very little in common. I like my coffee strong with 1 sugar, you? Things I like you may not is what I’m getting at. We have lost the art of exploring, finding out for ourselves. We don’t trust ourselves so we refer to an app to make our decisions. Again I have no problem with something that markets or advertises like a directory for establishments but slating people for trying? Come on world you can do better than that…..

The result:
I’ve seen staff get disheartened with their jobs based on other people’s opinions and it’s disgusting and harmful. 5star 4star reviews are great but even those reviews pale by comparison when it comes to that of a negative review and it’s devastating intent. I understand that not everyone will enjoy what we do but the majority do. I understand that people in general put up constructive criticism and I welcome you I honestly do but could humanity come up with a more appropriate way to support its own community rather then blasting people out of it with comments and snidey remarks or “opinions” based on people trying?? Even people that do things for the wrong reason deserve a chance.

The effect: look at our unemployment lines, look at our increase in mental health issues. Look at the youth of today. They all want to help I know this for fact but unfortunately the ADULTS of today have failed the youth of today. School drop outs are at an all time high. Now I know your thinking, what does this have to do with trip advisor? In my “opinion” (hahahahaha) it’s like penny’s make pounds, it all adds up.

Davids year in review

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January 2017
I guess this is as good as place as any to start so in January I just about a month in to be fully diagnosed with depression. This didn’t hit me that hard as I knew something was wrong with me, mentally and emotionally. I was constantly arguing with my wife and just wanted to be alone with my own thoughts.

February 2017
The depression is a bit better I was put on medicine and it helped changed my mood. It helped me with my attitude as I back to my normal easy going self

April 2017
I gonna skip forward a small bit mentally and emotionally I am doing ok. My financial situation started to effect me. I started to question my self worth I had no qualifications no leaving cert no direction in going forward and no idea how to get there. I was in a job focus meeting one day and I was like Dave your nearly 30 with no skills no qualifications nothing GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER MAN
I took a chance on a random course. I choose to do a basic culinary course. I went for the interview and honestly I thought I messed it up. I was grilled to the highest order and felt really low coming out of it.

May 2017
A letter came through the door to say I was accepted into the culinary course. I was honestly shocked. I genuinely thought I messed up the interview. To say I was excited was an understatement. It was a nice feeling, I hadn’t felt it in months. I was like a big kid lunch packed school bag over the shoulder and on my way. Little did I know then it would change my life for the better

June 2017
A live demo from the tralee culinary gangsters was had in the college . The knowledge the experience and most of the food. AGAIN THE FOOD. The flavour of the food was just amazing. Outstanding even and I ain’t just saying that as I am I fellow gangster now myself. I am saying that as a student who just discovered the world of cuisine.

June – July 2017
In discovering this exciting new artistic world I quickly rushed at the opportunity to ask chef Noel for some work experience. And it was an experience it still is.

August 2017
Course is over, I am now an official member of TCG. The rose of tralee is in full bloom and chef Noel randomly decides let’s do a big mural of the side of the building. Little did I know at the time it would be not only a talking point but also a main focal point for tralee.

Sept 2017
Results are out. I was very nervous about this. I got a distinction in culinary arts, it was the very first time I ever had a qualification or a degree of any sort. To say I was proud is a huge understatement. I was that excited I actually got a culinary tattoo.

Oct 2017
A month after i left college in working with chef Noel in CROI and now at the yes chef awards. I felt like I didn’t belong there sitting with some of the greats in the industry and now little old me fresh from college sitting beside them. I felt very ooverwelmed.

Nov 2017
On a personal note I have stopped the depression meds now, my choice not the doctors am I doing better yes am I felling better yes am I more tired all the time when I not working I practically sleeping . I also have stopped cooking as much at home and with the support of the my fellow gangsters and colleagues I joined a Facebook group called chefs with issues

Dec 2017
Xmas is here I finally good again I have that Xmas spirit, even listening to Xmas songs in the kitchen the best thing about December was seeing I was diagnosed with depression a year and not letting it get in my way. Also if you want something bad enough go get it no-one else with give it to you. Life is short enough make it worth living.
#itsokaynottobeokay

Paul, my year 2017

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2017 a year in review.

From my eyes anyway it was an eventful year with huge highs and lows throughout the year. Both in the kitchen and in my own personal life. I look back and hope yo share with you through my eyes the year 2017.
I suppose starting at the start with a busy month of work and a small amount of foraging to be honest about it February to April of the year I would rather forget to be perfectly honest about it. The best part of these months was starting a new job in late March with Marcus in Nick’s restaurant in Kilorglin, it was a great experience for me I loved every minute of it there while my personal life is rather park that and forget it. Leading from that a sense of despair amongst other emotions that I don’t do so well with then May happened and which saw the opening of Croi and the arrival of the gangsters into the real world and there is where the year really takes a turn, June and July as much as I try are a blur a completewhirlwind adventure with the 2 best men that you could ask for in Kevin and Noel “consummate professionals as always” (thinking about it now I’m laughing). Kevins dancing to the Spotify and Noel’s attempt to dance,(baby groot you legend). August saw the rose festival and an emotional weekend for me where I had am absolute disaster and would have seen the door and P45, had I not been in the position I hold in the restaurant, recovering from this seemed harder that it was. September saw the food festival and a busy few weeks for us which continued October, and food on the edge and a trip to Galway and the inspiration from done of the best chefs in Europe and the world, while in the restaurant we had expected to be “quiet”, like sbow in July that didn’t happen as ever we pushed on inside and out of the restaurant from both a service and a foraging point of view I had to look a bit harder to find different items on our menu, but in my search I stumbled across other patches of something else, (silver linings). That brings us nicely to December and the haze that ensued, a difficult time in our house anyway,, as I’m sure in many households across the country Christmas wasn’t the same without someone, yet the tales of the past bring tears and smiles laughter and silence of thought and wishful thinking.
So here we are at the beginning of January once more and this year sees pending nuptials for my fiancee Jenny and I, amongst other plans in the restaurant and the foraging seems like it’s going to be a great, and looking forward to the year growing as much as I can and foraging through the seasons once more with more of an eye on the preservation of herbs fruits and vegatable while hoping to increase my knowledge of edible and foraging of mushrooms.
Here’s to 2018 let’s see how it goes. Wild food to the forefront of my agenda anyway.
Follow my journey @chefpaulc on twitter and Instagram and the restaurant on all social media platforms @croitralee

preservation

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Restaurant preservation

As a chef in the restaurant I want to learn and as much as I can, I’ve a particular interest in preservation, on fish, herbs and vegatable, im not brave enough to go after meat just yet then again I’m gonna leave the cueing of meat to the professionals, plenty of them around. In Listowel and Rathmore as the best ones I know of curing pork and bacon products, plenty of the older generation still curing their own hard salt bacon., tasty stuff when done right and it’s not for everyone.
Preservation of fish started for me weeks ago when I botched a mix for gravalax so I had to cure in pickled beetroot liquid, it worked a treat and attempt 2 had more appealing results so I decided I need to perfect this and get better and I’m now on another batch of gravalax just waiting for it to cure.
I love pickling vegatables from beets to carrots and from cucumber to mushrooms. A huge thanks to the people of mooncoin beetroot for the selection this year the colours of the pickle mix was amazing. The flavors were also unbelievable. I’ve began fermentation also in the restaurant with Sauerkraut a German dish I know using Irish produce, thinking slightly outside the box on the next one but turnip I’m not sure how its gonna turn out so fingers crossed. Stay tuned for more experiments and an update on the current status of the turnip kraut
Follow me on twitter and Instagram @chefpaulc and the restaurant on all social media platforms Facebook Twitter Instagram and snapchat @croitralee don’t forget to like the Tralee culinary gangsters page on Facebook also

Winter foraging

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Winter time forage

As many of you know we forage year round and for just about anything edible. Recently we decided I’m the restaurant that a dish needed more theatre so we added smoke in the for of smouldering pine needles. Smell the forest eat scallops, we have been toying with the amount of smoke and how to get more to hold as it leaves the kitchen.
Back to the reason I’m here writing this, I started growing this year doe the first time and to my surprise with a hectic schedule a wide variety of stuff blossomed and grew throughout the year, I also had to do more foraging which meant seeking out other sources and places where a plant grows wild. Discovering wild mushrooms along the way with thanks to Marcus of Nick’s in Kilorglin. As the winter fastens its grip more things are coming on in my tunnel weeds though they may be, edible they are thank you very much into my salad and a pesto you go. The weed I’m referring to is hairy bitter cress. My beetroots and carrots still producing leaves which are also edible, the chard still holding strong.
Whole the autumn was good to us on the restaurant with wild Berries and flowers etc. This winter has been an eye opener for me as I’ve never done so much foraging, I quite enjoy the wilderness and solitude the forest offers I’ve got to explore more of the forest than I previously needed to, and from a different route I found a wider selection for the restaurant. I still get stopped every now and again by people who are curious about the tub I’m carrying usually full with a plethora of different leaves or at one stage nuts and mushrooms.
For the winter I’m turning to gorse for my floral creations, coming soon to the restaurant menu and yes you read that right gorse or furze bush, I get constant funny looks when I’m picking the flowers for between the thorns.
As this winter continues I’ve to get more creative with my leaves, stay tuned for more.
Follow me directly @chefpaulc on twitter and Instagram. If your on snapchat @croitralee for behind the scenes look at restaurant life, or the restaurant on all social media platforms @croitralee

osso buco

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(Serves 4)
2 tbsp olive oil
25g flour, to dust
4 pieces of veal shin, about 4cm thick
50g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 head of garlic, cut horizontally
2 strips of lemon zest
4 sage leaves
200ml white wine
200ml good chicken stock

For the gremolata
1 unwaxed lemon, zest finely grated
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Pinch of sea salt

Set a casserole dish wide enough to hold the meat in one layer over a high heat, and add the oil. Put the flour on to a small plate and season generously, then use to coat the meat. When the oil is hot, add the meat to the pan and brown well on both sides until golden and crusted. Set aside on a plate.

Turn the heat down and add three quarters of the butter to the pan. When melted, add the onion, carrot and celery, plus a sprinkle of salt, and cook until soft. Add the garlic halves, lemon zest and sage to the pan and cook for a few minutes more.

Turn up the heat then add the wine to the pan. Return the meat, standing it on top of the vegetables, and bubble until the wine has reduced by half. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer.

Turn the heat right down, cover and simmer for one and a half to two hours, carefully turning the meat over every 30 minutes, until it is tender enough to cut with a spoon. Meanwhile, mix together the gremolata ingredients.

Dot with the remaining butter and allow to melt into the sauce, then serve with the gremolata and risotto alla milanese or wet polenta.

 

 

Guest piece by Jenny

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This piece is a bit different. I will be talking about the other side of the gangster lifestyle. The side of living with a gangster.
Being the other half of a gangster can be challenging. A lot of time you dont get to see your other half and their time if very valueable so you have to grab every moment you have and use it wisely.
The plus side it’s a great learning experience and I am learning new things everyday. Now a days I can’t go anywhere without spotting little things on the side of the road that can be picked to use in food, it’s drilled in my brain at this point. It can be frustrating at times though because I would have no idea what to do with them 😛
Although it’s hard to spend quality time alone, being even a somewhat accosiated with the gangster s is actually very fun. Getting up early is a pet peeve of mine but discovered going to the beach early on a winter morning picking clams is not only relaxing but calming and you feel better just getting the fresh air. Being able to see the demos they do is inspiring. You learn many simple tricks to make simple dishes look like you spent days making them 🙂 also having the receipts on the blog is handy to see and also having one at home is handy to experiment with the food I tried to make (he hadn’t got sick yet so I’m getting somewhere with the cooking i guess).
I couldn’t cook a thing 4 years ago. Not a thing. I burnt a boiled egg ( I still don’t know how) and made myself sick making a sandwich (it’s a skill I swear) I was a mess when it came to cooking, I swore that I wasnt made to cook. Since meeting a gangster things changed..I will make a full roast no question asked. He can now come home to cooked meal with out fear or any poising. Spices were scary, very scary I wouldn’t go near them. Now if I don’t have spices in my food I feel it’s not complete. Also making sauces from scratch adding in foraged goods is something I’m trying ( if 20 year old saw me now she be so proud). It’s actually a great feeling. My palette is being explored from all the explosive flavours, flavours in which I didn’t know exsisted. You can pick from the side of the road, found at the coast and generally around the place we just walk past to add in to dishes to make them perfect.
But the best thing about living with a gangster is seeing the progress and watching them learn as they progress forward. The joy when they discover new things to work into dishes, new plants just outside the door they can use and the general excitement within their careers , it’s inspiring …but also living with a gangster I get to try all the yummy treats and test new food, who doesn’t want that 😛
Thank you gangsters for showing me anyone can cook if you put your mind to it.