Paul talks first head chef role

New oppertunities.

A few weeks in and as predicted (slightly unsettling) it’s going ok which is why I’m nervous. I expected a few niggley issues, nothing I couldn’t work out new menu, new crew, new set up, new restaurant, always gonna have a few, teething problems. Now that they are solved I’m now trying to keep costs under control. 

I’ve done rosters before but never like this, I can’t predict the week. 

Thankfully I have a back up plan, in the form of my own business partner, mentor,friend, and gangster no.1 Chef Noel, I provide a rota he provides critique. 

Overall I’ve been happy with it so far, like everyone I’d love to have done more people as everyone has left extremely happy, even a few of the Croí bookings were happy to join us (no pressure then). As stated extremely happy, now I’m building my own relationships, with my butcher, veg guy fish man etc. 

A thing that has been said an awful lot lately is about slim and healthy options, I consider myself, a low fat kinda chef anyway, in that it dosnt have to be deep fried, it’s nice yeah, necessary no, and I’m willing to cater for that, I’ll roast potatoes for you, no oil/ butter on the veg, no problem. Seasoning yes, dripping in liquid not necessarily. 

I do love however a good burger, or a fish and chips. I’m not gonna preach about health as I don’t have qualification and my own personal experience wouldn’t be worth talking about. My weight has fluctuated over the last year, I’m down a stone right now, I’m stressed and not eating and constantly on the go so there you go, explained. Not diet, not advising doing this either. 

Tangent over, (promise) 

Healthy eating kinda my goal for the year, not looking for canonization for being a saint with food, I want to live, enjoy a greasy takeaway, a fish and chip, a potato gratin, a bacon and cabbage dinner. I also want to eat more healthy stuff, less fatty things, so I’m now devising a menu that I will implement for the slimming conscious people of the world, as well as vegatarian and vegan food as it dosnt have to be boring we can do more with veg than just boil or steam. Check out Vegtopia in July this year for a festival dedicated to vegetables and all things vegetable. 

Find it on Facebook @Vegtopia 

Follow me in Grá bistro @gra_bistrotralee on all social media platforms. See ye soon, 

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Paul talks career

Progression

The past 7 years have a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, from the bottom to head chef, even writing this piece is unnerving me slightly, I suppose in many respects I work hard, and put 100% everyday. I feel lucky and proud of what I’ve done since I 1st stepped into the kitchen, I’m never gonna be considered the best chef, ever and honestly I don’t want to be, I don’t want stars, I’ve no intention of chasing them either, nice to have the accolades it’s something I’ve never really sought out, nor do I intend to. 

Now as I progress to a position I feel I’m not totally ready for, I look back and realise I was never ready for anything in my working career. Yet I’ve done my best grew to the position with steep learning curves, now this isn’t more of a curve I’ve been taking the reigns as a sous over the past 2 years, pushing my own boundaries, I’ve stepped up before why now is it so daunting.

Well, I’m part owner in the restaurant.

Problem I run the risk of not only ruining my own life, I run the risk of taking my business partners with me for part of it. 

Solution. Don’t screw up, do what I’ve always done and try, try, and try again. 

I can cook, I can organise a crew, I can run service, I can do the paperwork, I can keep the place clean. 

Sounds easy enough when I put it like that dosnt it. Well easier said than done.

Aside from this I’ve been thinking about my past and cooking from my childhood to present day. I thank God mother could cook my nan’s could cook and pretty much all the women in my young child life could cook, and the best memories of food is what I know now as simple food well executed 

As always @chefpaulc 

Paul on foraging

Forage 2019.

As the spring kicks into gear, wild flowers, herbs, plants trees and shrubs awaken from their winter slumber. As I continue to forage on a pretty much a daily basis, I see the transformation in slow motion, little bits here and there then I go missing for a week and bang loads of stuff has sprung. 

At the moment primrose and sweet briar are all coming along strong, alongside gorse, wild garlic wild leeks to name but a few.

Dandelions as I’m sure you may be aware are weeds, that grow uninhibited in area where you may not necessarily want them. These flowers are the 1st food for bees, along with the sweet briar, all very important to the bees for nectar and honey production. 

Later in the season I hope to develop my mushroom hunting skills, as I can already pick the elf cup in abundance, on some days and in scarce supply other all weather dependant. 

By the coast, all the greens are developing at a rapid pace. These spring shoots are soft, salty, delicious bursts of freshness, flavour and nutrients. 

Now for nettles as they begin their growth on the roadways and hedges of the countryside stinging any unsuspecting passer by. I plan this year to develop a bit more than soup as these early nettles are loaded with iorn, and are a great detox after the winter to kick start the immune system after taking a beating all winter long. 

As always stay tuned and follow on all social media platforms @chefpaulc for some random pics from my adventures 

Beef cheeks

SALTED BEEF CHEEK, BEETROOT & HORSERADISHINGREDIENTS

• 4 kg Trimmed Beef Cheek’s

• 1 Carrot

• 1 Onion

• 1 bunch thyme & rosemary

• 1 head garlic

• Beef Brine

• 200g Sliced Bone Marrow

• 1kg Pickled Beetroot

• Sourdough crouton

• Horseradish crème fraiche

BEEF BRINE RECIPE

2.5 litre Water

250g Salt

37.5g Salt Peta

150g Sugar

2.5 bay leaves

1 bunch thyme

4g Juniper

10g Black pepper

2g Cloves

3g Star anise

METHOD

• Place all ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil

• Remove from the heat and cool

• Brine the Prepped Cheeks for 4.5 days

• Rinse the beef cheeks and place in a pan with chopped onion carrot, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and cover with water.

• Cook in the oven at 175°C.until tender, allow to cool I the liquor then wrap in cling film individually while still warm, then cool completely and carve into 4 portions. Horseradish Crème Fraiche

• 200g Hung Crème Fraiche

• 25g Grated Horseradish

• 25g Dijon Mustard

• 100g Whipped Cream

• ½ Lemon

• Salt & Pepper

METHOD

1. Mix the crème freich, horseradish, mustard and lemon together.

2. Fold in the whipped cream and season.

PICKLED BEETROOT

• 1 kg Beetroot.

• 75g Honey

• 200g Red Wine Vinegar

• Thyme

• Garlic

• Salt

• Olive oil

METHOD

1. Steam beets until cooked then cling film and allow to cool slightly

2. Peel beets and cut into wedges

3. Marinade the beets using the vinegars honey garlic thyme and seasoning.

4. Pour over beets while still warm and chill overnight.

5. Take some of the pickle liquor from the marinated beetroots and reduce in a pan until slightly thickened.

6. Add olive oil and a little more vinegar to make a dressing for the beetroot leaves.

ASSEMBLY

1. Warm the beef cheeks up in some reserved cooking stock.

2. Lightly sauté the beetroot leaves in a pan, add the pickled beetroots and dress with the pickle dressing.

3. Put the beef cheeks on a plate with some roasted bone marrow on top, the beetroots and leaves to the side.

4. Add a generous spoon of the horseradish cream, finish with the sourdough crouton on top.