Paul’s thoughts on video interview

Post interview reflection

After having a chat with Aidan from the maherees veg, we went on a wander around the farm to see the cattle geese ducks pigs and goats, to chat about the rest of the farm thats little known. 

We spoke about many things includong the lack of shared information between people, regarding different things. I knew ducks can be sporadic egg layers so how do you have a supply of duck and chicken eggs year round, is anyone’s guess, Aidan provided an answer buying them at a particular tine of the year so they mature at the tine thw rest of the flock are stopping laying more so with the chickens than the ducks. 

We had a group following us around like a shadow getting pecked wasnt a worry, just odd behaviour as far as i was concerned.

Then on for the onion field and a chat about the crops and seeding and harvesting. There was a few onions flowering and the begining of the process to seed naturally. 

Then the conversation to an eye opening turn, should a crop fail for whatever reason the cost is borne entirely by the growers, so success of a crop is paramount to survival of the vegatable farmers of this country. While Aidans produce is the best in the country in my opinion so naturally tasty and forgive the expression how they should taste. We spoke about the cost of production per kilo and what its for sale for. 

Its selling at about the price he can grow it for thats not including the cost of his time and associated costs to grow the vegatables. So whos really losing out is the grower as you know they are being driven to tighter and tighter margins and struggling to make ends meet. 

Then seeing his diversification to juicing and the use of the tops and misshapen carrots to feed pigs to cut waste costs, to supplement income. 

We have always spoken about the importance of supporting local and buying local, and will continue to do so, so I implore everyone reading this to drop by a farmers market talk to the veg man, especially Aidan, and youll taste tge difference, its worth the extra few euro and ypull feel it in yourself as youll be getting fresher, more nutritious veg as it will have only been pulled from the ground instead of being treated and sent on a trip around the world before it gets to you. 

.check out the farmers markets in kerry every week in your local town 

Inspiration by Paul

Inspiration 

The following piece is random even by my own admission. 

I’ve been able to read a bit more now that I’ve changed position and mental state. I’ve begun reading a book IGNI it’s a book detailing the fall of a restaurant and the recovery road and rise of another restaurant. I suppose the plot seems all to familiar to me, albeit from a perspective of a person who’s literally lost everything uprooted and his road to recovery over the 1st few chapters. 

I’m not going to spoil it so go read it yourself contact James in Polymaths he’s great for different books.

Then I walk away and stroll by a stream and see a hazel tree or a beech tree with nuts attached, I’ve to collect them this year, otherwise another year wasted on procrastination. I plan on drying these and using them in place of pine nuts in a pesto or part of a salad, museli, or dessert, that’s just before you ask what you’d do with them as you have a random tree near the house. 

I suppose I could forget drying flowers this year and maybe concentrate on preserving the essence of them for future months.

As I sit here I can’t help wonder about doing this as a career, not the “cheffy” part the preserving part, I mean that I love doing it, it’s not rocket science by any stretch of the imagination compotes chutneys cordials pesto relish dehydration powder etc. Yes, use the chef’s skills and head that I currently posess, and go this way, am I driven yes am I mad well, that can be argued am I stable enough to do it, not a chance, I still feel a sense of failure and disappointment as you can well imagine. 

This is where I stand right now on chapter 2 beginning the road to recovery and success, failure is not something I’m used to, I’ve always put my heart and soul into everything I’ve ever done so some measure of success was always attained by me in some shape or form. 

Like the chef in the book I too will rise again, I heard on the radio once 11 to 1 club words of wisdom” life’s is about falling 7 times and getting up 8″ it’s a line that’s kind of stuck out over the last month to me. 

As always @chefpaulc on all social media platforms 

Forage

Forage 2019

Since last i wrote about this topic, Ive done my usual foraging plus some wandering. I found some beautiful mushrooms and new places to pick flowers and berries, 

Mushrooms were always the things that eluded me on my ventures in the forests. Then delight when i find my mushrooms on the rare occasion i find them. Ive dried pretty much all that ive found this year with the exception of the pheasant back which i believe got chopped up and sauteed with some butter and served with some turbot. 

By the coast right now sea beet is currently seeding, as such has lost most of its nutritional value, so i dont pick it. So instead I pick samphires, or beach mustard or baby oyster leaf, or sea aster, some sea lettuce and grasses. So not exactly short on things to pick on our vast coastline and arguably our best asset. 

I love our coast for its beauty and its bounty, its splendour and raw power of destruction when waves come crashing over rocks, seeing the quantities of seaweed thrust onto the rocks and beach after a storm is breathtakingly awesome. 

I still receive funny looks of intrigue and inquisition about how to cook it or what to use it with, people are always amazed with the response hot pan, butter salt pepper serve. Simplicity is key to food no point over complicating for the sake of it. Cook it simply, let the natural flavours sing. 

As always folks @chefpaulc on all social media platforms 

Al change for Paul

Career path.

Its been an emotional couple of months for me both personal and professional. 

Personally through mental stress and strain of a business, and added to that marriage and monetary issue’s, all compounding into one perfect storm for explosion. 

Professionally I stepped down from my role as a head chef, being honest i wasnt ready, I thought I was, backed myself all the way with my ability to cook, I now know what I lack and need to work on. I fell into a kind of a sweeper chef, in Croì and as time went on, decisions needed to be made. 

I needed to move away from a restaurant I helped build and take a position guaranteeing a wage to help my personal life, with more time for my neglected wife (Sorry Jen). 

In short I am a Junior Sous in Manor West Hotel, I want to thank the crew there for the welcome I received about 2 weeks ago. Its a family there that i just clicked, a monstrous food output on a daily basis, roll up the sleeve, hot pans, fryers, grills and food away. 

Many of the staff knew me personally from previous jobs. Others clicked with the Croì jacket, I wore on day 2/3, made no difference to me, I get to introduce new ideas to the kitchen to help it expand and help to raise the bar on a standard of food, some wild food, sone preservation, some vegatarian, all of which are met with nervous anticipation, or dismissal, a slight giggle, you know what, I dont mind its new Im expecting some resistance. New ideas, to a place thats used to a certain way, Im all for slotting in doing the job going home, thats ok but its not me, i have some freedom with specials so a little flair here to see where it goes. 

Im proud of what Ive achieved, at the end of the day Im 30, married, opened 2 restaurants, and saw one not work, Ive made my mistakes, still have a few more to make. Just to learn from them now.

I feel like a failure, as I leave Croí and Grà behind me, I feel disheartened with the loss, but optimistic that I can learn more, to push my career further into the future. 

As always @chefpaulc on all social media platforms 

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, 

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 

Service , Kevin talks

The click of an amazing service.
Running with the herd is pretty much what it feels like on a busy Saturday night. The key is space, everyone need their space, section, customers and time. The dance of a busy restaurant is a very fine art and in order to be at your best you must respect the job you do. Focus and planning is what it’s all about. Times are the dictator and knowing what your kitchen and restaurant can handle so as not to mess the whole thing up is key. 8pm Saturday night and you fill the beast after already clearing a full first sitting is a bad move. The kitchen build, like it’s a practice run in the first sitting, the head chef voicing with accuracy as the team dance to their own rythem so as everything my come to the same end, service.

That’s us, the team out front that pound it out but on a sweet night it’s very hard to explain and I can only ever say how it feels for me. It feels like a bright white ball of light is in the center of my chest. An energy flows through the body and self awareness goes through the roof because being in control is your job at this point, that sounds very serious I know but you will pay hard earned cash to experience.

Giving is another key I believe one must be, to give the people time, time to arrive, be seated, take in their surroundings if indeed this is their first time. Chilled water is such a gimme these days but in order to provide there is a cost, bread and dips. Giving is also knowing and building a trust between you and your people. We give our story as to wear our hearts on our sleeves because we believe in the ethos, we respect our planet and we respect our guests.

Now it’s the staff’s turn, firstly there is the start of the shift and let’s just say like a super football club a player can get injured, a sniffley noes and it off home to bed with some Lemsip and hopefully a cuddle. While this causes a ripple effect through a small team like the vibrations of a wave that started 3 hours ago and service hasn’t started yet, We are full. On a sweet night when you sit down at the end of that night, you know you did good you feel better then a lotto winner. Every guest shows on time and every guess leaves blown away because the service was great is an emotional feeling you can’t compare. Sales is a feeling of giving in a different way and generally something that is a service but waiting is a skill given in order to please your need. Sometimes the chef and I at different times stand to listen with closed eyes as we hear the people busy enjoying their time. Cutlery dancing and wine glasses singing, the dance of a service is gold.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in our restaurant and welled up with tears of joy on a night where everything went our way. The team I have support our cause, they see the head chef and the struggle he breaths, with a kitchen no bigger then a standard sitting room but still he makes it work. Regulated the gills, he makes it work. An admirable man and we fight for that cause. We change our wines as to deliver the perfect glass to each individual but keep them on their toes by introducing them to more so the mind can travel. “Oh hello sir, good to see you. Yes, I believe the merlot isn’t it? I see you’ve ordered the steak, try this taster of Malbec too and see how the flavour works with the steak”. “You know, I have an amazing Australian Chardonnay that will go with that, would you like to taste?” Is an art, a dance, a rythem of it own and the pleasure one can feel like there is no other. Feed is a need, dining out is a pleasure. The beauty of what we do has a soul of its own created by all who are involved.

Paul on 2019

Dieting

As 2019 roars into action for Kevin Noel and myself the list of things to do this year, last year’s list was fairly small. As many people know getting a proper 3 meals a day is hard enough, and in the kitchen surrounded by food it’s often hard than you’d think, tasting and seasoning and tasting again keeps hunger pangs at bay a lot of the time. We often go a few days without a proper meal in the kitchen, “Did we eat yesterday??” Is a common question in the kitchen here anyway. We tend to feed everyone but else ourselves, ironic cooks for everyone except himself. 

As a result we eat late and honestly fairly crappy food, snack box, toastie, chocolate, basically all the stuff you shouldn’t be eating. I’m just speaking here from personal experience, across the industry, both front and back. 

When I 1st met my now wife, i was fairly slender, now I’ve what’s called a Dad bod, or beer belly. Whichever you prefer, catching it now seems like a good idea. 

I’ve a fairly hectic life as it stands without the addition of exercise and cooking at home. 

I found last year I had motivation from here to go after my goals for last year so I figure why not do the same here. I don’t want or need a shaped muscular toned beach body, just a healthier body than what I currently hold, I know my BMI is high and I also realise the flaws with it. For me it’s pretty accurate. Just a few stone 2 or 3. 

Now I don’t plan on sticking to a regimental diet of apples and oranges with spinach and kale, that to me seems counter productive, as I know I won’t stick to that at all or anything resembling it. 

To speak frankly I want to do this naturally, good honest food less of t ghe crappy processed food that I currently consume. I want potato with butter, I want bacon, beef, pork, fish and lamb all honest food. As I believe it’s the added sugar salt and chemicals that’s added to food today to cut cost and maximise profit. 

Here goes. 

As always stay tuned, 

@chefpaulc on all social media platforms. 

Kevin on doing events

Building a different Era.
As we step into 2019 it seems we have A lot to do. Events seem to be the best way to fill the town with people from other towns. The rose of Tralee being the extreme of this but if you take a close look at Brian Carr’s Feile na Blath you have a clear line between well organised events and drawing people. At the restaurant Noel, Paul and I work on getting as many events on for the public as possible because it does effect the growth of Croí and also brings people to the town. With 32 events on the calender so far it’s set to be a busy year. The secret is and it’s true to the bone, you can always find time to put on another one. Events are difficult to get over the line and if they aren’t always free events, selling tickets and advertising can be an issue. The trick there is to be persistent and believe in your event, advertising in the right places and tapping into people you know would be interested. When I do up my plans for events I always tick the boxes of who would like this. Before Croí I never ran an event in my life and as we head into year 3 in business and now after being part of 20 plus events, the tactics used to get bums on seats has gained huge experience and the marketing strategy for the events is key. Working with Noel and Paul has given me huge space to work on thing I enjoy and working on events is amazing. Seeing the people’s faces light up as they recieve above and beyond their expectations. Chef Noel always delivering the best he can and watching Paul bend over backwards to knock it out the park is amazing. From demos to themed evenings, charity gigs to wine tastings, finding my love for events has been a true gift from Croí.

What is the purpose for events.
1) You want to increase revenue by giving people things they are genuinely interested in.

2) To get people through the door that have never been there before.

3) Hopefully meet like minded people so as that connection may begin and the most important word can start. Story.

We do several free events during the year, we also do events that are special and need to pay and deciding which is which isn’t always easy as the 3 of us can differ but and the end of the day if Noel comes up with an event then he has the final word. If Paul comes up with an event, he has the final word. Respecting each individual and realising that everyone you meet is a potential event is also key. A simple conversation could be a potential goldmine.

Why do I put on events, I don’t care to much for money, I have a firm belief that it has its place in society but to witness the look on someone’s face as they truly enjoy something you’ve put on is one of the greatest gifts in my life. On busy Saturday nights to take a minute to close your eyes and listen to a packed restaurant of chatting, giggling, laughter and more, what else could you want….

Demos by Paul

Demos

Anyone that knows me will tell you that I’ll talk for Ireland, beneath the extrovert exterior lies a fear of public speaking, no problem speaking at mass, Just a ball of nerves at demos so I tend not to talk much there, silence is golden so embrace it. I recently did a demo in Garvey’s super valu in Tralee.
Easy once I got into it and felt comfortable with myself, I had Max from once upon a cheese on my peripheral vision so I knew I was good and if I fell short Max or Kevin would throw a comment in somewhere, to set me off again.
I normally go out and forage, Kevin and Noel go to demos and I’m happy out cooking away in the restaurant, not the case this time around it’s Wednesday Paul your doing the demo.
I’m much happier in the forest or the coast getting smart comments from random strangers. This demo was an exception, we were part of a showcase of kerry producers.

As always follow me on all social media @chefpaulc and the restaurant @croitralee