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

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

Diarmuid talks a new season new goals

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Its been a thoroughly successful enjoyable rewarding season not alone for me but the moorings dungarvan and the south east as a whole #greenwayphenomon Latest tourism figures indicate a growth of 53% in visitors The greenway has outstripped all forecasts ( no previous figuers #firstyear) however month on month from its inception the numbers on the greenway have now exceeded .5million users. Dungarvan is No1 worldwide on Air b&b with a massive growth of 5451% (that figure is not a misprint) The Moorings is nominated in Two Catgories this coming Tuesday in the Mansion House Best Irish Pub and Best in Service in Irish Pub Global Gala Awards. We are in 3 Catagories in Chamber of Commerce South East my favourite Best in Social Media. I hear you ask why are you saying this big deal. Ive worked very closely with for me a whole new team of people. Chefs; very young Floor operators Barmen Met reps built relationships with our guests demanded and sought repeat business and put structure and procedures into place. Ive implemented SOP’s We remain Second Only to Paul Flynn @ the tannery while along being on the floor servicing the mass’s In peak season we were catering for 600 ppl a day. Low season 400 plus the parties weddings and alot more in the nature of this business ie a food imporium by day becomes a drinking haven at night. Ive realy got stuck in with the chefs and developed menus introduced flavours to desserts added cocktail and gin menus but more Importantly earned my stripes with the boss’s The Quinn family who have handed over the reigns not alone to the moorings but their property in Waterford. The job of a front house operator is all inclusive Its a role that requires knowledge yes but I always find flexibility like a barley stem blowing in the breeze the capacity to listen and observe are the true skills of an operator. The dis-arming charm plus empathy also help 😉 We here are all gangsters but different types and individual gangsters. Keep doing what we are doing We are a unique Industry.. #shootemupboys 🕵

Paul on CROI

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Restaurant opening.

 

We are now open 2 weeks, I have a few minutes to myself away from everyone I am contemplating my position here, if I wasn’t I suppose I wouldn’t be doing this right. I am of the belief that if you are not questioning your actions your not making progress. To myself it’s a realisation of a dream which in itself is bittersweet. On the one hand I’m pushing forward with my life, that part i can deal with, the part that gets me as I write this is the sadness from the loss of my mother last year, as I use her tunnel to grow the strawberries, rhubarb and salad leaves that go out on the starters and desserts. Each time I pick from the tunnel, I can’t help the feeling that should by mom still be here I might not be growing as much as I am.

 

It’s been a rollercoaster ride so far seeing what we walked into and with the help of friends and family alike, cleaning tidying, organising. I must say a huge thank you to all, the people who have came in and dines with us over the last two weeks. I am glad that I have made this decision as I further my career and make progress down a road less traveled, with 2 of my friends Noel and Kevin, I couldn’t ask for 2 better business partners so thanks lads.

Each of us have a different viewpoints on this restaurant and different reasons as to why we walk this path.

 

The journey is just beginning, it’s emotionally and physically draining, but it’s worth it at the end of the day we are doing it for ourselves.

 

Follow the restaurant on Facebook Twitter and Instagram @croitralee

 

Or myself for behind food pics @chefpaulc on Instagram and Twitter with the occasional food pic thrown in for good measure.

 

Hope to see ye in the restaurant soon.

Starting out as a chef

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8 TIPS FOR CHEFS STARTING OUT

1: Learn how to sharpen your knife. A sharp knife does less damage than a blunt one

2: Learn how to finely dice an onion. It’s the most commonly used ingredient in the kitchen and a great way to practise your knife skills

3: Bring a spare pair of socks to work. When you’re working for a couple of hours in hot shoes it can cause health problems.

4: Don’t be afraid to ask question, if you’re not sure of something ask. Chefs would rather see your interest and show you something properly than you mess it up. Even if you do mess it up ask where you went wrong and don’t mess up the second time.

5: Learn how to make soup. It’s more than likely your first job will be on starters. If it is nearly every restaurant has a soup on those menu. If you can learn to do that you’re taking on a full dish by yourself. Also soups have to be seasoned correctly so it is an ideal opportunity to start your seasoning skills and allows you to experiment with flavours.

6: Show interest. If you’re in a busy kitchen and you have nothing to do. Wander over to the sauce section and see how the chef make their peppercorn sauce. No one chef does everything the same way but when you become qualified you can choose what way you like best. You need a base knowledge to start with though.

7. Don’t take it personally. My first night working in kitchen I had never used bean sprouts before. A chef on my section had put gone off bean sprouts on a salad and I didn’t know the difference. I got blamed for serving it and looked like a fool. However I didn’t storm off in a mood. I finished my shift and we were still friends afterwards. People shout get angry it happens. Don’t take it to heart.

8. Start high end and decide where to go from there. If you start in a good restaurant you learn the basics. Saying that not everyone wants to work in fine dining. That’s fine. But it’s hard to move from a low casual dining restaurant to a fine dining restaurant.

Diarmuid on the food service industry

What a wonderfull weekend on the #foodtrail to the Kingdom. I probably don’t need to go into any furthuer detail on my experience in Listowel & Tralee as I have well documented my reviews on Social Media. So I’m going to just ‘tip’ on being an owner/operator having spoken to both proprietors on my journey and from my own experience of being a bar and hotel owner in my own time. Firstly I want to acknowledge the guys in Listowel & Tralee and wish them continued success in the future. When I began my career in the late 80’s going to the pub/restaurant was in the Top 5 of places of interest to go socialise and meet with friends family etc. 30 yrs later with the advent of so many many forms of social activity people are more health concious and with the demise of the Celtic Tiger the f&b trade has suffered a major downturn and our customers are now finely tuned in to ‘value for your buck’ Bars & Restaurants are under constant screunity from not alone the well travel and versed general public but from also within by the governing food and drink bodies. I have heard on countless occasions people saying ‘oh I’d love to have a pub/restautant’ they see an operation on a busy weekend night and immediately marry the till take to a it’s a good money maker. It’s obviously not the case. Our guests do not see what goes on behind the scenes and what an enermous effort it takes just to open the door let alone keep it open and trading successfully. My point without over stating the obvious is the respect I have for the guys I met this weekend. Hard working conceious people as well as being food lovers they are employers they are fantastic chefs and front house operators. I personaly am fully supportive of anyone in business but in particular in our Industry. It’s 7 days 7 nights every week week in week out. It’s then sometimes that naturaly I become disappointed when I read the reviews of staff and premises on Tripadvisor. Posted up by ‘mini-private eye foodies’ without a seconds thought for someone’s career and someone’s hard work. I was brought up to the mantra if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything and if you realy feel something is to be said at least be constructive. My point again coming from being an employer to a damm good employee is We should all help support and encourage those who make the brave step forward to become an owner/operator. We should all take time to be transparent with out customers and when an opportunity arises to explain how deathtraemtal someone’s unkind review can be on any form of Social Media. The good times are gradually coming back People have a few extra bob in their pocket and once again with thanks to will oiled professionals in hospitality who did not bail out people are coming back into our bars & Restaurants and the ‘steaks’ are high and we need to continue to produce the goods and the experience our guests now demand. And we will I know all of us here on TCG will endevour to produce the best to the best of our ability. So I encourage everyone to support the Owner/operator. I for One raise my glass to you guys this evening. After all… we are the willing led by the unknown doing the impossible for sometimes the ungrateful but we keep doing it! Why I ask. Because that’s what we do. #atyourservice 👤

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Seasonal changes

 
As more light shines in the daytime more flowers come to life. Some of our spring flowers are coming to the end of their season.

There are summer flowers blooming everywhere from the meadows to the hedges and the rivers and streams

The red clover and fuschia are beginning to bloom across the countryside along with the rather unlikely suspect the hawthorn is flowering, however be careful as when you are plucking these flowers they have a tendency to fall like cherry blossoms littering the undergrowth with its tiny white petal, wild garlic and leek flowers are still going strong but are coming to the end of their seasons.

While most flowers this time of year are perfectly edible some are harmful if ingested in large quantities, or if eaten raw, though may be eaten if cooked.

As always be sure of what you are picking before you eat it. Also keep an eye out for wild berries starting to flower at the moment wild strawberries are flowering at the moment if you know where they are.

We are using a variety of wild herbs and flowers in our restaurant in the square Tralee Croí. Come in and experience homegrown and wild food like no other.

Follow on Instagram and Twitter @chefpaulc and the restaurant Instagram and Twitter @croitralee and on Facebook​ @croirestaurant