Chef Profile December 2016: Marty Black, head chef at The Ivanhoe Hotel and Inn in Carryduff
Marty Black, head chef at The Ivanhoe Hotel and Inn in Carryduff, talks to Lisa Smyth
Confit pork belly with butter form crab claws, fondant potato, parsnip, savoy and bacon puree
Marty Black is one of the lucky people who knew what he wanted to do in life when he was just a teenager. At just 15 years old, he started working part-time in The Other Place in south Belfast and it was there that he decided he wanted to train as a chef.
Fast forward two decades, he is the head chef at The Ivanhoe Inn and Hotel in Carryduff and has been behind the success of some of Northern Ireland’s best known restaurants.
But it hasn’t all been plain sailing, as the 35 year old – who lives close to the Ivanhoe – explains: “It’s long hours and hard work and you have to be very dedicated to make it as a chef.
“The pay isn’t always great and you always end up working on the holidays so at Christmas and Easter and New Year, when everyone else is enjoying themselves, you’re working.
“The first thing you do when you are a chef is you get a radio for the kitchen, you get a kettle and a jar of coffee, and you get your head down and work.”
Like many chefs, Marty has had a varied career, working at countless different establishments over the years.
“I was working at The Other Place and I really started to enjoy cooking in the kitchen,” he says.
“I was at St Joseph’s College on the Ravenhill Road at the time and, after I finished my GCSEs, I did my level one and two at catering college while working in the restaurant.”
After two years there, Marty moved on to the Hilton Hotel in Belfast City Centre, where he started out as a breakfast chef, before becoming a chef de partie. I wanted to learn and if you want to learn catering and hospitality, you go to a hotel,” he said.
“And you couldn’t fault the Hilton, they’re a world-leading brand; it was probably the best place for me to go to at the time.”
During his time there, the hotel paid for Marty and four of his colleagues to complete their level-three course at catering college.
Eventually, Marty moved on to the Whitefort Inn in west Belfast, where he worked as senior chef de partie.
“There was more freedom in the cooking, you got to express yourself more in what you were doing,” he says.
“When I was starting out, I was told that I should spend a year in a kitchen and move on, that I should get my head down wherever I went and learn, but always move on, and that’s what I’ve tried to do over the years.”
After leaving the Whitefort Inn, Marty worked in a number of different restaurants before taking up a more permanent post as sous chef at AMPM in south Belfast.
It was here that Marty developed his skills turning out dishes for up to 600 customers every Saturday and Sunday.
“It was a la carte and everything was cooked to order,” he says.
“It was a really pressure cooker and I loved every minute of it.”
After 18 months, he moved on to the now defunct Cayenne, working under the expertise of celebrity chef Danny Millar.
“It was nowhere near as much pressure as AMPM, but in hindsight, I’m not sure I enjoyed it as much because the hours were so long,” says Marty.
“We might start at 9am and not get finished until 1am.”
Following the birth of his daughter, Roise – now five, Marty decided to take a break from working as a chef to spend more time with his family.
“I decided there must be more to life than working 60 hours a week,” he says.
However, after working as a delivery driver, he returned to the industry as the recession hit and over the subsequent years, Marty worked at the likes of Failte in west Belfast and Lost Society in south Belfast, and he helped to turn around the fortunes of Slims Healthy Kitchen.
“Working there was probably my biggest achievement in that I don’t think I pushed myself as hard in my life,” he says.
He began working at the Ivanhoe at the start of the year and quickly rose to the position of head chef.
Given the wide variety of events hosted by the venue, every day is different in the kitchen – something that Marty loves.
He is also keen that as much of the food as possible is locally sourced and the menus benefit from his experience, knowledge and years of building up industry contacts.
“There is no one chef who has inspired me over the years,” he says.
“I have enjoyed working with the experienced guys over the years, the likes of Tommy Boyd, Michael Young, Danny Millar, they all taught me that hard work and dedication are what you need to succeed.”
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