Chef Profile January 2017: Katie Burns, head chef at Town Sq on Botanic Avenue in Belfast
Katie Burns, head chef at Town Sq on Botanic Avenue in Belfast, talks to Alyson Magee
“I just love cooking, it’s my passion,” says Katie Burns. “I just enjoy it, and I love trying new stuff out.”
Katie is head chef at Town Sq on Botanic Avenue, the former Crescent Townhouse owned by Wine Inns which was taken over by businessman Peter Ringland in 2015.
In partnership with Nathan Reid from Established, Ringland has invested £100,000 in the venue to turn it into an all-day eating venue. Earlier this year, a new cocktail bar was added to the site, creating 20 further jobs.
Katie has been cheffing there since 2007, having started off her career in the sector at Sopranos on the Antrim Road in 2005 while completing her catering qualifications at Belfast Met’s Millfield campus.
She joined the Metro restaurant in the old Crescent Townhouse as a commis chef, and gradually progressed to chef de partie in 2010, second chef in 2014 and – staying on under the new proprietorship – head chef in February 2016. “I just worked my way up,” says Katie.
Whereas, under its previous ownership, the Metro restaurant had dabbled in a fine dining style of food, Katie says it has evolved towards more casual café bistro dishes offered at affordable prices in response to demand from the student population in the Queen’s area. Menus items range from a BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich at £6.50 and Roast Vegetable Linguine at £7.50 up to an 8oz Sirloin Steak at £14.
“We do burgers, goujons and risotto, nothing too fancy,” she says. “With the area that we’re in, there are a lot of students and it suits them. At the weekends, we have specials which are a bit fancier.” Also on the menu are sandwiches, salads and smaller bites, desserts and a comprehensive breakfast menu while, unsurprisingly given the Established link, coffee is a big focus.
Open from 6.30am to 9pm, and 10pm on Friday and Saturday nights, the venue is busy; particularly during lunchtime trade when it often handles 100-150 covers. Katie heads up a team of four other chefs, while Town Square’s staff would also include around six other front of house positions and baristas, as well as bartenders serving cocktails, craft beer and wine in the new cocktail bar.
“I have a good strong team behind me,” she says. Crossgar Pallas supplies some meats and dried goods to Town Sq, which also sources fish from Ewing’s, other meats from Rodgers and cakes from Man Made in Belfast. The business also has a relationship with Belfast-based Boundary Brewing, matching its brews with seasonal food.
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is a big influence for Katie. “I like some of Jamie Oliver’s food as well but I love Gordon Ramsay,” she says. “I have loads of cookery books at home and like to try out different things.” Born, bred and still resident in Belfast, when not in the kitchen, Katie enjoys socialising with friends in the city.
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