Chef Profile November 2017: Adrian McDaid, executive head chef at the Europa Hotel, Belfast
Adrian McDaid, executive head chef at the Europa Hotel, Belfast, talks to Alyson Magee
WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INTO COOKING, AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU?
I started off at Ballymaclary House in Magilligan aged 14, washing lettuce and doing a bit of dishing. It was always something I knew I wanted to do. We had our own produce at home, as my father had a garden he grew vegetables in and had chickens, ducks and geese so there was always a lot of home cooking going on.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND IN THE TRADE?
After Ballymaclary, I went to the Alexander Arms in Limavady, and worked for Tommy O’Brien, and then I moved to Hastings Hotels, as junior sous chef at the Stormont and then as head chef at the Everglades in 1995. I was at the Everglades for two and a half years, before I left the group to go to the Roe Park in Limavady, where I was for 11 years, and then La Mon for four years. I had just left La Mon, and joined the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle for three months when it reopened in 2013 when the Europa job came up and it’s one of the biggest jobs in the north so I had to go for it.
HAVE YOU ANY CULINARY QUALIFICATIONS?
The old-school catering qualifications, and I’m currently doing the Hastings Hotels’ MAP programme with Ulster University.
HAS ANYONE INSPIRED YOU THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER?
All the people I’ve worked for, I’ve taken the best bits I’ve seen them do and their strong points and I’m still learning to this day, even from the young people working for me. I don’t always feel I have to be in control; sometimes you get the best out of other people by letting them be in control sometimes. I do enjoy working with James McGinn, the general manager; he’s really switched on.
WHAT STYLE IS YOUR COOKING?
I like to keep it simple, with local, seasonal produce. If you’re using great carrots or cabbage, and add butter and salt and pepper, that can be enough. We try and bring a bit of restaurant style to our banqueting. When 400 to 500 people come in for dinner, we like to offer something a bit more refined and eye catching than the usual banqueting food.
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
We try to use as much local food as we can, with all our chicken sourced in Northern Ireland, beef from Carnbrooke and Hannan’s, seafood from Ewings and local vegetables. We’ll have venison in season, and more tomato dishes in the summer.
WHAT SIZE IS YOUR STAFF?
We have 17 chefs across the Causerie, Piano Lounge, Lobby Bar and banqueting, and a couple on pastry as well. We have eight kitchen porters, and they are as important to us as the chefs.
WHOSE CAREER WOULD YOU WISH TO EMULATE?
I’m a great believer you should try to achieve the best you can to your own abilities. I just try to do things right and I do look at the other chefs and their books but I’m quite happy doing what I do. I’ve worked in all the places I’ve wanted to work, and there’s nothing better than being in a job you’re content with and I would say I have that.
HAVE YOU ANY INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF WORK?
I enjoy family time with my wife Deborah and son Charlie, 11, going out for a bite to eat, going on family holidays and following a bit of football. It’s very difficult to get chefs into the industry, but I think it’s a great job being a chef, and if my boy wanted to go into it, I would be happy with that. You have to bring something to the party; there’s no point pulling on the whites if you’re not going to push yourself to be a leader. I’ve loved all the places I’ve worked. I’ve enjoyed my career.
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