Chef Profile April 2018: Paul Catterson, head chef and co-owner with his wife Elaine of Tribal Burger on Botanic Avenue in Belfast
Paul Catterson, head chef and co-owner with his wife Elaine of Tribal Burger on Botanic Avenue in Belfast, talks to HRNI
WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INTO COOKING?
In secondary school, I studied home economics. In the 1980s, it was virtually unheard of for lads to take that subject but two mates of mine and I thought it would be a good laugh. Little did I know it would be the start of my career in catering. I got a job in Kee’s Hotel in Stranorlar in Donegal when I finished school and have been cooking ever since.
HAVE YOU ANY CULINARY QUALIFICATIONS?
I studied in Sligo for my City & Guilds 706-1 and 706-2 which back then was the basic qualifications for chefs. When I moved to London, I studied part time in Croydon College for my 706-3 advanced kitchen and larder.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND IN THE TRADE?
I spent three years until 1991 at Kee’s Hotel attending college two days a week to get my City & Guilds. I then moved to London to get experience of big city restaurants, spending nearly nine years in London. I worked in the English Garden in Chelsea before joining Sir Terence Conran Restaurants to open Quaglino’s in 1993 under Martin Webb and John Torode. My first head chef position in London came through Conran at Zinc Bar and Grill. After winning an Acorn Award from Caterer magazine, I was asked to move to Dublin to run La Stampa on Dawson Street. A move to Belfast to open Shu on the Lisburn Road was next, and I spent five years at Shu until I decided that it was time for a change and started our own street food and catering company called Burger Republic. In 2016, we took the decision to open our first bricks and mortar site and Tribal Burger followed on Botanic Ave in September 2017.
HAS ANYONE INSPIRED YOU THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER?
I would say my time in London was where I was inspired the most. Chefs like Martin Webb, Brian Turner and John Torode all offered different influences on my career and I found I enjoyed high volume restaurants the most, but that also came with the high pressure of managing a team with maybe 50 chefs feeding 1,000 covers a day. Logistics is one thing I learned and it is a valuable skill in our current businesses.
WHAT STYLE IS YOUR COOKING?
Bistro/brasserie style is probably the closest thing I could describe it as.
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
I work with Richard McGreevy butchers in Downpatrick, who I have dealt with for over 17 years. I also use local suppliers 100% of the time such as Michael Fitzpatrick at Universal Foods for our fruit and veg. We support local business, as I know very well how hard it is for local businesses to survive.
WHAT SIZE IS YOUR STAFF?
In total, we employ approximately 20 staff between Tribal and Burger Republic.
WHOSE CAREER WOULD YOU WISH TO EMULATE?
It’s hard to name any one person in the street food or burger joint industry, as they are fairly new styles of food businesses. Danny Meyer of Shake Shack has got to be admired and anyone who can operate multiple sites doing quality food has got to be congratulated. I would settle for being able to operate a few Tribal Burger joints and succeeding in serving consistently quality food.
HAVE YOU ANY INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF WORK?
Trying to spend as much time with my wife Elaine, and sons Daniel and Matthew is a priority. We like to travel as much as we can, which generally involves burger joints or coffee shops. Fitness has become an important interest as the business can be demanding physically and I am not getting any younger!
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