Chef Profile February 2019: Adam Sarhan, head chef at The Ivory Restaurant, Belfast
Adam Sarhan, head chef at The Ivory Restaurant, Belfast, talks to HRNI
WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INTO COOKING?
My dad was a chef as was my brother, so I’ve always been surrounded by cooking in our family. When I came back from living in Egypt for seven years, I worked at Roscoff in Shaftesbury Square with Paul Rankin and Andy Rea. I’m interested and inspired by exotic foods such as North African, Thai and Asian, which are evident in my menus at The Ivory.
HAVE YOU ANY CULINARY QUALIFICATIONS?
I picked up all my training on the job learning from some of Northern Ireland’s most respected chefs.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND IN THE TRADE?
I started my career at Roscoff as a kitchen porter when I was 16 and worked my way up, learning from some amazing but tough mentors. While working for the Rankins, I also worked in their other restaurants Rain City and Cayenne. I followed Andy Rea to Mourne Seafood Bar when he set it up and also worked in his other restaurant, Home. I’ve also been behind the stove at the Parson’s Nose in Hillsborough and Shed on Ormeau Road before taking up the head chef role at The Ivory.
HAS ANYONE INSPIRED YOU THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER?
My dad has inspired me. He’s Egyptian and comes from a very small town where he basically had nothing. He has worked really hard and is someone who I look up to as a role model.
WHEN DID YOU JOIN YOUR CURRENT VENUE?
WHAT STYLE IS YOUR COOKING?
I like to call my style simple and rustic. I don’t like to overcomplicate things, but I like to combine good quality ingredients and let the flavours speak for themselves. I also think about vegetables first, what works well together before thinking about adding meat or fish to a dish to complete it.
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
It’s very important to me to source local where possible. We have many brilliant producers in Northern Ireland and I like to support them, not just because they are local, but because their produce tastes so good and also as it helps to reduces the carbon foot print.
WHAT SIZE IS YOUR STAFF?
Currently seven chefs which will increase to nine during the festive season. There are also three kitchen porters supporting the chefs.
WHOSE CAREER WOULD YOU WISH TO EMULATE?
I’ve worked alongside Andy Rea for some time and watched how his career has developed. He’s worked in some brilliant restaurants, here at home but also abroad and has gone on to set up some simple yet successful restaurants.
HAVE YOU ANY INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF WORK?
I love to travel, I lived in Egypt and visit the country when I can. The Middle East has inspired my cooking ethos and I like to travel to different countries in the region. I’ve been with my partner, Anne Marie, for 15 years so it’s brilliant to take time away from the stresses of the kitchen to chill out and re-charge.