Chef Profile April 2020: Steven Holmes, head chef at the Causeway Hotel
WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INTO COOKING?
My mum is a chef so I have been cooking and working in catering since I was about 15 years old. I have always been interested in food and cooking. I grew up trying new food and having amazing food cooked for us at home too.
HAVE YOU ANY CULINARY QUALIFICATIONS?
I started cheffing under John Tosh, then went to catering college and was trained by Paula McIntyre. I have my NVQ Levels 1, 2 and 3; all of which I obtained at catering college.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
I am 26, originally from Portstewart, and have grown up in the catering and hospitality industry. As a student, with Paula McIntyre’s guidance, I got work here and there and got to know people in the industry. Most recently I worked in Roe Park Resort, Limavady as head chef before moving to Harry’s Shack in Portstewart. It was here that I really learnt about local products and it opened my eyes to seafood. I was working in Harry’s Shack on Portstewart Strand for over a year before I took up the head chef role here at the Causeway Hotel. I also worked as a chef in Melbourne, Australia and Marbella, Spain.
HAS ANYONE INSPIRED YOU THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER?
I admire the local chefs around here that are making a difference, like Eddie Atwell and Chris Bell. They showed everyone it didn’t have to be the same ordinary food all the time. And the likes of Paula McIntyre. They are all about fresh, seasonal food. It’s not just about having something on a menu; everything has to be fresh and seasonal.
WHEN DID YOU JOIN YOUR CURRENT VENUE?
I took up the head chef role here at the Causeway Hotel five months ago. When I heard about the job opportunity, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to get back into a head chef role and back into a hotel.
WHAT IS YOUR FOOD SOURCING POLICY?
We have been taking a fresh look at our suppliers and the seasonality of all our new menus, including our much-anticipated, elegant afternoon tea offering. Our ambitions for 2020 are around using more seasonal and locally sourced produce than ever before and building our relationships with local suppliers, producers and farmers in the area. We want most of our produce and ingredients to come from places as close as possible to the Causeway.
We want the benefits of tourism to the Giant’s Causeway and the other sites around the North Coast to benefit local businesses, local food producers and farmers, and the community in general. So, we are working with suppliers such as North Coast Smokehouse or Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil to bring locality to people’s experience of food here at the hotel.
We’ll be weaving into our new menus the names of the places our ingredients are sourced from and the suppliers we work with so that tourists know about these local businesses, who often run tours and tourism experiences themselves. This allows the benefits of tourism here to be felt across the region.
I am passionate about Irish food and am proud to see the food and drink scene in Northern Ireland really get off the ground. I think it is very important that visitors coming here get a real taste of Northern Ireland. I’ll be making an effort to get out of the kitchen to speak to our guests about the food they are eating and where it comes from on our new menus.
WHAT SIZE IS YOUR STAFF?
In low season, I have a team of eight, which increases to 10 in high season.
WHOSE CAREER WOULD YOU WISH TO EMULATE?
No one in particular springs to mind. To be honest I’m more comfortable talking about my ambitions for my food than my ambitions for myself. I would love my food offering to win awards and accolades in the industry. I would love people to love my food so much that they tell others about it everywhere they go. When this happens, I am happy to go wherever this takes me in my career.
HAVE YOU ANY INTERESTS OUTSIDE OF WORK?
I have my own vegetable garden in the back garden and really enjoy pottering about doing that. I make time for friends and I have a young family so that would be a big part of my life now. I’m also an outdoors person. I love to be outdoors and enjoying time with the family at the same time.