Taking position as Head Chef at the tender age of 25, Iain McIntyre, Head Chef at Dunsilly Hotel talks to us about how he got to where he is, emerging trends and of course his new menu and FOOD!
Lets Meet the Chef....Iain McIntyre
Some would consider you quite young to hold the position of Head Chef, tell us about your career path and how you find the responsibility?
Well, I put my career progression down to two things; a good education and a great mentor.
From a very young age I was interested in cooking and this passion became an obsession. I knew early on that this was a career path for me. I took Home Ecomonics at school before heading to the Belfast Met, which at the time was located on Brunswick Street. The college gave me a good grounding for the skills required for a career as a chef and running the kitchen. It also gave me the opportunity to complete work experience under Raymond McCardle which was quite an experience.
However, it was under Desi Mulvenna’s leadership that I learnt the most about running a busy kitchen and managing a team. I was always ambitious, but he taught me responsibility from a young age and how to deal with the stress and pressure of running a kitchen. He pushed me forward and I wouldn’t be in the position I am now without his years of guidance.
So you believe that both formal and on the job training are equally important for aspiring young chefs?
Definitely. I believe that qualifications are necessary to understand the running of the kitchen and all it entails with stock controls and budgets. I also believe that being a good role model to younger chefs is just as important. I have trainees in my kitchen and I spend the time showing them skills, advancing their techniques, getting them involved in menu planning and trying to drive their knowledge and passion for their career. It is made easier by Dunsilly Hotel as they offer alot of training opportunities for their employees and I have been able to get some of my team through NVQs. It is a great career, if you have the passion and drive for it.
You recently launched the new grill menu at Dunsilly Hotel, what have you done to improve and drive your menu?
Well before starting any menu, it was important to understand the customer base. We have alot of loyal clientele and I didn’t want to mess too much with the favourites on the menu – so don’t worry alot of those are still there.
We have developed alot of new ideas, driven through getting the team involved. Not only did this drive a passion in the kitchen, which ended in a cook off to decide the dishes to be added, but it also showed off individual team members skills and we came up with some beautiful dishes.
Daily specials are the creative outlet for my team, giving us the freedom to change with the season, show off skills, try new recipes and produce, whilst consistently offering our customers something vibrant and new.
What is your best seller from your menu?
At the moment the best seller is the Grilled Seabass supplied by Kennans Seafood. We serve it with garlic asparagus and a cockle and mussel cream. It is delicious.
How important is buying local to you?
Extremely. The base of any good dish is fresh local produce and this is something that drives our food offering. We have a strict food sourcing policy to ensure we are receiving top quality. We have also visited suppliers premises, take McAtamney Butchers for example, we went to see the production, learnt how their structure worked and sampled new produce – it all helps to ensure that we know we are serving our customers quality and can only be done through a strong and open relationship with all suppliers, which thankfully we have.
What do you love about your job?
Everything and by everything I mean you get to do everything.
We would serve about 300 covers on a Saturday night in the Dunsilly Grill, you might also have a wedding for 150 people in the Laburnum Suite with a birthday party in the Fernhill Restaurant, having a choice of a menu you have designed specifically for them. It sounds hectic, but it creates such a buzz.
The new allergy regulations will be introduced later this year, how do you feel your kitchen will cope with it?
All of the proprieties within the Mckeever Hotel Group received training on food allergens and catering for them in a commercial kitchen, so we are very well equipped to deal with the new legislation. It’s about having the right structures in place and effective communication with the customer.
What has been the highlight of your career so far and what is next for you?
My highlight is right here, right now as Head Chef at Dunsilly Hotel and next? Well, I am entering the team into the Carvery of the Year competition. It kicks off in May and is a public vote, so I’m hoping our customers will come out and support us.
Check out Dunsilly Hotel facebook next week for an exclusive recipe from Iain which you can try at home.