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  • Writer's picturegfmeade7


There are always kitchens and chefs that will be a particular milestone in any cooking career. Mine came about on the back of good timing and a valuable tip off after I had finished catering college. So acting immediately on the precious information I rang up, went over that same day, made my case, seemed to cut the mustard and I was in like Flynn as we say. The rest is history as I was catapulted into another culinary universe cooking for the glitterati and establishment figures of 1980s Ireland in its most renowned restaurant in leafy Dublin 4. Highflyers literally flew in from abroad for lunches that lasted until teatime and bills would be paid on monthly accounts. Trust and discretion were the customer bywords of the day.

     Le Coq Hardi was Ireland’s first luxury city dining spot of that era with the dripping decor and high prices but very fine food, wine and superb service to match. A typical single dinner bill was how much I earned in a week as the commis chef. It had the biggest and most expensive wine cellar in the country with some bottles at five grand a pop. A private dining room was there for the super VIPs’ and you could even sleep over in a luxury suite. The place would even close sometimes for the right price so we could provide an outside catering service at some big house out the country.

Suddenly I was arms deep in rabbit, scallops, oysters, lobster, veal, turbot and game with no expense spared as the customer demographic expected the very best. I had never seen or tasted Irish artisan cheese and the incredible desserts were made by a master French pastry chef who I watched like a hawk all day while jotting down notes as we conversed in French. I got to work up close and personal in a small kitchen with the world class Irish chef patron who had seen and done it all and was now revered throughout Europe by the biggest of his famous peers.

    I used every moment at a frenzied pace to learn as much as I could as culinary exposure like this is a game changer. There was waiting list of applicants to fill this coveted junior position and a year was not over when news came of a chance to attend a scholarship programme in France and with one phone call from the boss it was a done deal and I was on my way to a Brittany hotel school as part of an EU Irish student chef programme. I had learned the entire menu anyway so again the timing was just right, my two year deal had been cut short but sometimes one just has to follow the signposts. Someone else would sooner get to do what I had done.

Looking back now thirty six years on from that defining experience of working there I am in no doubt it was the making of me in cooking. After this I was confident enough to not just sail through the French hotel school programme but I stayed on and worked there in Brittany and subsequently again for another few years later on in the nineties. I did revisit the Dublin restaurant many times again to let my mentor know how I was getting on and then once as a customer to savour the moment before it finally closed up its door for the last time in the noughties for his retirement.


I suppose the moral of this cheffy story is that one must seize the opportunity when it is presented. When the bus comes along and it has your name on it you must get on it and see where it takes you. I have seen so many people miss or worse again simply refuse to take their moments of destiny not just in my industry but in other professions too. You can always get off the bus if it does not work out but one has to at least give the journey a try. The universe works in mysterious way and we are only here for the one spin so when it is your turn to take a new road then don’t hesitate for a second to jump on.

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