Head Chef

Pic: Jim Campbell Photography 2021 ©
Thursday 26th August 2021 – Vol 001 Edition 00010

by Jim Campbell

Tony Carty

A Head Chef is a highly skilled professional cook who oversees the operations of a restaurant or dining facility. As far as the Head Chef job description goes, the first thing you need to know is that in their role, they will be responsible for everything that goes on in their employer’s kitchen.

They will be required to supervise all dishes from start to finish, but they are also tasked with meeting health and safety standards, and dreaming up new recipes for the restaurant they work in.

Edition 10 of ‘A Day in the Life of’ is about Tony Carty, Head Chef in the Ferrycarrig Hotel, owned by 1996 All Ireland Senior Hurling winning team manager Liam Griffin.

The Four Star hotel is approximately 4.5 km from Wexford town and overlooks the stunning Slaney River Estuary.

Pic: Jim Campbell Photography 2021 ©

Tony’s dream of becoming a chef started early in his life. He was inspired by his late mother, Maureen, whom he described as a terrific cook.

At the age of sixteen, Tony’s career began with a summer job at Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara

“The people that you meet throughout your career have an impact on you. I had a fantastic Career Guidance teacher in the Wexford Vocational College (now named Selskar College) named Ann Kearns.

The teacher knew that I had a passion to be a Chef, and she helped me get a summer job at Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara when I was sixteen years old. That was a tremendous experience and adventure for me.

Anne also assisted me in getting my place into the Catering College in Waterford. She had a huge impact on my life.”

Pic: Jim Campbell Photography 2021 ©

In 1992, Tony was employed as a chef in the Ferrycarrig Hotel. He was working his way through the ranks to the status of Head Chef.

“Liam Griffin opened the new look Ferrycarrig Hotel in May 1992, and I started there in August 1992”. Liam Griffin had a huge impact on Tony’s life as did Mark Browne, the General Manager at the time.

“I had huge opportunities here and moved up the ladder within a few years.”

Tony commences work at ten in the morning. His first duty is to check specific emails that might be there, possible feedback from customers.

He also must check on notes from chefs who were on duty the previous night to see any issues. Check on how many covers they might have done in the different areas.

The Head Chef has to check with the storeman on possible problems with the deliveries, what arrived and what didn’t arrive?

Examination of the cleaning schedules is next in line, checking all areas to ensure that the cleaning schedules were adhered to earlier in the morning.

“Hygiene is a huge part of our job, and the HACCP systems that are in place are a huge part of our job now.

Examination of the cleaning schedules is next in line, checking all areas to ensure that the cleaning schedules were adhered to earlier in the morning.

With the breakfast service finished, Tony explained how intense breakfast was – “We had two hundred and fifty customers in this morning between adults and kids. That is a plated service now.

Before Covid, a buffet service was much easier, and now it is a plated service. Everybody wants to eat between nine-thirty and ten-thirty.

No one wants to be coming down at seven in the morning. So, it is an intense service and challenging every morning.”

The kitchen caters to the hotel’s 2AA Rosette award-winning restaurant, ‘Reeds Restaurant.’ “This is important to us, and it is our flagship, our identity of the quality of food that we are serving.

Sourcing food from local producers is very, very important to us.

“A large amount of food served in the hotel is from local producers. Sourcing food from local producers is very, very important to us. The provenance of the product/the story behind it.”

“If Reeds is out identity, The Dry Dock Bar is our lifeblood. We produce huge amounts of food for the high number of covers that we do. It has by far our busiest section.”

Chef Martin O’Leary, Chef Simon Gutowski, Head Chef Tony Carty, Chef Mary Walsh. Pic: Jim Campbell 2021 ©

For people who have never seen the inside of a hotel kitchen before, there is: The Pastry Corner, Banqueting Area, Restaurant Section, Bar Section, Larger Area (where the raw meat and fish are prepared), Veg Prep Area, Pot Wash Area, Delph Wash Area. Approximately 32 people work in this area under the supervision of the Head Chef.

The Head Chef has daily ten-minute briefings with the different sectors at different times of the day to keep the crew updated

The briefing would include informing the crew of the plans for that day and possibly the following day.

As the day progresses, the team prepares for lunch service, making sure everything is ready for lunch. The Head Chef is prepared to answer any queries from the chefs preparing the food regarding the food or sauces on the lunch menu.

I must do the Head Chef’s duties as well as the chef’s tasks.

After the lunch service, the Head Chef catches up on some paperwork. “If I am needed to help on service, I will help on service. I am fully hands-on. I must do the Head Chef’s duties as well as the chef’s tasks. Today, for example, I am working in a restaurant. Come One O’Clock; I must be ready to set up for tonight and get all the other paperwork done”.

In the afternoon, it is generally paperwork. Ordering of stock for the following day will have to be done at this stage. Staff rosters are done once a week. Note-taking on specific ideas for dishes for new menus also must be done. And he has to ensure that the allergens are correct on the menus.

Pic: Jim Campbell Photography 2021 ©

In the evening, it is back to service for the Head Chef: Reeds Restaurant, Weddings, The Dry Dock Bar.

The restaurant is open from six in the evening—last orders at around nine o’clock. “I will be wherever I am needed at any particular time of the day. If lunch is busy and I am needed, I will be there on that particular service.” 

When the clean-up is completed and the final day’s paperwork is done, the Head Chef will complete his day’s work at approximately ten at night.

He loves the idea of learning, discovering what you can do with different types of food.

Tony loves that adventure of being a chef. He loves the idea of learning, discovering what you can do with different types of food. “That comes from my training at the start, and I was very lucky, very lucky, I got to work in Kelly’s Resort Hotel as a trainee.

I had fantastic chefs there to work with who gave me the information, who wanted to teach me. It was a passion.”

He also loves travel; you can go anywhere globally and experience cooking in so many countries. When Tony completed his time in Kelly’s Resort Hotel, he went to work in a restaurant in the Swiss Alps called Le Poussin for two years.

“Years ago, it was described to me as a vocation, and it is not a job. It is a way of life; you must be cut out for it. It is intense, and it is hot. Pressure is put on at any particular time when orders come at the same time; it could be six o’clock or eight o’clock in the evening. When the dockets come in, that’s pressure because you’ve got to get the food cooked and served in a limited amount of time.”

Pic: Jim Campbell Photography 2021 ©

Tony’s advice to young people wanting to pursue a career as a chef: “First and foremost, do not be swayed by what you see on television on chef’s programmes. They are made for TV. There are not reality, and there are not as glamourous as they are made out to be.

You have to have a passion, not necessary for food but for learning. that you want to learn. As a young person there are great opportunities – move around the country, travel the world. Being a chef would give you that passport to get in anywhere.

You could travel to France, travel to the United States, travel to Asia; there is so much food out there to learn. Personality and character are more important than skills.

If you have the desire to learn, you can excel

You must have skills. You don’t want to be another person in the kitchen; you want to be a better person in the kitchen. As a young person, you must forget about going out every weekend, or having weekends off. It is not for everyone, but if you have the desire to learn, you can excel. I guess, like everything in life, you get out what you put in.

You are going to be working weekends, holiday time, over Christmas. That’s the job, the nature of the job; you can’t change that. Once you accept that, then it is easy”.

Pic: Jim Campbell Photography 2021 ©

There are great opportunities to work with great people all over the place, meet great people, and be influenced by great people.

“You can’t be an individual in the kitchen, and you must be a team player”.

On-the-job training is the best way to learn. “I would always advise someone to get a part-time job somewhere to get an understanding of it, see if you like it, before committing to it.

It is not for everybody, but if it is, you can really excel and do well for yourself. It’s completely down to the person how much they want it.”

As the saying goes, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”


Acknowledgements

My sincere thanks to Head Chef Tony Carty, Derek Coyne (General Manager, Ferrycarrig Hotel), Chef Mary Walsh, Chef Simon Gutowski, Chef Martin O’Leary, Rev Conor O’Reilly for their contribution to this blog. JC

All Images and Original Text © All Rights Reserved-Jim Campbell 2021

About the author

Jim Campbell is an Irish photographer, freelancer and photojournalist. Campbell has being contemporary photographer for more than two decades.

A native of Wexford town in the south-east of Ireland, Campbell studied photography in the Dublin Institute of Technology before going to work with a newspaper.

Since 1998 he has been working with local and national papers in Ireland and the UK. His work has appeared in publications globally including newspapers, magazines and online publications.

In 2013 Campbell made his first of what would become many trips to the conflict areas of the world. To observe more on Jim’s work vist the link to his website below.

Jim Campbell has been covering conflict areas since 2013. Check out his website www.warlens.co.uk

By Jim Campbell Photography

Jim Campbell is an Irish photographer, freelancer and photojournalist. Campbell has being contemporary photographer for more than two decades. A native of Wexford town in the south-east of Ireland, Campbell studied photography in the Dublin Institute of Technology before going to work with a newspaper. Since 1998 he has been working with local and national papers in Ireland and the UK. His work has appeared in publications globally including newspapers, magazines and online publications. In 2013 Campbell made his first of what would become many trips to the conflict areas of the world. To observe more on Jim's work vist the link to his website below. Jim Campbell has been covering conflict areas since 2013. Check out his website www.warlens.co.uk

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