Wednesday 22nd September 2021 – Vol 001 Edition 00017
by Jim Campbell
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The hospitality industry is a broad category of fields within the service industry that includes lodgings, food and drink service, event planning, theme parks, travel, and tourism. It includes hotels, tourism agencies, restaurants, and bars.
Chefs are typically employed by restaurants, but they also work for households and private facilities. They work closely with kitchen staff to prepare and cook food in a timely manner. Their job is to use kitchen appliances and equipment to prepare and cook food properly.
responsibility to use fresh ingredients to ensure the health and safety of their customers
They also have a responsibility to use fresh ingredients to ensure the health and safety of their customers. They may also be responsible for creating menu items and teaching their staff how to make each one.
A chef’s standard uniform includes a hat (called a toque), neckerchief, double-breasted jacket, apron, and sturdy shoes (that may include steel or plastic toecaps).
Celebrity Chef and Author Kevin Dundon is my profile for Edition 17 of my ‘A Day in the Life of’ series. The Dubliner took time out from his very busy schedule to discuss a day in his life as a chef.
While we had our chat in the Celebrity Chef’s studio prepared kitchen, which he uses to do the television demos, online courses and classes. Cameras and lighting equipment set up in permanent positions around the room. A fantastic set up and one that any food photographer would be proud to have.
After our thirty-minute chat, we walked through the grounds of the beautiful surroundings – that is Dunbrody Country House, for some photographs.
“I was either going to be a chef or an architect.”
Originally from Clondalkin, the Dubliner grew up in Malahide. During his schooldays, Kevin wanted to be a either a chef or an architect. “I was either going to be a chef or an architect.”
Both are artistic in a way. I got to do my ‘Leaving Cert’. School wasn’t my number one priority in life at the time. I left school and went straight into college in Dublin Institute of Technology. I was working in a restaurant called Coppers Restaurant in Dublin. So, I was working there four days a week and two days in college.”
“That’s what’s great about being a Chef, you can travel the world!”
After graduating in 1986 from DIT in Cathal Brugha Street, Kevin moved to Switzerland. “I went and did my college degree. Then I got a scholarship to go to Switzerland from the college. So, I went out there for a year. That’s what’s great about being a Chef, you can travel the world!”
After his spell working in Switzerland, Kevin applied for three jobs as a Chef – one in South Africa, one in Australia, and the other in Canada. He was successful in obtaining all three positions and he chose the one in Canada as his next destination. “I picked Canada as it was harder to get a visa there.
At the age of twenty-two, Kevin became the youngest ever Executive Head Chef
When I went to Canada, my career just took off. “While I had a number options in Australia and Switzerland, I was lucky enough to take on a significant opportunity working in the Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in Canada.”
At the age of twenty-two, he became the youngest ever Executive Head Chef in the company’s history with a team of seventy chefs under his leadership.
“I think when I enjoy something, I put everything into it”
While in Canada, Kevin did his Masterchef programmes. “I did my Masterchefs in Canada, I really enjoyed it. I think when I enjoy something, I put everything into it – I got ninety percent in my Masters Degree. I ended up adjudicating the MasterChef programme in Canada, I was also the Chairman of the Arts Education in Canada.”
Kevin Dundon returned to his native Ireland in 1994 and was named the Executive Chef at Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel. “Part of me wanted to move back to Ireland, I was offered the Executive Chef’s job in the Shelbourne in Dublin.”
At the age of thirty-four years, Kevin opened the Dunbrody Country House Hotel in Arthurstown, County Wexford, Ireland which is owned by Kevin and his wife Catherine. A luxury boutique hotel in County Wexford, with its beautiful Georgian architecture, located on the dramatic Hook Peninsula on Ireland’s Southeast coast.
“What’s great about being a chef is that there are no two days the same”
As Kevin sipped from his cup of coffee and I enjoyed a glass of water (I opted for the water rather than the coffee), we went on to discuss the day in the life of a Chef working in the Dunbrody Country House Hotel. “What’s great about being a chef is that there are no two days the same. Our chefs in Dunbrody work a straight shift – you would start at two o’clock. You come in, change and clock-in. All your fridges from the night before would be all clean and set. You check all your fridges and look at what preparation you would need there – preparing what needs to be done for today’s work.”
Not everyone would be familiar with the term ‘straight shifts’. In a lot of hospitality establishments, you would be requested to work ‘split shifts,’ which is where a chef or waiter would be rostered to work from perhaps seven in the morning till eleven. Then, they would return at four in the afternoon until maybe ten or later.
A ‘straight shift’ is one where you work from, for example, two in the afternoon until about ten that night. Years ago in the hospitality industry split shifts was the fashion; everybody in the kitchen, dining-room and bar worked the split shift.
The Chef is now preparing for dinner service. “You start prepping your food because you have already done your orders from the previous night which is all channelled through the Head Chef of the kitchen. You prep all your food, then you clean down for service, the whole kitchen is spotless. You’re set and ready to go.”
“I personally get a huge buzz through service because there is great excitement”
Serving of dinner is the most intense part of the day for any Chef. Dinner must be served hot and at its best to a large volume of people. “A Chef’s life always begins every day where you start off the day nice, easy and slow. Then you do service when the restaurant is open where you will have two hours of intensity in your day. I personally get a huge buzz through service because there is great excitement. You might hear that there is a lot of tension in the kitchen, it is not really tension as such. You have only one chance at that plate – when you actually dish up the plate and it is going out to the restaurant, it needs to be perfect. You get instant job satisfaction as a Chef.”
Once dinner is served, the kitchen becomes a much more relaxed environment. The diners are now enjoying the wonderful dish prepared by the chefs. But still the Chef’s work is not complete. “At the end of your shift, you clean out all your fridges and analyse what’s left. You then put in your order of what you need to the Head Chef. The Head Chef would place the order in that night.”
“I love watching food grow, I love ingredients”
I asked Kevin what he enjoyed about his job as a Chef. “I love watching food grow, I love ingredients. As I always say, we as chefs are caretakers of the growth of ingredients. Look after it and bring it through a cycle to our customers. There is nothing better when you cook something, taste it and know that you did a good job. I love people and I love seeing happy people. I am a people person.”
Regarding advice to students Kevin had this to say. “You need to be extremely passionate about it. Get into a good establishment, put your head down, treat your body like a sponge and take all the information in. Stay with that establishment for a year then move to another one. The idea is that you need to work with a number of Media Chefs. You take the information from each of the chefs, maybe you work with four chefs. Then from that you create your own personality. That gives you your own identity as a chef.
There are a couple of options for students. You can either do a two-year full-time programme which all the colleges in Ireland do. You go into college for six months and then go out on a placement for three months. Other courses are day-release courses where you go to college one day a week and work in good establishments. It is important to work in good establishments when using this route. After three years of going one day a week to college and working in a good establishment like Dunbrody House, you come out as a far better chef. It’s a much better route to take.
“going into college and studying as a chef is only really the first baby steps of your career”
Once you become a chef there are so many environments that one can work in. You can go into this profession, and you could end up working in various situations. For example, you could work in a nursing home environment, you could work in food production, or even work towards becoming a food scientist. So, by just going into college and studying as a chef is only really the first baby steps of your career because from there you can go in so many different directions.
A good Chef is passionate about food and serving others. They should also tend to be creative, so they can come up with unique dishes for customers to enjoy. They should also oversee a team and uphold kitchen standards through their leadership.
If you are thinking of becoming chef, go and work in the local restaurant – do a shift. Work in the kitchen and see whether you like the environment. Just don’t go to one establishment, go to two or three different establishments of different levels so you can see the difference in them – the quality of food, the position of the food.
“There is something in life for everybody, you just need to find it”
“There is something in life for everybody, you just need to find it. And that’s the trick. If you find what you love doling, it doesn’t matter how hard the job appears to someone else looking in from the outside, it’s not hard for you because you are enjoying it.”
With regards to students doing summer work in the hospitality industry, Kevin recommended that students should work in all areas – kitchen, bar, porter, etc. “Even if you don’t become a chef, I recommend everybody to work in the hospitality industry because whether you work in it or not you eat in restaurants.”
“These experiences help form the person you become in later life”
“You experience all types of personalities while working in hospitality, while most experiences are positive, dealing with some negative experiences including customer complaints can help build character which is important for those at such a young age. These experiences help form the person you become in later life.”
If you’re someone who is working in a job that you do not like and thinking maybe the hospitality industry is the way to go, Kevin’s advice is to work in a restaurant one day a week. Continue to work your five days in the job you are currently employed in, work one day in a restaurant for six months and see if you like it. Then you could consider changing your career as you wish. This could be said for all careers.
“I work very hard, and I love it.”
As a celebrity, Kevin would have extra duties include online cookery courses (first session at eight-thirty in the morning, live session at two o’clock in the afternoon on Instagram, Facebook etc.), meeting people, photoshoots, doing projects with Supervalu. “My life is super interesting, there is lots going on the whole time. I work very hard, and I love it.”
A programme not to be missed: Kevin is back on RTE television later this month so watch out for that. It will be an hour-long show.
Also you can catch up with Kevin on his Facebook and Instagram pages. Kevin will be performing cooking demonstrations daily.
My sincere thanks to Kevin and Catherine Dundon, Julien Clemot and Rev Conor O’Reilly for their contribution to this blog. Very Much appreciated. 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.