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No regrets for chef Adrian

June 9th, 2015 | by LCN Editor
No regrets for chef Adrian
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This month, LCN meets Co. Derry-born Adrian McDaid, executive head chef at The Europa Hotel.

Adrian McDaid, the executive head chef at The Europa in Belfast, has come a long way from his early days in the Ballymaclary House at Magilligan in County Londonderry.

Now aged 46, Adrian has just collected the Hotel Chef of the Year title at the 2015 Janus Awards – the latest accolade in a varied career that’s seen him don his whites in an array of leading kitchens across the north of Ireland.

From Co. Derry farming stock, Adrian launched his career against the unassuming backdrop of Limavady Technical College and sampled work for the first time at the town’s Alexander Arms before signing on as a commis chef at The Stormont in Belfast in 1989. There followed a steady progression of hotel kitchens, including an 11-year stint as head chef at the Radisson Roe Hotel in his native Limavady and a period at the La Mon before he signed on again with Hastings at The Europa in 2013.

“Working as a chef is something I’ve always wanted to since the age of 11,” recalls Adrian. “I’ve been very lucky throughout my career because I was able to work with the ‘old school’ of chefs. I came towards the end of a period in which chefs learned to do every job in the kitchen and be proud of it. I can still cut a sirloin off the bone, but there are a lot of guys coming up now that wouldn’t know how to do that.

“Also, being from a farming background, I’ve always been familiar with a lot of the products that we use, we always had hens about the place, everything was free range, it was all second nature to me, so I know when potatoes are in season, I’ve seen the harvest coming in and I’m aware of things. Sometimes, if you come from a town, you’re not as much in tune with what’s going on around you.”

Not surprisingly then, Adrian is just as focused on local, fresh produce as any of his contemporaries, although he maintains that the Hastings Group in general was advocating support for NI growers and suppliers long before anyone else had thought to make an issue of it.

As for the Janus award, Adrian says that he was “pleased and surprised” to collect it:

“But when I look back, I’ve worked in reasonably good places and always tried to do a good job, so it’s fair recognition perhaps, for 20 years spent in the industry…Also, I was lucky enough to come into the Europa after a great chef – Gerry Rosato – who was here for 20 years. It’s been a big test for me and awards are great, of course, but without all the good people around me that I have, it would have been a lot harder.”

At The Europa, Adrian says that the focus is on creating a destination dining experience for those who love local, craft food and on expanding a bespoke banqueting offering that present clients with a tailored event that meets their needs, rather than a format that’s set in stone.

“I think I’m very fortunate to be doing a job that I really enjoy,” he adds. “I don’t wake up in the morning and regret that I’m coming into work, there are no elements of the job that I don’t like. This is what I trained to do and if I was able to live my life again, I would do this again.”

As for the future, Adrian says there’s still more to achieve:

“We have a job here growing the Europa and the banqueting service. We do a lot of big functions here but I would like to be doing all the big functions in Belfast. That said, I’m equally happy just slipping under the radar here so that no-one really knows who the head chef at The Europa is.

“I’d like to think that if you came back to us in a couple of years’ time, I would still be working for Hastings and maybe have a bigger role to play, perhaps overseeing another property. You never know…”

 

 

 

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