Friday 25 January 2013

French Foodies in Ireland: Cyrille Durand, Chef in Killarney

Cyrille Durand is originally from Meaux in the Île-de-France region. He lives in Killarney where he works as a Chef in Aghadoe Heights.

What brought you to Ireland?

I arrived in 2000 and I initially came over for a year: free to explore a new culture, for living a new experience and to discover a different cooking style. My big surprise was when I arrived in Ballybofey Co. Donegal, a small 3 star family hotel, Kees Hotel and Leisure Club, with a kitchen full of 12 French chefs. Did that help my integration? Yes it definitely did, we were a lot a young French living, working, drinking together, but we choose to be there and respect the culture (not so much the food). So there was a real understanding and respect with the Irish there. Anyway after 4 years in Donegal where I made some friends for life, my wife and I decided to move south , more work opportunites and a new side of the country... So we did,Easter 2004 we landed in Killarney and are still there.

When did you start being interested in food?

My parents always cooked at home and still do. That was the way it was and I don't know any other way, the first one home after work or school was starting the dinner from scratch everyday.
Sunday evening was the only night where we had no cooking. Pizza or Mc Donald's!
So I always had fresh food at home and on wed/sat afternoon from a young age I started inventing recipies.  Sometimes it worked sometimes it didn’t (ask my mum… actually don’t!). But when dishes started to work and make sense that was it, food food glorious food!

What is your food qualification/experience?

I did an apprenticeship in cooking, in one of the best school in Ile De France in Emmerainville. At that stage I was working in a small Auberge where I learnt the hard way all the basics of French cooking: 14 hours a day 6 days a week. It was really hard but looking back I am really glad to have that background, especially today when I see young "chefs " complaining about every extra hour, even asking for weekends off etc… It drives me crazy! Cooking is love of food, if you don’t like what you do you cannot do it properly!! To do it properly in a kitchen you have to put in the hours.
After 2 years in L'Auberge de la Demi Lune I moved to Hotel New York Restaurant Manahan in Disneyland. Wahoo what a change! From the 4/5 chef kitchen, working all hours in that monster with 100s of chefs. It was a bit crazy but I learnt so much on the management side of things. Then I moved up to St Le Procope in St Germain des Pres in Paris. This restaurant dates from 1686, it was the first restaurant in Paris. I was back to real hard work with the last order at 1am. In the mean time I gratuataded from L'UTEC with CAP/BEP and Bac Pro, that was when I decided to see something else and leave the craziness of Paris for a while. For a qualified French chef, finding a job abroad was easy, my first choice was Canada but there was too much paper work, so Ireland it was and within a week I was flying to Dublin (with no English).
Since then I have worked in different hotels and restaurants in the county, from Aghadoe Heights ( where I'm back today) to The Kenmare Park , The Killarney Royal, The Cooperage my 1st Head Chef job, The Fifth Season @ The Fairview, The Horseshoe in Kenmare.

What do you like the most about being a chef?

Being a chef is primarily about passion; every time I’m asked in a job interview or anywhere my first answer is that you cannot cook without passion, without loving what you do. Simply because if you don’t love what you do, what you cook you simply can’t do it properly. So being a Chef is about loving the food, loving creating, experimenting and the best compliment you can get is an empty plate coming back in. Still today, after so many years cooking, seeing the smile on a customer's face when he gets what I just cooked for him, is probably the best reward.

What are the biggest challenges in your job as a chef?

Being a chef could look easy to most and it probably is. But being a good chef is really hard and demanding. You should not be afraid of doing 14 hours days, going home and trying to sleep, then getting up to start again. The biggest challenge is probably juggling the professional life with my private life. Trying to make outsiders understand that what we do is really hard and that we are not getting much back, that’s a definite challenge!

What do you think are the most important skills needed to be a good chef?

The most important things about being a Chef are perseverance, attention to detail and cop on!!!!

What advice would you have for anyone who would like to become a chef?

Even if I love what I do and I don’t want to do anything else I would not recommended to anybody to become a chef. Simply because being a Chef is about passion, you have to feel it in your guts.
When I decided to start my apprenticeship I was told numerous time, it’s hard, no more holidays, no more weekends, working late at night, but I never really understood it until I was in it ! From my college class of 30 only about 10 still are in the business.

What’s your signature dish?

My signature dish is Seared Magret of Skeghanore Duck,  Confit Sweet Potato, Beetroot and Cranberry Smoothie, Ruby Port Reduction.
I’ve been doing it since 2005, when I was the sous chef in The Kenmare Park Hotel. I like it because it mixes different flavours and textures and it’s a good representation of how to use my French background with Irish products.

All pictures courtesy of Cyrille

You can follow Cyrille on Twitter @cdbil