Thursday 12 May 2016

Interview: Aoife Noonan, Head Pastry Chef at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud

At 27 years of age young Dubliner Aoife Noonan is the head pastry chef at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, the only 2 Michelin-starred restaurant in Ireland.
I've been following Aoife on social media for ages and got to meet her in person a few years ago, I've been a fan girl ever since! Not only is she one of the most talented pastry chefs in Ireland but she's also super stylish and very humble, so I thought you might want to hear a bit more about this lovely lady. 

When did you realise you wanted to become a pastry chef?

I’ve always loved cooking but I’ve never thought of pastry as a career until I was in college. I did a 4 year degree in culinary arts in DIT and I specialised in pastry in my 3rd and 4th year. In 3rd and 4th year I had to choose between hot kitchen or pastry. I thought I knew enough about hot kitchen to try out pastry and learn more about that. After college I worked in catering just to see what that was like and then I went on to work in Bang restaurant in pastry before coming to Patrick Guilbaud's where I’ve been for three and a half years.

Could you describe your typical shift?

On my pastry section I’m all about routine, timing and organisation. First thing in the morning we make the bread for the lunch service, we do the bread twice a day for lunch and dinner. Bread in the morning and then we get everything ready for the lunch menu, we do petits-fours and any other kind of jobs we need to do for the next few days in the morning. We have lunch service at 12.30pm until maybe 3 depending at what time the last customer leaves. We then take a break and come back at about 4.30pm and do bread for dinner. Dinner is 7pm so we get ready for that and it could be 11-12am until I finish.

A photo posted by Aoife (@aoifenoonan_) on

Do you think there is more pressure working in the only 2 Michelin starred restaurant in Ireland?

Of course, every day you go in there is a certain standard you have to achieve every day. There is no cutting corners, there is no easy way out, everything has to be perfect all the time. Of course there is pressure especially when it is very busy. It takes time to plate and there is pressure but you adapt to it and push on.

Where do you find your inspiration for creating desserts?

Our style in the restaurant is classic French but we do things with a contemporary twist. We find inspiration everywhere. My personal style and the chef's style would be different and it's essential to find a balance. I find inspiration from other chefs, from different cuisines and places, there is always inspiration everywhere. You always try to find new combinations or new techniques that work together.

A photo posted by Aoife (@aoifenoonan_) on

In a male-orientated field do you think it's harder for a woman to succeed?

There’s always going to be this question and people talk about it a lot. Where I work there are 4 girls at the moment and we are all quite driven and we want to work hard. The most important thing is that if you want to work hard and be successful you will succeed; it doesn’t matter if you’re a female or a male. For the future and long term, there are things to consider like family and having kids so that obviously change your perspective. It depends on the person I think and what they want in their career and life. 

Where are your favourite places to eat in Dublin?

A lot of places are closed on my days off and I actually like to cook at home because I don’t get to cook dinner ever.  I like cooking rustic food at home and try to keep a work/life balance so I tend not to eat the type of food I cook at work. I do eat out sometimes though. For a special occasion I go to Mulberry Garden, I also like Forest Avenue and Luna.  250 Square in Rathmines do a nice brunch too.

A question I'm sure my female readers will wonder... How can you be a pastry chef and have such a great figure?

Many people ask this and I don’t think I have a great figure... I have to taste things every single day and eat. I try to go to the gym and I indulge a lot on weekends. I think it’s being constantly on my feet every day, it’s physically draining but it’s also emotionally and mentally draining.  Maybe people don’t see the 80hour work week and constant running around.

Do you have any advice for anyone who you like to become a pastry chef?

Just go to restaurants, to these places that interest you and that you look up to, try to get the experience from there as a stagiaire. Do placements, internships, travel if you can. Obviously France but I think London has influenced me in terms of what’s new and innovative. I worked in France for a while in a little town outside Bordeaux as part of my degree and also I traveled to Paris and London. I think experience is the most valuable thing, just to learn and see what’s out there.  

Follow Aoife on Instagram, Twitter, snapchat @aoifenoonan_27.