It has been a few weeks now since I won the chef of the year award at the Restaurant Association of Ireland annual awards and I have to say that it is a fantastic feeling.
I know I have won it before but I think it is even more special this time around. There are so many great chefs in Ireland. I have had the pleasure of eating some wonderful food in a lot of fantastic restaurants in Ireland and a lot these chefs continue to inspire me.
I dedicated the award to my late mother, Vera, and I got very emotional when I did that because she started everything here at the restaurant. She taught me so much. She taught me about respecting food and respecting my staff and I hold those lessons dear to me and they will be lessons I will continue to follow every day. We are a family business and those family values are important to me.
I love what I do and I genuinely mean that but I always say that you are only as good as the team that you have around you. Glen Wheeler, my head chef, has been with me for ten years and that is just one example of a long serving member of staff who is vital to what we do. I sat them all down when we got back from the awards and I said that the award was for everyone, the whole team. I only picked it up on their behalf. One thing I try not to do is take things or people for granted and I know how fortunate I am to have the team I have with me.
People sometimes say to me that you must be sick of the restaurant and yourself winning awards but I say no way. I think you can’t look to the past too much and instead you have to strive for the future and if people are recognising you with awards then it is a recognition of the hard work that everyone is putting in. I honestly feel privileged and humbled and ultimately very fortunate.
But you know the biggest critics for me will always be my customers. When I put on a new dish I always look forward to their feedback. And I suppose that is the biggest award that you can get, the award from your customers who want to come and eat in your restaurant. Seeing that full dining room and having customers who enjoy and love the experience. That is the ultimate award.
I am often asked why I don’t open a chain of restaurants but to be honest I have no ambition to do that. I love MacNean House and that is where my heart is. I am fortunate that I have a varied career and that I have the television shows and so on and sometimes people think I am never in the restaurant but the fact is that I am there 90% of the time because it is my passion and what I love doing. I have been cooking since the age of 12, at my mothers side, and there is no doubt I love it even more now that at any point since that 12 year old boy first started.
I am really excited about the next few years and by that I mean I am excited about the level of cooking that there will be in Ireland. The young chefs who have gone away and worked abroad and the quality that they will bring back and I am very proud to be in this industry.
Using local produce and eating seasonally are buzz words now but I like to think that I have been doing it for a long time now and people know how passionate I am about promoting irish producers.
So to everyone who has supported me, to my customers and suppliers I want to say thank you. Also to the staff here at MacNean for all the hard work that you all do; I know that you know how much I appreciate everything. Finally I want to thank Amelda, my wife. She is such a support and having her working here in the business with me is fantastic. Amelda and the twins, Conor and Lucia are the most important thing in the world to me. Family has always been at the heart of everything that I do and that will always remain the case.
So thanks everyone. And I look forward to lots more years at MacNean House and Restaurant and the Neven Maguire Cookery School.