Straight talking Chef Gareth Smith from Michael’s talks to us about being true to your word, feeding the repair guys and shares his top tips for surviving Christmas in the kitchen.
Crab, all day long. Cooking it for 15 years and I smile every time I cook it. We are lucky enough to be able to buy direct from the fisherman at Lambay Crab. The crab flavour and texture varies from coast to coast around Ireland, Dublin Bay crab tend to have tank like shells and are a fecker to crack, but the meat is sweeter.
We try not to mess with it and let the delicate flavour pop out it’s own way.
Ah, I’m not a recipe person, our chefs kill me as I never write things down, I’m definitely more of an instinctive chef than recipe based. That turns out disastrous sometimes. I’m yet to find a Yorkshire pudding recipe that I can’t mess up, they’re my nemesis.
Tricks of the trade
Butter, butter, butter.
Be true to your word. Let your bark mean something and let your praise mean something.
Feed the repair guys, they’re the ones who will get you out of the shits on a Saturday night when your extraction goes down.
It’s got to be Ross Lewis, Chapter One. He’s rock solid and if you think how many people both front and back of house have trained under that roof and gone on to do wonderful things. He’s extremely generous with his time and knowledge long after people have moved on. It means a lot when somebody who’s already extremely busy would make time to help young guys going out on their own. He was championing producers 15 years ago when it wasn’t fashionable.
My first “fancy” meal at Sheen Falls around 15 years ago. Jim and Carmel in the Chart House rewarded me with a night’s stay after a busy season, we had Pomme purée which I’m sure was more butter than spuds. The meal was a revelation to me and I realised that I’m not as good as I thought I was. I strutted in cocky and walked out humbled and determined to improve. I still am.
Scene from a movie or book
The movie Chef when Jon Favreau is happy out making sandwiches in a beaten up truck.
Formal dining, I hate stuffy rooms or snooty service. There’s few places that can pull off a lengthy meal whilst keeping it fun and relaxed. Liath is a great example of blending very serious cooking whilst having a fun vibe. I predict Ailish in Liath to be the next big thing in the industry, to be able to keep a happy tempo with such high standards and knowledge at her age is very impressive, huge respect to them all there. So, yeah, for me the mood is as important maybe even more important than the food and service, a happy vibe can create so much goodwill and gloss over and imperfections.
Trend worth noting
Casual dining and small plates seems to be where it’s heading and happy days.
I’m loving seeing small innovative spots opening up, offering a wide range of smaller dishes. Would I roll the dice on a curveball main course? Probably not. Would I gamble on say, a dish of offal or something I’m not sure on as a selection of small plates? Absolutely, I would. It’s a great way to broaden your palate and for chefs to play around I would KILL to have Barrafina in Dublin, small plates, buzzy, stay as long or as short as you like, open kitchen and busy, happy smiling staff.
I honestly don’t think I could single one out, I’m just as happy milling a Chimac after three pints in the Long Hall as I am being blown away by one of Mikey’s creations in the Greenhouse. My bae though, Etto. I always leave giddy.
I over indulge in everything and I’m too ashamed to list them to be honest. Anything in pastry and I turn into a beast.
I don’t really have one, I do lots of research on YouTube, it’s gloriously educational, I find between 5-6 videos you’ll find something to take from each one. I’m always trying to learn and try new things and it’s a fantastic resource.
Wish I’d known…
I wish I learnt a long time ago that the food you cook has to be happy, I’m honestly the happiest I’ve ever been now and the food is the simplest I’ve ever cooked. I used to faff with six things on a plate and it was stressed and wrought, this leads to fighting with the crew over stupid things and the wheels come off.
Also, a big one is going to chat with your butcher, fishermen, producers, growers – they are an absolute wealth of knowledge and I learn so much over a pot of tea or a pint, you see their passion, they see yours and it brings a greater respect to the produce. Go to the butcher or farmer, have a cup of tea with them.
Fav. instagram account
Favourite Christmas dish
Anything I don’t have to cook, I always angle for an invite but everybody hates cooking for chefs – they think we’re fussy. We’re absolutely not, gimme a meal that I haven’t had to order for, negotiate prices, check the delivery, touch, taste, season and I’m delighted. Don’t be scared to ask a chef over for dinner. We love it. That said I usually do a lamb shoulder and a duck for Christmas Day.
That Christmas night sandwich , you know the one you secretly eat in the kitchen, full of the roast leftovers.
Tips for surviving Christmas in the kitchen
Try and keep it calm, if you are getting stressed over trying to time everything, drop a few things.
Nobody NEEDS 18 things on the table and a stressed host sweating about the place, pick 5-6 things and do them happily. Also don’t text chefs with a “how long do I cook this turkey for?” We get dozens of texts like this on Christmas morning and quite frankly, we don’t give a shit about your turkey issues.
I’m a sweet & savoury guy. Bag of Tayto and bag of Jelly Snakes and I’m happy.
Utensil of choice
Sharp knife, I use the rosewood handled Victornox, they’re fairly cheap, last ages and the metal in the blade is soft enough for a household to keep sharp. Also tea towels, you can NEVER have enough tea towels
Table for two
The counter in Mamo, Howth. Walk by the sea, sneaky pint, then savage food with the sea view.
57 Deerpark Road, Mount Merrion, Co. Dublin
Image Credits: Killian Broderick