IN early 2019, Chad Byrne, head chef of the Brehon Hotel in Killarney, was a name on everyone’s lips as he burst the dining scene open with his project, Chef Collab.
Working with some of the best chefs across the country, mentoring young up and coming talent, the idea behind Chef Collab was to bring awareness to the chef shortage in Ireland, break down barriers and dispel industry myths, presenting back an invigorated and exciting profession for new chefs to become a part of.
A huge part of the ethos is about being open and welcoming: for new graduates or people wanting a whole new change in career; of all backgrounds, identities and abilities.
The message was clear — it doesn’t matter who you are, there is a community in Chef Collab that will provide opportunity and mentorship to help you succeed.
Now, in 2020, Chad has set himself and the industry he is so passionate about a new challenge. Chefs are notoriously competitive — it’s what drives them to put in the hours and turn out consistently excellent plates of food for their diners.
Chad has harnessed that desire for competition and put it together with the Chef Collab ethos of mentorship and community by launching the County Cooking Championship. On Monday, February 3, it comes to Cork.
So, what is the County Cooking Championship?
It’s a friendly inter-county competition where 10 of the counties’ best chefs pair off in a head to head battle over five courses for 100 diners. Each pairing will compete in a cook-off for their course (starter, plant-based, fish, meat or dessert) and diners will complete a score card.
Whoever wins will go forward to the Munster finals later in the year.
Diners’ votes account for 50% of the total score, with the other 50% of the vote coming from the decisions of two external judges, namely Irish Examiner food writer Joe McNamee and myself! No pressure then…
The mentoring element of Chef Collab carries through as each of the ten chefs brings with them a Commis Chef from their team. These young chefs will stand shoulder to shoulder with their mentor throughout the process — an incredible learning experience for these young chefs who will take all they learn in their culinary future.
After two heats in later 2019 to determine the teams going forward to represent Kerry and Clare, the next heat of the County Cooking Championship kicks of a new year and comes to Cork.
Chad said: “This will be the first big culinary event of 2020, and we are delighted to be holding it at Cork’s historic Metropole Hotel. We have some of the best chefs in Cork competing to cook the finest food representing their region and paying homage to local artisans, growers and producers. Through the Championship, we want to highlight our Irish cultural heritage using local suppliers and highlighting old cooking styles with a modern approach.
“We’ll start the night with ten chefs in an epic cook-off battle, and by the end of the night, after 100 diners and our judges have made their decision, only five will make the list to represent Cork in the upcoming County Cooking Championship Munster Finals, where it’s county v county.
“The County Cooking Championship is also a great chance for chefs that may not know each other to come together and form new friendships and ideas. We all learn from each other: the food, focus and fun helping our future chefs by giving them the right tools and attitude to succeed in our craft.
“We love what we do and to share it is the best possible feeling, whilst highlighting our local food heroes, from growers to butchers to chefs, making it a real community event.
“It’s a win-win for everyone! It’ll be an absolute cracker of a night for our diners and our chefs, so please come along and support us!”
The Chef Line Up:
Brian Murray of The Glass Curtain, Cork city.
Niall Mooney, of Maldron Hotel, South Mall
YesChef Ireland Restaurant of the Year winner Bryan McCarthy of Greenes Restaurant Cork and Cask
Trevor O’Keeffe of Olivio Restaurant at Cork Airport Hotel
Eddie Attwell of Eccles Hotel & Spa, Glengarriff
Pat Ferriter of Ferrit and Lee, Midleton
Stuart Dardis of The Metropole Hotel, Cork City
Alex Petit of Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery
Adrian Biffen of The Maritime Hotel Bantry
Jim Coleman of O’Mahony’s of Watergrasshill (McKenna’s Guide Pub of the Year).
Inclusion and diversity are core to all Chef Collab projects. County Cooking Championship continues that positive message by partnering with Cope Foundation’s Ability@ Work programme, a dedicated supported employment service bringing young people with intellectual disabilities and/or autism opportunities to flourish in the workplace.
Maurice of Roots Coffee House at The Montenotte Hotel, and Estelle, who will be helping to run the floor, are shining stars of the programme and excited to be a part of Cork heat.
The event takes place on Monday February 3 at The Metropole Hotel, Cork. Tickets cost €45pp plus booking fee, available via Eventbrite.