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Recently upon interviewing a cook (in the U.S) who was wishing to join my kitchen team, Ireland came in to the conversation. My candidate mentioned that he would like to perhaps work in Ireland in the future, as he put it " I am sure that they would need some guys who know how to cook, because there is nobody there that can ". This was the point at which I felt the need to bring him up to speed.

In actual fact food in Ireland has been on an upward trend for the past decade, and the culinary scene is doing nothing other than entice chefs to work in Ireland and furthermore, the appeal is hitting those Irish Chefs who have been learning their craft overseas to return home. Robert Cowley is just such an example, after working in some of the best kitchens England, France and America had to offer, he is back home with a wealth of knowledge, his own kitchen and the ambition to show just what these Irish guys can do.

At the age of seventeen Cowley packed his bags and moved to Galway to learn the foundations to his craft, and after three years he graduated as the schools Student of the Year, then it was time for the first of his many international moves.

London was his first stop as second commis at Le Meridien Hotel, Picadilly. The Oak Room Restaurant would be the first of the many Michelin Star establishments that Cowley would labor to develop his career.

The Four Seasons Hotel London was next. This was a great time. Bruno Loubet was presiding over the restaurant and had joined the company from Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons. Loubet had gained a Michelin Star within a year of joining The Four Seasons, which at that point was unheard of. He was the talk of London; his passion and energy filtered down throughout the team. They were on fire." I was in the right place at the right time," Cowley reflects " every day things were happening, new products, new ideas. The restaurant was packed lunch and dinner. The energy was incredible, it was every young chef's dream." It was eighteen months of intensity, but it was time to move on. The team was disbanding and Bruno was moving on to pursue his own restaurant. Bigger and better things were on the road ahead . . .

Cowley had got thinking if one star food was incredible what would it be like to work in a two or three star restaurant. Le Tante Claire possessed Three Michelin Stars and the Chef / Proprietor was Pierre Koffman, one of the hardest and most demanding Chefs in London at this time and still is to this day. " This was the Kitchen where you learned to say 'Yes Chef!'" Cowley recants. "Koffman ran the kitchen. He was a working chef. There was no sous chef. Every inspiration was from him, every dish had his name on it. Your idea of perfection had best be based on his, otherwise your time there would be short, as would your pay check. If you were caught over cooking a product or wasting, the cost would be deducted from your wage under the heading 'expenses.' You got real careful, real quick. Although it was a demanding time, it was an awesome experience. With Koffman there is no Bull Shit. It's all black and white".

France was next. Le Grand Cascade, a One Star Michelin restaurant. "The main purpose of this adventure was to learn French and experience the culture. The restaurant was very established and many of the crew had been there quite some time, then Alain Ducasse took over and it got interesting!"

Returning to The Four Seasons was the next and penultimate move, however it was to the Palm Beach, Florida property not London. " I went to the States and worked with a friend from the early days. It again proved to be a great and rewarding experience. The style of food was different, as was the product, coupled with the fact that I ended up responsible for the hotels Five Diamond Restaurant and the incredible fishing to be found life could not get any better". At the end of eighteen months Cowley's visa had expired and it was time to move on. After seven years of being on the road, home looked mighty appealing.

June 1998 saw the return of Cowley to Ireland as Executive Chef at Hayfield Manor, Cork's only Five Star hotel. His culinary style has been unfolding since. This guy is a GlobalChef and one we will be hearing of a whole lot more . . .


Hot Smoked Salmon With Mizuna Salad And Wasabi Vinaigrette

This biographical information was supplied by www.GlobalChefs.com