Passion for the Kitchen – Bernard McGuane | Chef Table
Bernard McGuane grew up in Co Meath but his surname originates from Co Clare. My father came from Clare and my mother from Mayo so the west of Ireland in his genes. Now living back in Meath and working in the Glenroyal Hotel and Leisure Club in Maynooth, Bernard spoke to us about his fascinating career so far.
“I started in the business aged 15 in the Castle Arch hotel in Trim. Owned by the Cusack family now but before that owned by Vincent O’Neill and it was called the Wellington Hotel. I was looking for an exit out of school, and we had a dairy farm, but I wasn’t interested in farming either. You’d find me in the house doing the baking with my granny”.
However, as soon as Bernard started in the kitchen he had found his passion in life. “I loved it, straight off the bat. I liked the intensity of it; I had to be very focused. The day would go very fast and I liked the pressure. I just got the gra for it”.
“Vincent O’Neill was the head chef; he would do 700 covers on a Sunday lunch. He would pump out the covers working 8am – 9pm, never stopped for the whole day. He had a great reputation for very well cooked food, all done properly”.
Bernard worked in the Castle Arch Hotel until he was 17, however, aged 16 he allows leave school by his parents because he agreed to go to college in CathaI Brugha St. “I still remember my lecturers; Tony Clancy, Tony Campbell, Michael O’Neill, Pauline Danaher for pastry. It suited me better than school because we were examined on practical, project and written so I could pass on practical and project and I didn’t have to worry as much about the written. It was a great system for me, my skills were being acknowledged”.
However, Bernard’s career began to have a very definite focus when he started to learn about Michelin Star cooking and looking at chefs like Marco Pierre White and Conrad Gallagher. “ I did a placement after college in Cusack hotels in Navan. I met Michael Curran there and he had worked in Gleneagles in Scotland where they had a Michelin Star and he was filling my head with the insights of that experience and telling us to go that direction. It was working with the best and being the best and pushing on, that’s what attracted me to it. I went to work for Conrad Gallagher then. He got his first Michelin Star at aged 23 and when I went to work for him there were a lot of young lads there. It was really intense; this was in 1998 / 1999. Thornton had been around but Gallagher made the big splash in Ireland with food at that time. I worked in Peacock Alley which was a celebrity spot at the time and he had a big personality”.
“I was hungry and driven and I had asked for this as my second year placement and I was doing between 70-80 hours a week. I and my house mate worked in Peacock Alley together and we used to talk for about three hours after a shift, we’d be buzzing still. I started on breads; I did pastry for about 3 months as a comi and then I jumped into the veg. Veg was a very tough section, a lot of components. Mise en place could have 30 items, you have to be fast and organised”.
Bernard worked alongside Dylan McGrath in the Commons before moving to London.
“I went to London then and worked with Richard Corrigan, he’s from Meath. He comes from 7km away from my home place; my parents knew his family who were farmers also. He had Lindsay House in London and The English Garden in Chelsea, I worked in both. It was very intense work. We would do 60 – 80 covers, very high end work. The menu had so much involved in it, Richard’s cooking is based on flavour, he did an Irish stew for an event for the Queen but it was done so well. Braised beef dishes, really good flavours, cooked in an old slow cooked method, still fine dining, but at a different level again to Peacock Alley. Richard re-invented the cooking my grandmother would have done with the cuts of meat etc he was using. That was his artistry. I did nearly two years there. I went back to Peacock Alley then, but it was on a download spiral at that stage”.
Bernard then worked with Aidan Burns and Dylan McGrath in The Commons. It was 2001 / 2002, by this time and Aidan had just won his first Michelin Star. Aidan, Dylan and Bernard then moved to work in La Stampa. However, Aidan and Dylan had decided to return to London and while Bernard debated going also, he ultimately decided not to go.
“I went to the Four Seasons to work with Terry White. I only worked there for a short while but I gained a lot of confidence. It was a 5 star property very different to restaurants but it was a good move for me because it showed me what I could do compared to other chefs. So I decided to get a sous chef job and I went to Bijou in Rathgar. I became head chef there after three months. I was 23 and I was hungry for a wage! It was so busy. I worked to the best of my ability I used to nearly set the whole place up myself everyday so that I’d know it was done right. I am a bit of a perfectionist! “
Dylan McGrath had moved back to Ireland and opened The Rustic Stone. Bernard spent the next ten years working with Dylan. “Dylan was the head chef and he trained me up and I became the head chef there. Then he opened Fade St Social and I went up there and then he opened Taste. The role really became a managerial role because we went from 50 staff to 150 staff, it grew overnight, it was a great learning experience”.
Glenroyal Hotel Executive Chef
It’s experience that has stood to Bernard in his new role in the Glenroyal Hotel and Leisure Club in Maynooth. “The move was Covid related. I was living in Dublin and I moved back to Meath, I have a young son now and a baby due in six weeks. This was a good opportunity and I like what they want to do here”.
“Really good delicious food is my plan for here. In The Enclosure at Arkle we are doing the best of Irish, so best of Irish beefs, sharing boards of really well prepared tasty food done really well. Taking the best of what I’ve learned, the technique that goes into the food. It’s really restaurant quality food in a hotel setting.
“I have15 chefs here. Shoda Market Café is open all day until 4pm. We have various functions on top of that, as well as outdoor catering events at times. Communions, I never dealt with before, they need a different menu, and they all came very quickly this year. So I could end up needing 18- 20 chefs and that’s when I have to prioritise and manage well”.
So after a career based on intensive work in high performing kitchens has Bernard learned how to switch off? “Yes, I love having Sundays off. I go to the gym during the week, and spending time with family keeps the work life balance. My partner does a lot of the cooking at home. I can switch off now, before I couldn’t but I can now”.
So the people of Maynooth and anyone visiting the Glenroyal Hotel will have the benefit of Bernard’s expertise in cooking, well honed after a career in chef driven, Michelin Star kitchens.
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