He’s unorthodox, outspoken and successful. Irish chef Oliver Dunne tells H&R Times about running eight restaurants in Ireland and why he gave up chasing Michelin glory
Oliver Dunne held his breath and stepped into Gordon Ramsey’s office in the basement of Ramsey’s restaurant at Royal Hospital Road in London. The Irish chef was in the teething stages of his career and burning with ambition. He’d been working on the pastry section in Ramsey’s restaurant for six months and felt stifled by the slow pace of progression.
“When you’re young you think the main courses are the be all and end all. Everyone wants to be on the meat and fish section. You don’t want to be on starters or dessert.”
Ramsey’s number one rule at the time was this – hand in your notice and you’re fired on the spot – so Dunne’s bags were already packed. But when he announced his intention to return to Ireland, the celebrity chef’s reaction surprised him. “I’m shocked that you’re leaving,” said Ramsey. “You’ve a good set of hands. How old are you?’ “Twenty-three,” replied Dunne. “Well, my advice to you is this. Get your head down. Get into a good kitchen. I’ll watch your career, you watch mine. Let’s see what happens.” Ramsey shook his hand and asked if he could work the following night. Dunne had already booked a flight home but he was so surprised at Ramsey’s warm response that he agreed.
Now, over two decades later, Oliver Dunne’s career is difficult to miss. He has eight restaurants: Beef & Lobster in Dublin and Galway; Pink Restaurant; Cleaver East; The Donnybrook Gastropub; Ribeye Steakhouse Malahide; Bryanstown Social; and Bon Appetit. He’s worked in some of the world’s best restaurants, scooped a litany of Michelin stars, and is considered one of Ireland’s most progressive chefs. He also doesn’t mince his words.
Among the objects of his ire are restaurateurs who closed during the pandemic, laid off their staff, and now complain about staff retention..
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