Chefs, for the most part, are magpies. We call on tradition to obtain our knowledge, then rely on observation for the rest. Travelling, books, television and social media all influence us. We come back from our jaunts inspired by what we’ve eaten. We take note of who among our peers is doing something special and the news travels like Chinese whispers through the culinary community, who beat a path to their door.
I had a sublime experience at Chapter One in Dublin recently, although the word has been long out. This restaurant is a mecca for those who love food cooked at the highest level. I have some skin in the game as Mickael Viljanen came to work for me in the Tannery when he first arrived here. I taught him nothing. He is his own protege as he is entirely self-made, driven by steely ambition, back-breaking work and the desire to realise his own remarkable talent.
We were invited by Ross Lewis, longtime owner and a gifted potslinger himself, to a boys’ lunch at the chef’s table. We drank wines way above my pay grade and ate food created with technique beyond my comprehension. Mickael’s food is rooted in classic French style but delivered with precision that would make Escoffier blush. The “boys” were men of my trade, old soldiers of the stove. We settled back to absorb it all and marvel. We were all happy it wasn’t us cooking, the life is too hard at this level, always pushing. All we would do is get in the way as we shuffle around the kitchen.
My recipes this week are an amalgam of French and Irish. It’s rustic, hearty and infinitely easier to make than restaurant food, but it definitely is tasty. I have William Orbison to thank for the Poulangère, a clever take on Boulangère potatoes. I saw him make it on Twitter and stole it.
Young Buck cheese is an amazing Irish blue cheese. I’ve paired it with Highbank Orchard apple syrup here, which is the nectar of the gods. Maple syrup or honey would be lovely too.