Chad Byrne, Executive Chef at the Brehon Hotel, Killarney, is no stranger to working in high intensity environments. Having left school at 15, he’s dedicated his entire professional career to working in some of the best-known kitchens in the country.
“I began working as a kitchen porter in a Chinese restaurant and stayed there for nearly three years,” explained Chad. “But I felt that I could do better. If I wanted a career in the industry, I needed something different.”
Chad then got his big break in the form of The Merrion Hotel, where head chef Ed Cooney interviewed him. “I wore a top with a Celtic logo – Ed was a huge Celtic fan and we connected over Celtic. He looked at a rough diamond that he thought he could work with,” explained Chad.
Chad spent just under two years in the Merrion and this time was some of the most important of his career. “I learned respect for the kitchen, dedication and passion. Everything was done the right way. Ed could see my capability so encouraged and pushed me in the right ways. He challenged me, which I thrived on,” said Chad.
After the Merrion, Chad had stints at the Clarence, Mount Juliet, and Killarney Park, before going travelling. He’s since returned to Ireland and has been at the Brehon Hotel for the last ten years.
It’s no surprise then that his training in such prestigious kitchens has imbued Chad with a deep understanding of how to run a busy kitchen while maintaining professionalism, and creating a nurturing atmosphere that allows every team member to achieve their best.
It’s part of the reason why Chad is now a #FairKitchens Ambassador.
“We want the team to come in and be focused but have a smile on their face. We want to keep the staff – we look at investing in our people to make sure they’re content in their jobs,” said Chad.
Chad notes that COVID has presented unique challenges for the industry. His advice is to work with what you have rather than trying to force through what you think you need: “If resources are low and there are staff shortages, look to reduce the workload rather than increase the hours of those who are available. This is key to having a happy and balanced kitchen.”
What does it take to get behind the #FairKitchens campaign? “It’s about respect, about fresh ideas, listening to new approaches, not being afraid to get people onboard – don’t be afraid to try new things,” explained Chad. “In a kitchen you have to respect the people around you, make food as tasty as you can and strive to be better than the day before. It’s a simple view but an important one.”