Culloden Hotel and Spa is a monument to elegance. Set into rolling hills outside of Belfast, Ireland it provides a calming experience if there ever was one. It has a marvelous restaurant called The Mitre. I had lamb and it was perfect, excellently prepared and served. It was presented in The Mitre’s dining room overlooking hills and manicured lawns. The whole experience was exceptional. The meal was so fabulous that I wanted to meet the chef.
Paul McKnight has been the executive chef at Culloden for over 30 years. At 17 years old, he came to work at the hotel in the gardens and when, as he explained, “winter came I was asked by the owners would I like to help in the kitchen and haven’t looked back since then.”
He attended Portrush Catering College where he learned more of his craft. He was appointed executive chef in the 1980s and since then has had several internationally famous chefs work with him. These have included Gordon Ramsey, Phil Howard, Raymond Blanc, and Derry Clarke to name but a few. He also gained experience working at The Plaza Hotel in New York.
I sat down with McKnight to learn more about the veteran chef:
The Daily Meal: How important are locally sourced products to your kitchen Philosophy?
Paul McKnight: We are passionate about food and believe that eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures. We embrace the use of carefully selected, local, and seasonal quality foods to enable our chefs to prepare and create the most delicious dishes in our kitchens. When sourcing our food, I look for produce which stands out from the rest – from where it originates, to the way it is produced, to its flavor.
Ireland’s temperate climate and rainfall produce lush pastures, ensuring superb quality dairy produce. All milk and cream is sourced from Fairview Dairies in the Castlereagh Hills, where the McDowell Family have been selling fresh, wholesome dairy produce for over 100 years. Our yogurt, found on the breakfast menu, is live probiotic yogurt, naturally made at Clandeboye Estate with milk from Lady Dufferin’s award-winning pedigree Jersey and Holstein herd.
We use only fresh, locally produced breads. The Irwin family has been at the heart of the local bakery industry for three generations, producing the finest range of Irish breads. We can guarantee quality and freshness in every slice of Irwin’s bread. Our Guinness wheaten bread is a real specialty and captures perfectly the authentic taste of the black stuff! We also source specialty breads from The Yellow Door Deli and Patisserie.