Cathal Armstrong's New Job: Parade Grand Marshal
He's known as one of the country's pre-eminent Irish chefs, but Cathal Armstrong recently took on a new job: Grand marshal of the St. Patrick's Day parade in Washington D.C. He and his wife Meshelle, with whom he co-owns restaurants in the area, rode with their kids in a horse-drawn cart at the front of the parade. When chefs start leading parades, well, you know they're here to stay as icons of pop culture.
Cathal Armstrong has become somewhat of an empire-builder — following his success with Restaurant Eve (one of The Daily Meal's 101 Best Restaurants in 2011), the chef has opened five other spots in the area. He recently took a few moments to talk about the honor of participating in the parade, and talk about the St. Patrick's Day specials on the menus at his restaurants this weekend.
What does being grand marshal entail besides riding in the parade?
You then are invited to sit in a viewing stand with the Irish ambassador and other dignitaries, watch the parade go by, and hopefully drink copious pints of Guinness!
What does it mean to you to have been asked to be grand marshal?
I was very honored to be asked. It's a very high honor, and I was honestly shocked when they asked me — I'm just a simple cook from Dublin. I called my mom as soon as I got the request.
Have you observed the parade before, and what were you most looking forward to about it?
I have never really been to one of the parades in the U.S. before, since I'm usually working in the restaurants on parade day. We did used to go to the parade in Dublin growing up. The part I was really excited about was introducing my kids to that cultural part of Ireland.
Are you doing anything special for St. Patrick's Day at your restaurants?
Yes, we are doing a big party at Virtue Feed & Grain, featuring corned beef. At Restaurant Eve we go a little more elegant and sophisticated — we're doing a tasting menu utilizing ingredients indigenous to Ireland, like black pudding, and we were just able to source Dublin Bay Prawns. At Eamonn's A Dublin Chipper we will sell fish and chips. What more do you need? At our newest property, Society Fair, they have been working for a few weeks on getting corned beef brined and ready to use in all our properties, as well as sell in Society Fair's butcher shop. We will show how to cook corned beef that night in our demo kitchen. At Majestic we will feature the traditional corned beef as well, in a sandwich with sauerkraut and house-made rye and in a dinner boiled with potatoes. Corned beef — one ingredient most indicative of Irish American community for sure.
For more about Irish cuisine and Cathal Armstrong read Corned Beef, Whiskey, and a Celtic Culinary Tiger. Arthur Bovino is the senior editor for The Daily Meal. Click here to follow Arthur on Twitter.