Interview: Chef Noel McMeel of Ireland's Lough Erne Resort
According to the Lough Erne resort, Chef Noel McMeel has "introduced his own particular brand of modern Irish cooking to a new and discerning audience." As the resort's executive head chef, 50-year-old McMeel has a simple philosophy, "sourcing, preparing and serving fresh food in season."
The Daily Meal: How did you get into cooking?
Chef Noel McMeel: When we were wee children, our granny lived in the house with us, and she and my mum got along famously, sharing the kitchen and baking right alongside each other. Frugal and sensible, the women saved biscuit tins and packed them full of home-baked treats to send home with my aunts and cousins. The best part was that the tins would make their way back to us, eventually, packed with the visitor’s signature goodies! My favorite was my Aunt Mary’s hedgehog cake. Such a treat; it must have been as thick as a chair cushion.
Do you have a specialty dish?
Is there anything as basic and lovely as bread? The simple aroma of it floating out of the oven immediately puts one at ease and touches something deep within a person, offering the assurance that all is well. I suppose that goes for anything baked at your own hearth: fragrant cinnamon rolls, risen sweet breads, nutty banana loaf.
Do you prefer a particular style of cooking?
I call my style “Modern Irish Food” "There will always be the latest thing in the food world, but for me these words that are in vogue at the moment – organic, fresh, taste, simple, changing seasons, local, actually cooking and knowledge – will always be the latest food trends. I have always been convinced that the best-tasting food is organically grown and harvested in ways that are ecologically sound, by people who are taking care of the land for future generations. After all food like that speaks for itself."
What kind of atmosphere do you create in the kitchen?
I have dedicated my entire career to one very simple goal: finding, preparing and serving fresh food in season. I respect my food so much that it is so important to share it with the rest of my team. Respect and being honest to you team is always a great start.
What do you look for when you hire other chefs to assist you in the kitchen?
Someone that wants to try his or her best. We train and give knowledge. Knowledge is power.
Have you won any awards?
Hotel of the year of Ireland, Best Chef, Best Hotel Restaurant of Ireland.
What keeps you in cooking?
Passion, love and respect keep me loving cooking. My parents taught us kids that no job is finished until it’s finished. These words were never said, but the idea was modeled daily.