Interview: Chef Robbie McCauley of Ireland's Gregans Castle

'I am lucky i have a great team both behind me and above me this means we can have quite a relaxed kitchen'
Chef Robbie McCauley is the executive chef at Gregans Castle, where the food is second to none. The Daily Meal interviewed the former sous chef about what he's like in the kitchen, his culinary background, and his favorite vegan meals. 
 
The Daily Meal: Why did you decide to become a chef?
 
Chef Robbie McCauley: I come from a family where food was always important. I would spend my summers in the country in italy, or on my family farm in co clare where at both places family meals using the local produce was the norm. My parents always cooked at home and always encouraged us to taste different foods, it gave me a passion for fresh food. When i was finishing school i was deciding whether to go to study engineering or to go to catering college, then the recession hit and i was offered a scholarship to study cooking by the royal academy of culinary arts.
 
What other back-of-the-house positions have you previously held?
I have worked my way up through the ranks of the kitchen after starting as an apprentice in a brigade of 65 chefs now to lead my own brigade of a modest 7.
 
Did you go to culinary school?
I attended bournemouth and poole college when they hosted the specialised chefs scholarship through the RoRe: Chefsyal Academy of Culinary arts. It was very different to many mainstream college course with having classes for upto 10 hours of the day and a huge amount of practical exprenese. It also made us study other aspects of cooking such as culiery french, the history of escoffier and anton careme as well as weekly homework of classic french dishes and ingredients.
 
What credentials did you earn through your culinary studies?
I have earned ABC pastry level 4 NVQ level 2,3,4 manual handling, HACCAP competence along with other qualifications
 
What did you like best about the education experience?
The intensity, the precision and the discipline. It taught us about the real hierarchy in the kitchen and the level of self discipline needed to achieve in the industry.
 
Where and how were you trained?
I trained through the college and on the job apprenticeship. The first kitchen i worked in was a very class style kitchen with starched white aprons and chefs jackets with a well established hierarchy with everything done in house. It was a great place to learn and hone your skills with fish and meals all broken down and prepared by the chefs.
 
What is your management style?
I am lucky i have a great team both behind me and above me this means we can have quite a relaxed kitchen. I try to teach the younger chefs the classics and how to do things to best practise. We try not to shout in the kitchen their is zero tolerance with bullying. I still taste everything not out of lack of trust but at the end of the day it is my name that is on the menu.
 
What management style do you prefer for your supervisor to have?
I have only one sous chef, i make sure he treats the situation the same as i do. People obviously make mistakes but we try to deal with it in a calm constructive manner.
 
Do you have any vegan specialties?
We do a lovely spiced roasted carrot salad with pistachio dukkah and burn radicchio.
 
What is your favorite vegan meal?
I love indian and asian food and find it amazing what they can do with no meat.
 
Are you a team player?
I hope so i have been known to wash dishes and scrub the floors when needed.
 
Describe your usual role in a team-centered work environment?
I lead from the front all dishes generally go through me. I plate and call the order and try to conduct the kitchen and lead it through the service.
 
Do you easily assume a leadership role
It has taken a while but i now believe i do. I still struggle to totally let go of control but have learned to delegate within the team.
 
Do you have a sense of humor?
I'd like to think so you need to have a thick skin in the kitchen but we try to have plenty of banter as long as the work is being done.
 
Additional information can be found at: www.irelands-blue-book.ie.