Women Of The Irish Food Industry – Róisín Gillen, Chef
Róisín Gillen is some woman for one woman.
It’s hard to talk about Róisín Gillen without mentioning her close working relationship with Damien Grey. Although Damien was the face of Heron & Grey and now of Liath, Róisín has worked hard to help him achieve his Michelin star.
With such passion and dedication, there is nothing to say that the magic team won’t be able to repeat the same success with Liath.
Róisín Gillen is a star on the rise and I would love nothing more than to see on listings for Food On The Edge and various other festivals.
I’m talking to women the Irish food industry. How did your career path bring you here?
To say I messed around a lot as a teenager would be an understatement, I had no plans or real goals. I spent a lot of time out of school just travelling round working in loads of different jobs, from factory work making catheters for hospitals to working in health food shops and children’s play centres. After a while I felt like I need to set a goal to something I really loved and cared about, it always just kept coming back to cooking so I headed for Dublin and DIT.
I enrolled in the 4 year BA in culinary arts. It was during my first work placement that I met Damien Grey. He was head chef in a restaurant in Ranelagh. My boyfriend knew the owner and got me in for a placement.
The first day there I was put on the pastry section. It was the first time I’d ever stepped foot in a kitchen. When chef left he called me and said he was opening his own place and do I want in. I’ve been working in Damien Grey’s kitchen ever since.
How does your career fulfill you?
My career is an unexpected one, I mean I was so happy when I got accepted to DIT culinary arts programme. I still had no idea what would happen or where I wanted this path to take me. Everything that has happened to me since I started has been fulfilling, from winning a few small competitions, travelling to Canada with the college, my work placement at alinea and helping chef win Michelin star with Heron&Grey. The two months before I started college I broke away from a toxic relationship and found myself homeless carrying my bags around Dublin wondering how I would possible start college like that, until the day before I was to start a long timefriend (now fiancé) found out about my situation and brought me to stay with him. So I don’t take any of it for granted and I’m so humbled by everything that’s happened since. That makes it impossible not to feel fulfilled just by going to work everyday and hearing the customers feedback after their meal. It instantly makes all the hard work worth it.
What are your professional ambitions? What’s next for Róisín Gillen?
You know, I try not to plan too far ahead because I learned the hard way that things can change in an instant. At the moment liath restaurant has just opened and we are enjoying every moment of our new kitchen and space. I’d like to do a couple of pop ups in the future but not for another year or so. I’m getting married later this year so for now the focus is on that and Liath.
In your opinions, what challenges women face in the food industry in Ireland?
I’ve been so lucky that I haven’t really experienced any challenges due to my gender in the industry and I’ve noticed more of a positive atmosphere and change in the last few years where women in the industry are starting to get more recognition for their work and not just make chefs, there’s still a long way to go, but people are talking about it more and the more people talk the more things will begin to change.
Tell us of one woman in the Irish food industry who consistently inspire you and why?
I mean it’s impossible for me to pick one, honestly. From Danni Barry to Clare Smyth, Jess Murphy but the one I see almost everyday is Milie Mathew from 3leaves. She is such a hard worker and every time I see her she is just full of positivity.
What do you think can be done to help raise the profile and visibility of women in the food industry in Ireland?
Things like this! Speaking about the women in the food industry, especially when there are so few compared to men. It’s all about balance.
What was the proudest moment of your career so far?
The proudest moment was over in London for the Michelin awards, we all went for dinner the night before. Chef and I went outside for a cigarette and gave each other a big hug. It was so simple but it was an honour to help him achieve a one star status.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Stop f*#king around and get your sh*t together!!! 😂
What are the top skills required to do your job and why?
Time management is a huge one, attention to detail especially with dishes, we spend every service trying to refine the dishes as much as we can. Cleanliness, the kitchen and your section should be as clean as possible, all the time.
What’s your go to comfort dinner when you’re at home and want minimum effort?
The guys in work always make fun of me for making so much Mexican for staff food. My fiancé loves Mexican food so I tend to go for that. It’s flavourful and always fun to cook!