WOMEN OF THE IRISH FOOD INDUSTRY – AOIFE NOONAN PASTRY CHEF
Aoife Noonan is woman on a mission and if you don’t know her name, you have been under a rock and will soon join her ever growing fan club. She has won awards, worked some of the best restaurants (Bang, Guilbaud’s) and she was executive pastry chef for Johnny Farrell’s restaurant (today this is 777, Dillinger’s, Amy Austin and the Butcher Grill but it also had Luna and Super Miss Sue). You see her on TV, you hear her on the radio, she also has a weekly column in the food section of the Irish Times. And now, she’s launching her own business called simply Aoife Noonan.
From now on, you can order her limited edition monthly patisserie creations. I know I will be receiving a press sample of the July cake (chocolate entremet), but I am SO excited to place an order for the caneles, when they are released for August. You’ve no idea how much I’ve been missing them. You will also be able to order bespoke creations and book online classes with Aoife. An extremely well-rounded business offering.
To me, Aoife Noonan is a spearheader in the culinary world. Look at what she’s already achieved and think of the possibilities.
People keep talking about restaurants flipping their business models during Covid, but as it happens chefs do it too. You only have to look at Aoife Noonan or Grainne Mullins. It’s inspiring and encouraging to see women grab a bright future with both hands and a lot of hard work.
How did your career path bring you here?
I had always wanted to be a teacher growing up, so I think I was destined to teach for a while. After school I ended up undertaking a Culinary Arts degree in college and I have spent nearly 13 years in professional kitchens developing my craft and my knowledge, and I am still learning. I have created desserts under someone else’s brand or name for so long, it came a point where I wanted to put my own name and personality into what I am serving others and for them to truly get a sense of Aoife Noonan. I wanted to explore an avenue that blends my experience in fine dining kitchens, patisserie, teaching and masterclasses and put my own creative stamp on it to produce something others will enjoy.
How does your career fulfil you?
I get such fulfilment and joy out of teaching, seeing that little win in someone when they achieve something that you’ve taught them, imparting the knowledge you’ve learnt onto someone else and seeing the same passion in them. I love pressure and I need to be out of my comfort zone to really thrive, I push myself a lot and most of the time I can’t switch off, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What are your professional ambitions, what’s next for Aoife Noonan?
I have just started a new business, so I’ll be kept busy with that for a while! I am developing an online four-week Patisserie for Beginners course launching in the Autumn and have had so much interest in it already which is amazing to see! Going out on my own was a huge step for me, and while I am excited to develop the Aoife Noonan brand, I feel there is still many more amazing things to come.
Tell us of one woman in the food industry that constantly inspires you and why?
Clare Smyth from Core in London is an unbelievable role model for female chefs and for all women in hospitality. Her dedication to her craft, focus and drive is so encouraging and inspiring.
What do you think can be done to raise the profile and visibility of women in the industry?
I think bringing awareness and recognition to women and giving them platforms to really highlight their craft is so important. Like this one!
There are so many amazing women in the food industry, so interviewing them, promoting them, supporting them, and involving them in press, events, media and social platforms is a decent start.
What is the proudest moment of your career so far?
I am so grateful to have received some amazing opportunities and awards in my career so far, but I am quite a modest person and I find it difficult to talk about my achievements. When I won the Valrhona Chocolate competition back in 2014 I think it was the first moment I realised that maybe I was good at my job. From there I also won Food & Wine Magazines Pastry Chef of the Year, which was amazing to be recognised among such talent in Ireland. I am really proud to have started a business on my own, because although I knew I had the drive, I never thought I would have the confidence to do it, but I reached a point and thought, it’s time to do it. It is a lot of work and a terrifying endeavour, but it is so satisfying to wake up and feel a sense of fulfilment from building something on your own.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Put in the hours, put in the work, but be mindful of a work life balance. Prioritise yourself and those you love, your health and your happiness, because at the end of the day, that’s all you’ve got.
What are the top skills required to do your job and why?
Having discipline and putting your pride aside, being open to criticism, open to learning, and actually willing to learn. Persistence, preparation and organisation are key. And working clean!
Are you a savoury or sweet kinda person? Please tell us about a real treat?
Controversially, I’m a savoury gal at heart. I adore cheese and more often than not I will choose it over dessert in a restaurant. If I could live on anything it would be cheese. The term ‘treat’ is a tricky one, I absolutely enjoy everything and don’t limit myself, but I am very mindful of health and nutrition. Studying a Masters degree in the subject does that! But if I was to go all out, I’d have Champagne with lots of little plates of things, figs, comté cheese, prawns with chilli and garlic, lots of crusty bread, griddled squid, duck ham, and a bowl of lemony orzo.