Women Of The Irish Food Industry: Carmel McGuirr, Head Chef At MacNean House
Carmel McGuirr is the head chef at MacNean House in Blacklion, co. Cavan.
When I started writing this series, a couple of months ago, Neven Maguire contacted me to say he was enjoying the interviews and asked would I consider his head chef, Carmel McGuirr, as in his words “she is one of the most hard working talented and loyal chefs ever to work in my kitchen, I’m am lucky to have her as my head chef and friend !”
When one of Ireland’s most beloved chefs takes the time to promote his female staff, I listen. I haven’t had the pleasure to meet Carmel McGuirr yet but I will at some stage, and I look forward to it.
If you know of a great woman of the food industry that should be featured, please reach out. I’m always happy to chat.
I’m talking to women in the food industry, what brought you into this category and what do you do?
I have been in the food industry for 19 years, 11 of which I have been working as a chef in MacNean Restaurant. I first met Neven Maguire when he was a lecturer in Fermanagh College where I studied Hospitality and Catering. Neven was always great at giving students opportunities to work in his kitchen and learn from the best – this is where I got my first big opportunity and loved it. He helped me get into different kitchens and on some stages; to Pied a Terre Restaurant in London, working with then head chef Andy McFadden, and I also worked in Restaurant Patrick Guilbauld, Gordon Ramsay and Ox in Belfast.”
How does your career fulfill you?
I love what I do and am very passionate about it. I get great job satisfaction out of creating dishes, using the finest locally sourced ingredients and continually striving for excellence. Over the years I have gotten the opportunity too work with some of the finest chefs in the industry, this has inspired me to work hard to become a top chef. I am fortunate to be surrounded by an incredible team whose passion and drive make my job a pleasure.
What are your ambitions for the next 2 years?
In 2018, I became Head Chef for Neven Maguire and I am very privileged to have the opportunity to see what I can achieve and put my own stamp on the restaurant. We are currently installing a new kitchen and extension at MacNean Restaurant which is very exciting for 2019. I have a lot of ideas of how I’d like my kitchen to be run, this is only possible with the great team I have around me. We strive to continually develop new dishes that are fitting for the menu at MacNean Restaurant, so busy a year ahead for all of us.
What do you think can be done to help raise the profile and visibility of women in the food industry in Ireland?
It’s an ongoing challenge to inspire and promote the great work that women continue to achieve in the food industry in Ireland. The sports industry are currently running a great initiative “if she can’t see it, she can’t be it” . I believe something like this could also be applied to the food industry. The great work women are doing needs to be promoted at every opportunity to inspire the next generation, hence an article like this is so important!
Tell us of one woman in the Irish food industry who consistently inspires you and why?
Danni Barry grew up on her family farm in Co. Down, she is a Michelin starred Chef and has won All-Ireland best chef at the Irish Restaurant Awards (like Jess Murphy). She continues to prove that you should never stop learning and developing, and that if you keep pushing you can achieve anything.
Have you had any challenges in your career and how did you conquer them?
When starting out, in the early days, it’s a challenge to gain experience in many different kitchens to try to pick up as much knowledge and experience as possible. To gain such experience chef must be prepared to travel, hence I spent a number of years developing my trade in Dublin. It can be tough being away from home and working long hours that come with the job, but to succeed you must put the head down and get on with it. I am glad to be back home and working in one of Ireland’s finest restaurants.
Have you had a wow moment to date in your career? If so which one was it and why?
Having the honour to represent my country carrying the Irish Flag at the prestige’s French competition the Bocuse d’or, was one of those moments I’ll remember for a long time. It was a very proud moment, the cheers and roars of the crowd were unreal.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Grab every opportunity as it comes.
In your opinion, what are the most underrated spices and herbs?
Parsley as it has endless usage. You can add it to or use it for pesto, butter, oil, dressing, sauces. It’s just great and we grow our own in our herb garden at MacNean.
What is your favourite cooking accessory?
It has to be the spoon, a simple but very versatile tool. Every chef needs one at hand; stirring, turning, dressing your plates & most importantly tasting your food.