Chef Barry Liscombe Interview of the Award Winning Hartes of Kildare
My Name is Barry Liscombe, I am executive chef of the group comprised of Hartes of Kildare, Dew drop Inn, Kill and soon to be Firecastle Lane Grocer, Cookery School, B&B & Food Hall.
I have been heading the kitchen at Hartes for 10 years, I am a huge advocate of health and mental health practices in the workplace, keeping things fun, teaching and inspiring other chefs and students in our cookery school.
I am passionate about using and promoting local producers and suppliers and have been long before it became the buzzword that is now thrown around like confetti by the mass producers and companies.
Tell us what inspired you to cook and at what age you started?
To be honest I started loving food from a young age but I was a very plain eater to start. My first love was music, which I went on to study first, but I started to work with my father part time in the summer when I was 15 and the weekends when I was in college at 17. When I was 18 I finally surrendered to the passion I knew was there. I started discovering flavours and combinations. I loved the buzz of the kitchen & the camaraderie. I loved creative element, the bug had got me!
What is your favourite food memory?
I suppose it would have to be the old cliché of my grandmothers cooking!
It was her baked whole apple stuffed with sugar and cloves, the smell gets me to this day, I based our apple crumble on it.
And then her gravy, she would use the juices from the roast beef, fat and all, and I loved the speckles of fat in the gravy.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your menus?
Before delving in to inspiration, I have 2 very straight forward rules, and it’s the only two rules I apply to designing dishes, as I don’t believe in rules beyond that…
Rule 1 : If I don’t like the taste of an ingredient or food, I wont use it or cook with it. Now there is very little I don’t like the taste of, but there are some popular ones!
The reason being is that if I personally don’t like an ingredient or food, how can you possibly expect me to be inspired to use it, and if I’m not inspired to use it, how can I create a dish from it that will inspire people to want to eat it and enjoy the experience of it? I cant stand Calamari or Mutton. I don’t particularly care for cream based sauces, as much I would love to cook them for someone who does, I wouldn’t do them any justice if I myself don’t like the taste of them. Would you pay for food I cooked if I told you I didn’t like the taste of the ingredients I was using? Didn’t think so. I could probably make it taste good, but I’m not selling good. I’m trying provide an inspired experience that you will hopefully perceive and talk about when you leave.
Rule 2 : Food needs to evoke a feeling and reaction beyond simply tasting good, as silly as it sounds! Food provides one physiological necessity, and that’s to nourish us and provide essential fuel. but it also calls on all five senses and memories. You hear, see, feel and taste food, its all one package, even though you may not be conscious of it all the time. I acknowledge all of this before I even think of putting ingredients together to create something I expect to inspire you and have you pay for.
So back to the question!
I draw a lot on classics and putting my spin on them, like bacon & cabbage we would make a ham hock croquette, with cabbage sautéed in ginger with parsley pesto, it makes you think, ‘ok that’s different’ I’m intrigued’.
We needed a sponge type dessert to balance out the dessert menu, so we took what would be a boring everyday homely staple, a jam swiss roll, and made it with Bernard gibneys jam, and Jersey cream.
Its taking what we know and are comfortable with and making you think about them in a different way.
When we’re not drawing on classics we like to fuse traditions, like at the moment we have wonton soup with crozier blue cheese and braised beef, grand mix of traditions there!
Have you any suppliers/ producers that stand out to you and why?
Fergus Dunne who runs Pigs on the Green, does the most amazing pork, we have been working together for over 6 years now.
Goatsbridge Trout Farm in Kilkenny I am just in love with. We’ve done so much with Mag & Ger’s Trout products over the years that we could probably write a book using trout recipes alone!
And just a shout out to every cheesemaker in the country, they are all fantastic products, I saw a map the other day that had famous cheeses from all over Europe dotted in their corresponding countries, and Ireland had only THREE!! I was disgusted, we have nine Irish cheeses currently on the menu in some shape or form, we put them in soups, purees, starters, sambos, everything! Its almost a seasoning for me!
Out of respect for them all I wont name one, but you are all amazing!
How do you stay motivated and relevant within your role?
The most important thing I’ve learned in 10 years in Hartes, and especially now taking on the Dew Drop Inn in an executive role and soon to be Firecastle next door, is that we do our best work and most inspired work when we look at ourselves as students constantly learning, constantly watching, listening and above all, teaching and leading our team as we go. As leaders of our respective kitchens, the moment you think you know it all and you have done enough to keep the guests interested, you stop being relevant, because the quest for knowledge is the most relevant thing there is in any walk of life.
What is your ultimate food indulgence?
I love a good coddle, And traditional Roast chicken dinner with mountains of roasties and stuffing, that’s my ultimate.
And crisps! I should have shares in monster munch!
What are your favourite restaurants, who are your favourite Chefs?
The chef who inspired me most would be Neven Maguire, I love his style of cooking and plating over the years. Nathan Outlaw and Tom Kerridge would be up there also, it’s the no fuss approach.
Your job is undoubtedly both physically and mentally demanding, do you have an outlet that helps you refresh & re-energize your mind and body?
I cycle to keep the body in check, its vitally important to exercise, especially in our line of work.
I play guitar and that has always been my first love, I love jazz, blues and metal.
Hitting the golf course gets me walking and out socialising.
All in all the most refreshing thing I love to do is spend time with me kids and my wife, nothing like teaching your kids how to swing a golf club or play piano that helps your mind know its all worth it.
Tell us what you love about working in your current role and why it is the right fit for you?
It’s a family atmosphere, a real team, we have built a crew here that really gets on, it allows me personally to help teach and inspire young cooks.
People don’t leave job roles, they leave their coworkers and bosses. The right fit is that its one big family, and that lets us excel at what we do.
What dish would you recommend to our readers for entertaining at home?
I would recommend you try for a starter a goatsbridge trout pate followed by our braised Blade of Beef, I will happily provide the recipe and step by step for you.