Chef James Coffey of The Park Hotel Kenmare – Interview

Park Hotel Kenmare brings together a collection of local and artisan producers. The fisherman, the cheesemaker, the dairy farmer, the baker, the market gardener, all local, all in season and bursting with flavour. Combine this with our kitchen team, Sommelier and Restaurant Manager all who create a unique and wonderful experience in one of Irelands most elegant dining rooms.  

The tantalising creations from the kitchen team are lead by Chef James Coffey, we caught up with James to find out a little more about the man behind the award winning food at the Park Hotel.

Tell us what inspired you to cook and at what age you started?

Unlike many chefs I never really had a love of cooking when I was young. My mother was a great cook and I tended to leave it up to her to do! When I left School at 18 I had planned to become a gamekeeper, the course didn’t start till October and a friend of mine who was the chef in a small restaurant in limerick asked me to help out in the kitchen for the summer, I felt at home in the kitchen straight away and have never looked back. 

What is your favourite food memory?

Cooking wild Brown Trout over an open fire while on a fishing and camping trip with my daughter.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your menus?

I am very lucky that where I live and work inspiration is all around. I wake up to the mountains and woods behind my house and look out the sitting room window at the sea. I then drive a small part of the Wild Atlantic Way to work and get to engage with passionate local fishermen, farmers and growers on a daily basis, how could you not be inspired?

Have you any suppliers/producers that standout to you and why?

Most of my suppliers and producers stand out to me that’s why I use them! We are so lucky in Kenmare to have so many on our doorstep. But If I had to choose one Sean Dempsey from Knockatee Cheese would stands out. He moved back from England to Tousist to farm his families land and now produces some fantastic cheese and also farms free range pork which we use for our breakfast and in the restaurant, he’s easy to  work with and will work with us on any ideas we have down to what the animals are fed, his business and our food offering have really grown with each other.

How do you stay motivated and relevant within your role?

Staying motivated and relevant can be hard! Motivation comes from within and lots of things motivate me, my staff, partner, daughter, guests, suppliers and the need to earn money all motivate me. I read a lot of cookbooks, surf the web and social media to stay current and on top of trends which is important and I’m a huge believer in doing stages and eating out. You can always learn something new and pick up a new technique or system from seeing it in practise in another establishment. It helps to get you to question why you do things and whether you can improve on what you’re doing. 

What is your ultimate food indulgence?

Truffles, I love truffles and most fungi.

What are your favourite restaurants, who are your favourite Chefs?

I can’t say I have a favourite chef or restaurant but have been very lucky to eat at some great restaurants in the last few years and for the first time my top picks have been at home here in Ireland. Aidan McGrath at Wild Honey Inn for simple flavour driven food and we have two of the best in Europe cooking at the Greenhouse and Aimsir what Mickael Viljanen and Jordan Bailey are doing is really raising the bar and its great for the industry and produce we have here. 

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 love foraging, hunting and fishing and also keep and train gun-dogs. I have 6 Springer Spaniels, exercising and training them daily keeps me (and my understanding partner) fit. Being out in the countryside is when I’m happiest and most at ease. It’s a world away from kitchen life.

Tell us what you love about working in your current role and why it is the right fit for you?

I love the creative freedom I get in my current role. I’ve got some great employers who give me and the kitchen team great support and trust and as long as the guests are happy let us express ourselves and encourage us to keep pushing on and evolving, not all hotels put as much importance on the food offering. It’s also great for work/ life balance I live locally so don’t have a big commute. We also have fantastic producers right on our doorstep that are great to work with.

What dish would you recommend to our readers for entertaining at home?

Beef Wellington a classic that’s hard to beat and an good one for a dinner party.  

Escape the frenzy of modern-day life and slip into life at Park Hotel Kenmare. Charming rooms to relax in, open fires, the Drawing Room, SAMAS Deluxe Destination Spa, 25m Lap Pool, Private Cinema, Tennis, Croquet, Falconry, Walks, Cycling, Golf on the adjacent 18 Hole Golf Course are just some of our pleasurable pastimes. Two restaurants offering sublime food featuring local producers, a Bar with one of Europe’s largest whiskey collections and truly Irish welcome. 

Address : Park Hotel Kenmare, Kenmare, Co Kerry, Ireland, V93 X3XY

Phone : +353 64 664 1200

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