Interview with Chef Philippe Farineau Executive Head Chef of Ashford Castle

Tell us how you started out on your culinary journey?

I started cooking at the age of seven years old. Baking with my mother after watching a program with Paul Bocuse, I was really mesmorised by him, with his tall hat and his charisma. I was cooking with my parents regularly and decided to venture on to cookery school at the age of 16 where I remained until I was 20 years old.

From culinary school I proceeded to work for 3 Michelin Star, Grand Vefour. Moving on to The Bristol in Paris, 2 Michelin Star at the time, and many more wonderful places until I decided to travel around the world before eventually stopping in Ireland in 1998.

My first job in Ireland was at the K Club. I then went on to the role of Sous Chef in Dromoland Castle. My next move brought me to the role of Executive Chef at Hayfield Manor. I also worked on the opening of Michael Vaughans Hotel Restaurant and from there I went to Mount Falcon before I finally found the perfect fit at Ashford Castle where I have worked since 2015 as Executive Head Chef.

What is the recipe to success for a great dining experience in this current climate?

Utilising the best of Local artisan produce. We are extremely lucky in the West of Ireland to have many wonderful foraging spots. We get the best of seafood, such as the magnificent Oysters from Dooncastle. Our Pork from Andarl Farm, Duck from Skeaganore Farm as well as so many amazing cheese and organic vegetables from Glasraiit.

It really is extremely important to respect the product and enhance the flavour with a good and clean technique.

When all of these elements are in place a wonderful dining experience is sure to ensue. 

Speaking of the current climate! How have the Covid_19 restrictions impacted the day to day operation of your business?

It is definitely more challenging for the chef to work wearing the mask, the breathing is more difficult during hot and busy service, and also to be able to taste dishes going out. The chefs are adapting very well, and our protocol is very strict here from delivery to service time. It has certainly created more paperwork and recording than ever before but we are delivering a very secure environment for our staff and the guests and that is my priority.  

What sort of a leader are you in the kitchen?

I am very hands on, I think……..hummmm…..I hope (hahah). If you asked the Ashford Castle staff they will tell you than I am a listener, helpful and hardworking and the team comes first. After all….one for all, all for one for the benefit of our guests and health of our staff. 

Ashford Castle

Where is your favourite place to holiday in Ireland and what food do you look forward to the most when you go away?

West cork is fantastic, from scenery to food and of course, the farmers markets. When I am on holiday I like a nice bbq and the atmosphere that surrounds it.

Did you find yourself cooking any wild and wonderful recipes throughout lockdown?

Yes, I am still doing plenty of live cooking on social media from fine dining to home cooking and I absolutely love it. Cooking at home is a natural thing for me, it is my relaxation time, my zen moment, my passion.

Do you have any seasonal ingredients that you are really looking forward to cooking with again?

Chestnut is definitely one of them with Wild Venison and when the spring arrives, to taste the first white asparagus with morel ….what a joy! And also the Gariguette Strawberry !!! Blissful.

What has been your proudest moment as a Chef?

I have had many unbelievable moments in my chef life but the top 3 include cooking for Nelson Mandela, this was definitely a standout moment in my life. To be able to meet him and shake his hand, I mean, that was something very special. I met him when I was working in Dromoland Castle.

I cooked for the wedding of a special Irish golfer at Ashford Castle a couple years ago which was an unforgettable experience.

For Food on the Edge 2018 we welcomed and cooked for so many amazing world class chefs at Ashford Castle, that was a very special moment thanks to Jp Mc Mahon.

What is one of your go to dinner party recipes and would you like to share it with us?

My go to Dinner Party Recipe is Coq Au Vin. It is such a timeless classic with wonderful hearty flavours – this recipe makes enough for for 4 people.

Ingredients

– 4 large chicken legs cut in 2 
– 200gr carrots diced
– 100gr diced onion 
– 100gr diced celery
– 100gr brown mushrooms cut in quarters
– 40gr smoked pancetta
– 350ml red wine like malbec 
– 350ml chicken stock or use a full bottle of red wine if you want to follow the French tradition 
– 2 stalks of thyme
– 1 garlic clove
– 2 bay leaves
– 20gr roux or beurre maniecooked chestnuts are optional, i just like them in this time of the year

Method

Marinate the 8 pieces of chicken with the carrots, bay leaves, onion, garlic, celery, and the red wine for 24 hoursthe following day, remove the chicken and all the veg.

In a hot pan, add some oil, and seal the chicken for about 5 to 6 minutes as you want to get a nice brown colour.do the same with the vegetables from the marinadeplace all your roasted ingredients into a pot.

Boil the red wine and the chicken stock, and add the 20gr of “roux” at room temperature, cook a few minutes until the sauce thickensa roux is made of 10gr of melted butter with 10gr of flour and cooked a few minutes together. we are using the roux to thicken the sauce and it will also give a sense of silkinessyou can also do a beurre manie, which is a roux not cooked
when the sauce is done, poor on top of the chicken and vegetables.

Cook in the oven for 1h 15min. at 150 degrees celsius in the meantime, roast your pancetta and mushrooms together (chestnut also).

After 1h15min, add your roasted mushroom and pancetta to the chicken and cook for a further 15 minutes.

When your chicken is cooked, add a good dash of cognac or gin (because I like gin) as by doing this it will elevate your dish and give it more body and warmth you can see and enjoy this recipe on instagram video done on the 26 of November.

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