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“How I Got Here” – Kevin Dundon

“How I Got Here” – Kevin Dundon

By Mary Lucey (Career Ahead)

I love to come across people who are passionate about and genuinely love what they do. Kevin Dundon, one of Ireland’s well-known and best loved Chefs is one of those people. He is usually busy at work in the Dunbrody House kitchens and Cookery school, or on the media chatting about all things food. It was lovely to hear Kevin’s story about how he got to where he is today in his career….

What interested you in food day one…

There was always a real interest in food in our house growing up, we were brought up to understand seasonality and flavours, the importance of good nutritious food and to waste very little. From a young age, I watched my mother and grandmother prepare food (often with a South African influence), which seemed quite exotic all those years ago. Twenty three years ago, Catherine and I fell in love with Dunbrody Country House and since then we have reared our family here whilst building up our business.

What was Secondary School like for you…

I enjoyed school insofar as I enjoyed the comradery, most of the lads would come over to my house after school for snacks and sandwiches, not much study was done but nevertheless we all got through it!

Did you always want to be a Chef…

Yes, at one time I toyed with the idea of architecture, but for me food wins every time. I was definitely family influenced. Knowing that there would be long hours in the kitchen, without much financial reward at the start, wasn’t exactly every young man’s dream, but it was my passion and I followed my dream.

What typically does your job involve in a day or week…..

After breakfast, Catherine and I head down to the Hotel. We catch up with our team and go through our menus, arrivals, events etc. If we have a wedding here, we check all is in place for the special day – planning is paramount! Before I head over to my studio (where I film our Instagram Live daily), I head up to the kitchen garden to see what we have to reap, plant and maintain. Back in the studio, I go through my emails, catch up on calls and get prepped for any filming. After all studio works are completed, its back over to the Hotel, into the kitchen and check all is in order for service. Once service is completed, Catherine and I head home, it can be a long day and tiring, but for us it’s our lives.

What qualities do you consider necessary for a Chef…

Patience and perseverance!

What do you love about your job….

I am so lucky to wake up every morning and go to a place I love working. I love getting stuck in the kitchen, taking care of the grounds of Dunbrody and sharing my passion with guests and online…

Is there anything you don’t like about your job…

Sometimes it can be very difficult to separate my personal feelings from overly critical people, particularly online. People don’t realise how hurtful it can be, if you have a problem when you’re here at Dunbrody let me know, it’s a lot easier to sort something out there and then rather than festering on stuff. We always really strive to do our best, we don’t get it right all the time, but we do mostly thankfully.

Why do you think you have such a successful career…

Being a chef has afforded me the opportunity to travel and get inspired with new out of the box ideas.

Would you change any of your career decisions…

I don’t think I would change anything. No, it is all a learning curve. All the negative experiences I have had over the years always have a positive part or outcome.

What are you most proud of in your career…

Building the business around Dunbrody and still sharing this amazing Country House with guests after 23 years.

What opportunities did your career afford you…

To travel the world, as chefs have opportunities to work anywhere they want, if they put their minds to it!

Why do you think this profession is not promoted in secondary schools…

Apprenticeships have not been promoted for the last 8 years. This stopped people getting the opportunity to discover the profession. The long and anti-social hours can be off putting to many. However, as apprenticeships have been restarted in last year or so, we hope that many more will give it a try.

The profession is often criticised because of working conditions and low pay for trainees; what are your views on this..

See Also

For every profession, you have to start at the base. Passion is an important part of many professional vocations such as butcher, nurses, etc …

For chefs, it is often true that despite having diplomas you are still required to show experience and skills that are learnt mostly in a kitchen. We always endeavour to have a trainee from Ireland (mostly Waterford WIT) and from abroad. Here we mentor them and teach them to take responsibilities and understand the requirements of the modern kitchen.

What would you do to encourage more secondary school students to learn to cook or follow this profession…

You really have to have the passion to pursue a Chef’s career. On the other hand, I do believe that every student should know how to prepare good, basic food (rather than rely on over processed meals), to budget and to prepare for college.

Are women fairly represented or underrepresented in your profession (in your opinion)?

In Dunbrody House Hotel, we have a female Head Chef and our kitchen has 50-50 representation; but I do think times are moving to having more females in the kitchen. I do not focus on having equal representation of males and females in the kitchen. I am more focussed on the person and their work ethos. We have some fantastic up and coming female chefs in this country, and we have been guided in Irish cookery and baking by some of the most passionate and knowledgeable women.

How did you deal with COVID-19 restrictions in your business…

Like everyone in our industry, our business came to a halt, so I decided (with a push from my daughter Sophie) to move online and into the world of social media. In March, we started doing live cookalongs at 2pm – myself cooking and chatting with the viewers, and 9 months later, I am still doing them and hoping to inspire people to cook and give others something to look forward to watch!

From this, I have started a new venture, moving our cookery school to an online cookery school. I offer a seven day course over an online platform such as Instagram and Facebook and this is proving popular beyond my expectations.

Advice for those making career choices….

A Chef’s life will give plenty of opportunities to travel. If it is your passion, don’t be concerned about other peoples’ opinions, follow your dream!

Interview by Mary Lucey – Career Ahead – contact number: 087 9338941

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