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Cork Profile: Gerry Gillen

Thursday, 30th November, 2017 10:12am


Name and position: Gerry Gillen, Executive Head Chef, Clayton Hotel Cork City

Age: 52

Lives: Cobh

Family: One daughter, Isobel

Pets: None

Favourite thing about Cork: The English Market – I love going here to catch up with old workmates and meet the suppliers that we work with.

Least favourite thing about Cork: The traffic!  You would think that I would miss peak traffic with the hours that I work but I still manage to spend about 90 minutes a day in traffic!  Although I do welcome the down-time to switch off from Chef-mode to family life. 

One thing you’d change about Cork: I love the way Cork city works together for festivals in the city. I would love to see some of the city centre become pedestrianised and perhaps see more pop-up farmers markets use this pedestrianised zone. 

When you were small, what did you want to be as a grown-up?

I grew up in Kinsale so food was always a big part of my life. I often considered becoming a fisherman but I think that was more a passion for fish than the sea! My Dad at one point worked as a lighthouse keeper and lots of his family were sailors.

Tell us about your career progression to your role today:

I studied to be a chef in Dublin College of Catering in 1980 and did my apprenticeship with Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin for two years after this. I then moved to London until the mid-90s and worked with Forte Hotel Group (they had the Shelbourne at the time too) in the Hyde Park Hotel and Grosvenor House. I returned to Cork in 2000 to work with the Blue Haven, Jurys Doyle Hotels and worked with The Elm Tree as head chef since 2006. 

What is the most enjoyable aspect of what you do?

It has to be my work colleagues. I love coaching and training new apprentices, seeing them develop and take on responsibility. We are very fortunate to have Cork Institute of Technology on our doorstep and would work with them closely on the development of trainees. 

What motivates you?

Our customers – making sure that we look after their events and making sure that they are completely satisfied. 

What advice would you give your 15 year old self?

To learn as much as possible from the mentors that I will have over the years. I’ve been fortunate to work with some really talented chefs over the years and in hindsight could have learnt more from them.

If you weren’t in the job you have, what would you be doing?

To be honest I could not imagine a life out of the kitchen. I do have a good grasp of figures so might have gone down the route of accounting! 

What is your greatest life or career achievement to-date?

The birth of my daughter.

Who has had the biggest influence on you in your life?

I learned so much from my apprenticeships in college so it would be hard to pin-point one person. 

What is the life dream now?

I love sunshine and the coast so the life dream would be to be live somewhere sunny by the sea. 

How do you switch off?

I love to go camping in West Cork – great to have time without a mobile phone. 

What is your favourite Cork memory?

Summer holidays in Kinsale.

What is your favourite place in Cork?

The English Market – I even have a dedicated menu each night in our Globe bar!

When are you at your happiest?

Oddly enough I am happiest when in a really busy kitchen on a Saturday night!

Not keeping in contact with old colleagues – it is so hard to find the time.

What is your hidden talent?

I’ve a good sense of lateral thinking.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

Wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you! (I’m a secret bird watcher!).

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