So very recently I had the privilege of being asked to write a piece for the Generation Emigration section of Ireland’s national newspaper; The Irish Times. It was a really exciting opportunity and getting to write down the story of how I ended up living in London was very interesting indeed.
I have posted a link to the article here but the full post is below. Thanks for reading.
I was tempted away from Ireland by a guy from Kerry making me a job offer I couldn’t refuse. My first experience of Barbecoa was during a frenzied call about whether I would be free to work at a festival that weekend. It was a Barbecue festival. All day Friday, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. I got this call on a Thursday evening. I would be managing the demo tent. I immediately agreed.
I had been working as a chef in a Mediterranean style place in Dublin but my heart had always been with Barbecue, so the opportunity to work at Ireland’s first big Barbecue festival was not one I could pass up. When I showed up the next morning I was introduced to John, the then Head Chef of Barbecoa, a high end steak and smoke house right by St Pauls Cathedral in London. He is one of the craziest, goofiest and off the wall characters you could ever hope to meet, no surprise then when I realised he was from Duagh, a place in Kerry that is not so much a town as it is a slightly wider bit of road.
As soon as we met we immediately hit it off. He was at the festival doing five or six demos a day and I was basically there to assist him in whatever way he needed. This ultimately came to him and me brainstorming all sorts of things we could do and try in our area with our few little smokers. We were making beer-can chickens and whole shoulders of pork. We cooked steaks, smoked duck breast and broke down whole lambs into primal cuts and smoked them all day. That’s not to mention the main event. A pit smoker made out of cinder blocks. This thing was huge, two metres wide and three long. Into this pit we placed a whole pig, Carolina style BBQ. It was an incredible thing to see. John had previously worked with one of the modern godfathers of Barbecue, Adam Perry Lang and had been running a barbecue restaurant for four years. So, needless to say, I learned more about smoking in that weekend than in every day of my life leading up to it.
By the end of the first day he was telling me how I had to come to Barbecoa and try the food, “Next time you are in London give me a shout, come in for dinner, see the kitchen.” The next day it had progressed to “You have to come over for a week to work with us, you have to!” That night he started saying jokingly “Well once I get you in my kitchen I don’t think I will want to let you go. You might have to stay and work with us forever.” I knew he was joking and I didn’t really consider it an offer but it stuck in my head. The final night we wrapped up the demo tent and as we were bidding each other goodbye, I asked him, “So about that job offer in London, were you being serious?” Not really knowing what answer to expect, or what answer I was looking for, I waited. For the first time all weekend, he dropped his goofy grin and looked me dead in the eye; “Absolutely.”
Cut to; Six Months Later
I arrived in London, a bag full of chef uniforms over my shoulder and my knife case under my arm. I walked into Barbecoa in a mingling state of terror and excitement not entirely sure of what to expect. The restaurant was four times bigger than anywhere else I had previously worked and it was in a discipline of food I had only really done in a very amateur setting. Also I had just moved away from my family, my girlfriend and all of my friends. There was a lot riding on this going well. I had to do a trial shift, just so the Executive Chef could see what I could do. It did not go well. Somewhere along the line, between the pressure and the new environment something clicked and I messed it up, definitely not my best day of work ever.
But thankfully, they decided to keep me. Over the next six months I worked my ass off in every corner of the kitchen I could and they soon made me Pitmaster which was an incredible honour. Now I work every day with amazing chefs cooking stunning quality food. I have met wonderful people and I continue to learn from them every day of the week. I get to spend my days basting ribs and seasoning pulled pork and slicing beef ribs and building fires. I can honestly say without an ounce of irony that this is my dream job. And that is, I suppose why I left. To find my dream job. To get out and see the world. To live in other countries and meet new people and try new foods.
Before I met John I had no idea where my life was going but I did have the thought of moving abroad in my head. Then he showed up and gave me exactly what I wanted, all wrapped up in a nice little package. Now, equally I have no idea where I am going, so who knows what the future will hold? Maybe a random encounter with another mad leprechaun is only around the corner, waiting to whisk me off on the next adventure. Till then, if you need me, I’ll be the guy in the cloud of smoke playing with meat.