Irish Hospitality

Chef Graeme Campbell of Hayfield Manor

By Kimberley Lovato

“I’ll let you in on a little know secret about Irish people…although we are known the world over for our conviviality in the pub, in true Ireland all conversations of note begin and end around the table and therefore sitting down to a good meal is the glue that holds Irish family and friends together,” said Graeme Cambell, head chef at the luxurious Hayfield Manor in Cork, Ireland.

Swoon!

Those are seductive words for a traveler like me. I’ve always believed there is no better way to get to know a place, a culture, a history, and a people than by sitting down at a table to share a few stories along with some local food and drink.  It’s an extra special bonus when the table is as nice as the one at Hayfield Manor, a luxury 88-room manor house and spa in Cork, a part of Ireland known for its abundant bounty and for being the birthplace of the country’s slow food movement.

Cambell brings 16 years of experience and “a passion for fresh ingredients, sharp knives, and the occasional game of football.” It is Ireland, after all. He also plates an impressive resume, having worked in some of Ireland’s most stellar kitchens. He was at the swank Merrion Hotel in Dublin for four years and was the Senior Sous Chef when it won the coveted Best Small Leading Hotel award in 2004. Before landing at Hayfield Manor, a family-owned, gorgeous luxury boutique hotel , Cambell was at the 5-star Lyrath Estate Hotel in Kilkenny.

Despite the numerous (deserved) accolades, Cambell’s goal is a simple one—to provide diners with that around-the-table “welcome home” that is as much a part of Irish culture as pub songs and hurling.

“Whenever you enter an Irish house, you are immediately offered a cup of tea, but that is secret code for the entire contents of the cupboard to be graciously laid on the table and for all there present to partake and the conversation will flow across the table with the kettle being boiled constantly to keep tea cups full,” said Cambell. “That is a tradition that we warmly embrace at here at Hayfield Manor.”

After spending a week in Ireland, there were times when I felt I was part of an extended Irish family. No more so than when I was sitting at a table with fine Irish food and friends.

Sláinte!

The Foodie Five

1. What is your favorite meal/food memory from childhood? 

My favorite food from my childhood was a traditional dish from the north east of Scotland called Stovies, which is a thick beef stew served with pickled beetroot, homemade oatcakes and a glass of milk.  I still look forward to having it when I go home.

2.  You’re moving to a new kitchen in 5 minutes and can only take one gadget along with you. What do you grab and why?

It would be my lobster tank as we are able to keep lobster on hand and we also keep our oysters in it so they can’t be served any more fresh!

3No one’s looking. What is your secret food fetish?  

I am a chocoholic and love Irish chocolate as it is made with fresh milk.  Once the bar is open, it never gets put away again.

4.   Fill in the blanks:   “I’d like to see more _________ on restaurant menus and please, for the love of figs, lighten up on the _______________!

I’d like to see more fresh shellfish and please, lighten up on the potatoes with every dish.

5.  Congratulations, you have carte blanche to dine in any country/city in the world!  Where would you go and why?

That’s not a fair question as there are just too many great places to eat! However if I had to choose, it would be New York for the variety, followed by the north of Spain, which is a culinary inspiration to me.

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Kimberley Lovato is a Lowell Thomas Award winning writer whose travel and food articles have appeared in national and international magazines. She prefers to discover the city, and the world, one bite or sip at a time. Read more Foodie 5 posts on her blog www.fluentinfabulous.com and www.kimberleylovato.com