The stars aligned for Pauline Handrick from New Ross, and Nickie Flynn, from Birmingham when both began six-month college placements at Dromoland Castle over 30 years ago.
Little did they know, but the Castle was to become the backdrop for a great romance that would last a lifetime. “By autumn when the hotel quietened down for the winter,” Nickie recalls, “we decided to head to Glasgow together, to work at a hotel on Sauchiehall Street.” It was here that Nickie would work under Jacques Molinari, father of Jean Baptiste (JB) Molinari, who was Head Chef back at Dromoland Castle.
Instead of returning to County Clare as they had originally planned, the pair extended their Scottish adventure and went to work in the Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews, the home of golf. Nickie was Chef de Partie and Pauline now Chef de Rang. “We both enjoyed St Andrew’s, but Nickie missed working with JB and learning his amazing culinary skills, so we decided to return to Dromoland Castle.”
Promotion was on the cards when they returned; Pauline becoming Restaurant Supervisor, under the guidance of Restaurant Manager at the time, Tony Frisby, and Nickie as Sous Chef. A few years later, he progressed to Head Chef in the Castle under Executive Chef David McCann, helping in the everyday running of the main Castle kitchen.
Despite the odd hours and different shifts, the couple’s romance blossomed and they got engaged in March 1999 in Patrick Guilbaud’s Restaurant in Dublin.
Everyone they invited to their fairy-tale wedding at Dromoland came and shared in their special celebration. “People are still talking about the setting and the food. We couldn’t recommend it highly enough, but we might be biased!”
Working beside each other for all those years has been good, if challenging at times, Pauline admits. “Generally we get on fine and do our own jobs. We have confided and consulted with each other on many occasions. We do tend to leave work behind though, and not bring it home, most of the time!”
As in their personal lives, team work has been an important factor. “Since we both started working in Dromoland, some things have changed, but overall the ambience, the service, the friendliness of staff, the welcome that the guests receive on arrival have remained the same. That’s what we’re known for and it’s what brings guests back again and again.”
Both Nickie and Pauline love that so many of their co-workers have also been at the Castle for years. “We feel like one big family and I believe that guests can feel that while staying with us. It’s part of who we are and we are part of what it is.” Nickie and Pauline’s children, Liam 16 and Ciara 14 have been brought up with Dromoland as part of their lives too.
Since Nickie and Pauline’s unexpected adventure began at Dromoland Castle, there have been many highlights” Their wedding. Hosting and cooking for Pierce Brosnan and his wife, Nelson Mandela and President George Bush Jnr. For Nickie, hosting the EuroToques and feeding such discerning top chefs from all over the world in the Earl of Thomond Restaurant.
Cupid seemed to know what he was doing when he brought this pair together as young students all those years ago.