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Take Five With Executive Head Chef, David McCann

Not only did Dromoland Castle receive the great honour of being awarded ‘Best Hotel in Ireland’ by Irish Independent ‘Reader Travel Awards’ 2024, but we were also in the Top 5 for Best Restaurant in a Hotel – our Executive Head Chef David McCann give us some insight to his creative culinary work and that of his team at Dromoland Castle.     



First off, David what does it mean to you and your team to see Earl of Thomond listed in the Top 5 Restaurants in a Hotel in the Irish Independent Readers Choice Award?


Hospitality is all about the relationship between the Host and the Guest, therefore when we receive an award that is voted on by our Guests, it means the world to us and is great recognition for all the hard work that every member of our Staff puts in.


Can you tell us where did you learn how to cook?


My Mother was a stay-at-home traditional Irish Mammy. She did everything for her family and always with a smile! My Dad grew everything both vegetable and fruit. They would bulk buy fish from Clogherhead, sides of beef, whole pigs, lamb and chickens. Game was from the local shoot.  They would prepare all of the above with the help of their children. It’s fair to say we had a nutritious varied diet and my mother loved to bake and cook.

Therefore, it began at home, I trained in CERT catering college in Killarney and then out into the big bad world where I continue to learn.


How Would You Describe Your Overall Cooking Style?

I bring many different influences to all the menus at Dromoland because these days, almost anything goes, food is now truly global, however, my training is in the classics, which I love, and I am grateful for this culinary background.



David, can you share a culinary experience or dish that you’ve created at Dromoland Castle that encapsulates your culinary philosophy?

There are many, let’s not forget, I have devoted a large part of my life to Dromoland. One particular dish was Wild turbot tail, delivered by Donie Garrihy of Doolin, roasted on the bone with shallots and herbs from the Walled Garden, Hedgehog and Cep mushrooms that we foraged ourselves, wild garlic from John Millane, new potatoes and stem broccoli from Con Woods. The sauce was a reduction from the cooking juices of the turbot, wonderful butter velouté finished with Sean Fitzgerald’s aged Cratloe hills Cheese, simply smashing!


What Can’t You Live Without in the Kitchen?

Knives, and the ingredients would be the basics of salt and pepper, Irish butter, our local Melody eggs and Ballymore organic flour, plus cheese and wine for pleasure!



Reflecting on your time at Dromoland Castle, what achievements or milestones within the culinary team are you most proud of, and what future culinary initiatives excite you?

There are a couple of steps to answer this question,

  1. Gathering all our local suppliers.
  2. Continuing to build the team, we are nothing without each other.
  3. The apprenticeship program I started with Head Chef Nickie Flynn all those years ago. So many young Chefs have started their careers here at the Castle and it gives me great pleasure to see them all move on, progress and develop as Chefs, I love their success.


Do you have a favourite dish on the menu to prepare?

I have many favourites as you would expect, but the one dish that I really truly love, is a classic that I have of course refined using sous-vide and brining is ‘Friendly Farmer’ Chicken from Galway with madeira and black truffle sauce, accompanied by the most buttery mash one can get away with, absolute heaven!


What trends in the culinary world are you currently exploring, and how do you envisage incorporating them into the dining experience at Dromoland Castle?

I’m definitely not trendy, I both love and hate Instagram! But I do sit down each January with key members of the team, and we go through what’s in vogue for the year, this year it’s right up my culinary street, Nostalgia, a key ingredient in all our lives. Watch out you may find a cheesy fish pie on a Friday special at the Fig Tree.

How do you incorporate local ingredients and flavours into the menu at Dromoland Castle, and why is this approach essential for showcasing Irish cuisine?

For me, what most guests to the Castle expect, has always been local attractions, music, and food without air miles. Therefore, it’s my job to showcase our unique location and its ingredients, what’s the point ‘in bringing Coals to Newcastle’!


How do you combat food waste in today’s modern world?

Well, it’s all about management in procurement, processing and portion size. Plus, repurposing and composting.

And finally,


Life as a Chef is very difficult but if you have enough good people around you, you can believe in yourself. Self-belief is about finding your inner strength so that you can embrace the journey that is life, with all its ups and downs, and realise that each challenge brings new skills, understanding and strength. Experience is Listening to others, believing in yourself.

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