Friday, November 8, 2013

Chapter One: An Irish Food Story

Article Written by: Dermot O' Sullivan & Patrick Hanlon

21 years ago, a passionate young chef returned to Ireland from shores afar with a concept in his mind. Having honed his skill in the kitchens of Odins (London), Dolphins Brasserie (Plymouth) and Le Chat Botté Restaurant at the Beau Rivage Hotel in Geneva, Ross Lewis began a fine dining phenomenon from the ground up in Dublin’s North inner city.

Ross Lewis with Mrs. Allen at Ballymaloe House

In 1992, Chapter One opened it’s doors, located in the basement of Dublin’s Writers Museum on Parnell Square. Lewis set out with a clear vision to showcase a new style of cookery alongside a loyal team of staff, and championing Irish artisan produce, which has simultaneously been the heart of every plate on Lewis’ pass and the vision for the restaurant since day one.

“We have such great food coming from our artisan and small producers that it’s now, finally, really beginning to shine as part of Ireland’s growing food culture”, Lewis explains.

For two decades the menu at Chapter One has gradually evolved, slowly becoming more complex as Lewis and his team found their feet and challenged themselves. As they grew, customers mirrored their own growth, welcoming and embracing each menu addition.

You could class Chapter One’s menu as the definition of modern Irish cooking. The technique is superlative, the produce is local and supportive of Irish artisan business, and the dining experience is one of ease, charm and comfort.

The Michelin Star that the restaurant was awarded in 2007, and has kept since, almost came organically following customers’ positive feedback and their championing of Chapter One with word of mouth recommendations. Lewis is quick to commend his staff and credit his suppliers when the subject of his Michelin star is brought up, "I have had such huge commitment from our staff here but also from our suppliers and as their star has raised so too has our food”.

The Michelin star was born just as the boom died out, and the restaurant has had to steer through adversity in the industry for the past few years, always coming out a stronger, bigger and better version of itself. The restaurant’s success is “the sum of individual parts”, Lewis declares, preferring to deflect the praise of his own talents onto the “combination of service, food and welcome” which he and his entire team provide.

Looking towards the future, Lewis says it’s bright for restaurants “who are maintaining standards and constantly aiming to improve or enhance their business, it is important that customers feel that restaurants are still passionate about what they do”

Though illustrated in every fibre of the food he serves, Lewis’ passion, vision and artistic flair are also depicted and documented in the pages of his new book, Chapter One: An Irish Food Story. The book compiles over 90 recipes, which are accompanied by stunning food photography like never seen before, captured by internationally-acclaimed Irish photographer Barry McCall.

Chapter One: An Irish Food Story is published by Gill & MacMillian and is an ideal Christmas present for that true foodie in your life.