Chef jobs

The Benefit of First-Hand Chef Experience When Recruiting For Top Talent in The Hospitality Industry

Excel Recruitment is delighted that our very own Recruitment Consultant, Neil Redmond, will feature in the next edition of the Irish Hospitality Institute’s, Hospitality Network Newsletter. In this feature, Neil talks about his background as a chef and why he decided to make the switch to recruitment. Check out the article below.

Originating from Blanchardstown, Neil Redmond started his culinary career working as a Commis Chef in local restaurants while attending DIT on Cathal Brugha Street.

Neil’s culinary career officially started to take shape post college, where he started working under Dylan McGrath in the opening of the Rustic Stone. Following on from this, in the early 2010’s Dylan McGrath, renowned as a ‘creative genius’ and Michelin starred chef opened Fade Street Social where Neil once again, stepped up his culinary skills in the kitchen and learned even more about in-depth fine dining & cooking techniques.

With such an incredible culinary background, we managed to pull Neil away from the kitchen and his new recruiting role to find out why he decided to switch careers and become a recruiter for the Hospitality Sector.

Tell us a little bit about your background Neil… What inspired you to become a chef?

From a young age, I experimented with flavours and ingredients in my own time at home. So, when I started working as a Commis Chef in local restaurants, my love of food & creative dishes really began to flourish. After I finished college, I was lucky to have gained some expert tips & advice from Dylan McGrath during my 2-year stint working in the Rustic Stone. I was later given the opportunity to train under the culinary leadership of Ryan Stringer at Ely for another two years where I really started to come into my own, forging new and varied culinary talents. From there, I decided to work with an old friend of mine in the Old Schoolhouse in Swords. This position really progressed my expertise in the industry as it was here that I ran my first upstairs 60-seater Restaurant, and as a result, I was delighted to accomplish a number of awards thereafter.

Do you have a top tip that you share with people in the kitchen? How has your background as a Chef Transitioned into a recruiting position?

Always follow your Chef’s direction and trust their guidance. Ask questions, I have always been fascinated by the why, for example, why do lamb and rosemary go well together. What makes that work? check seasoning. Learn from mistakes. Everyone makes a mistake, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing, a mistake can be a great teacher. It’s how we refine our skills as Chefs. Every dish is a reflection of the Chef and the establishment. One dish has the power to set the tone for an entire evening, so it’s important for a Chef to have that passion and show it on the plate.

While I was working in the Old Schoolhouse in Swords, I was given the opportunity to assist in the opening of Ruby’s. This was an exciting experience where I had a lot of involvement in the development of the menu, opening of the restaurant, training of staff, and establishing standard operating procedures. In the latter part of my career, I worked for almost four years at Press Up entertainment where I was involved in the opening of several high-profile properties including Dollard & Co, The Mayson Hotel, Doolally (working alongside Alfred Prasad who currently holds 2 Michelin Stars), Stella Theatre, and Cara’s (part of Centerparcs) to name but a few. Each role required me to provide support & development to their staff and since then, I gradually transitioned into the Hospitality Recruitment Industry.

What are you most excited about in your new career with Excel Recruitment?

In my previous positions, I would have spent a lot of time in each individual venue that needed support. I really began to understand what was needed from all levels of staffing requirements, and it really spurred on my passion to recruit the right type of talent for this industry. With nationwide staffing shortages, the time has never been more important to partner with a reliable recruitment agency. Excel is Ireland’s leading specialist recruitment agency holding a database of over 1000 clients, 85,000 candidates and a team of 80 expert recruiters. With four offices located in Dublin, Kildare, Cork, and Galway, Excel has rapidly become the largest hospitality recruitment firm in Ireland. Therefore, it made sense for me to further my Recruitment Industry experience within an established business who understands what the Hospitality industry needs to succeed. I have also worked with the panel of Chefs of Ireland for a number of years, and I even competed in Chef Ireland over my career journey with moderate success achieved. I thoroughly understand the career aspirations of my candidates and I also know what businesses require from staff to run a busy restaurant. Get in touch with me if you need advice and I will help in whatever way I can.

You can contact Neil for more information by calling 087 625 6793 or you can email Neil at Please click here to search for all of our live chef roles.


Reopening reaction: Director Shane Mclave on what the government’s guidelines mean for hospitality

Excel’s Director Shane Mclave gives his thoughts on the recent government guidelines ( and their ongoing updates) for the hospitality industry’s re-opening and what more needs to be done to support the industry.

The much-awaited guidelines for hospitality businesses reopening arrived last week, with further developments since and more expected to come. All have been met with a very mixed reaction. Some of these guidelines absolutely make sense in terms of keeping everyone safe, while some of them seem plucked out of thin air and do no more than hinder hospitality businesses trying to return to profitability. Under the latest guidelines, patrons are given a 105 minute limit on the time they can spend in a pub or restaurant. But why? This seems to be an arbitrary number plucked out of thin air, with no real basis in science from what anyone can tell. Another concerning guideline for wedding venues and hotels is the onus being placed on staff to maintain social distancing at all times, including on dancefloors. How can anyone expect this to work in real-life without placing an increased workload on staff or potentially jeopardising guest experience? One of the biggest questions for businesses of all sizes, from intimate restaurants to large hotels and contract caterers is in what world can chefs maintain a 2m distance in a busy kitchen during service?

Uncertainty for hospitality industry

According to latest updates The 2m social distancing guideline but this can be reduced to 1metre* in controlled environments . But what does this mean? Many who have already spent time mapping out 2m within their premises and have spent money on signage displaying a 2m distance. There are major differences in readying a space for 2m and readying the same space for 1m. With a little over a week to go until June 29th, businesses nationwide are right now doing the trojan work of figuring out what the recent government guidelines mean for them and applying the necessary changes to their premises while coping with unclear and rapidly changing guidance. While everyone is happy to be opening sooner than August as originally scheduled and hopefully salvaging some of the summer season, the one thing the government’s original 5 phase plan did give was certainty. We’re all aware that COVID-19 and the fight against it are constantly evolving but is it fair to ask individual businesses to bear the brunt of this uncertainty alone?

There needs to be a recognition that these recent government guidelines cost time and money to implement and enforce and businesses need to be given the supports to do so. There needs be further recognition that many venues won’t be able to operate under them; through absolutely no fault of their own. Many high-end restaurants and pubs whose USP is their cosy and intimate atmosphere and reversely, many events venues whose business model is large crowds will have to hold off until the virus is further suppressed.

Long term supports

Again, while an earlier opening date is most definitely a positive news story; more sustainable, long term supports will be needed. Many tangible suggestions have been proposed by the Restaurants Association of Ireland including 0% VAT rate for the tourism & hospitality industries for the period of the crisis & an entire year afterwards, then reverting to a 9% rate for a period of 5 years after along with relief on rates or rent for the rest of the year. It cannot be a case of “now you’re open, you’re on your own.” Everyone has been on the same side of closing to ensure public safety, that cannot swivel to the government and hospitality industry being on opposite sides when it comes to getting the country back running. One of the things that lockdown has shown is the resilience, creativity and desire to succeed of the hospitality industry in adapting to challenges in the market. That in itself is reason to be positive. Best of luck to all our clients and businesses reopening in the coming weeks and congratulations on all your efforts.


Ireland’s best restaurant for 2019 revealed

[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.22″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.25″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.25″ custom_padding=”|||” custom_padding__hover=”|||”][et_pb_image src=”” align=”center” force_fullwidth=”on” align_tablet=”center” align_phone=”” align_last_edited=”on|desktop” _builder_version=”3.23″][/et_pb_image][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.27.4″]Members of Excel Recruitment’s hospitality team were delighted to attend last night’s 2019 Irish Restaurant Awards in Dublin’s Clayton Hotel. The big winners on the night were of an incredibly high calibre and shining examples of the exceptional standards in the Irish food industry.

Loam in Galway city took the crown as Ireland’s restaurant of the year 2019. The Michelin-starred dining room and wine bar opened in 2014 and differentiates itself with its strong sustainability ethos and by only using ingredients from the West of Ireland. It is owned and run by Enda McEvoy, who was voted best chef in Ireland at the awards in 2016. The best chef 2019 is Graham Neville of Dax Restaurant on Pembroke Street Upper, Dublin. Pub of the year is Doheny and Nesbitt, Baggot Street, with The Old Spot, Bath Avenue, Dublin, taking the gastro pub honours. The best newcomer national winner is Everett’s Restaurant in Waterford,

Run by the Restaurants Association of Ireland, the awards are renowned for the high standards of the entrants and thorough selection process with a public vote, regional judging panels, a mystery guest visit, and a final assessment by the event’s National Awards Academy, comprising food writers, bloggers and culinary academics. This year saw more than 90,000 nominations were made by members of the public.

Congratulations from Excel Recruitment to all the very deserving winners, see the full list of winners below.

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Best Restaurant

Dublin – Dax Restaurant

Connaught – Loam

Leinster – Eastern Seaboard Bar & Grill

Munster – Wild Honey Inn

Ulster – OX

All Ireland – Loam

Best Chef

Dublin – Graham Neville of Dax Restaurant

Connaught – Barry Ralph of House of Plates

Leinster – Deirdre Adamson of The Fatted Calf

Munster – Peter Everett of Everett’s Restaurant

Ulster – Chris McGowan of Wine and Brine

All Ireland – Graham Neville of Dax Restaurant

Best Restaurant Manager

Dublin – Denise McBrien of The Old Spot

Connaught – Eva Ivanova of Sage

Leinster – Edwina Hynes of La Côte Seafood Restaurant

Munster – John Edward Joyce of The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge

Ulster – Saul McConnell of Noble

All Ireland – Eva Ivanova of Sage

Pub of the Year

Dublin – Doheny and Nesbitt

Connaught – V.J Doherty’s

Leinster – Hamilton’s Pub

Munster – Levis Corner House

Ulster – Coach House & Olde Bar

All -Ireland – Doheny and Nesbitt

Best Hotel and Guesthouse Restaurant

Dublin – The Saddle Room at The Shelbourne Hotel

Connaught – West Restaurant at the Twelve Hotel

Leinster – Brabazon Restaurant at Tankardstown House

Munster – Gregans Castle Hotel

Ulster – Newforge House

All Ireland – Gregans Castle Hotel

Best Newcomer

Dublin – Uno Mas

Connaught – Passione by the Slice

Leinster – Lily’s On Church Street

Munster – Everett’s

Ulster – Hara

All Ireland – Everett’s

Best Gastro Pub

Dublin – The Old Spot

Connaught – Bar One

Leinster – The Ballymore Inn

Munster – Mikey Ryan’s Bar and Kitchen

Ulster – Clenaghans

All Ireland – The Old Spot

Best Customer Service

Dublin – Luna

Connaught – Park House Hotel

Leinster – Lennons @ Visual

Munster – Ballyvolane House

Ulster – The Muddlers Club

All Ireland – The Muddlers Club

Best Casual Dining

Dublin – 777

Connaught – Hooked Sligo

Leinster – Truffles Restaurant and Wine Bar

Munster – Bodega

Ulster – The Olde Glen Bar, Restaurant and Tea Room

All -Ireland – 777

Best Wine Experience

Dublin – Green Man Wines

Connaught – Le Petit Pois

Leinster – Barrows Keep

Munster – The Black Pig

Ulster – OX

All Ireland – Green Man Wines

Best Kids Size Me

Dublin – Old Street Restaurant

Connaught – Shells Seaside Bakery and Café

Leinster – Tiffin by Sunil

Munster – No. 9 Café

Ulster – Oak Room Restaurant

All Ireland – Old Street Restaurant

Best World Cuisine

Dublin – 3 Leaves

Connaught – Spice India

Leinster – Pink Salt Indian Restaurant

Munster – Iyer’s

Ulster – Tuk Tuk Asian Bistro

All Ireland – 3 Leaves

Best Café

Dublin – Two Pups

Connaught – Connemara Greenway Café & Restaurant

Leinster – Knockdrinna Farm Shop & Artisan Café

Munster – Good Day Deli

Ulster – Dinkin’s Home Bakery & Café

All Ireland – Connemara Greenway Café & Restaurant

Best Free From

Dublin – Urbanity

Connaught – Drumanilra Farm Kitchen

Leinster – Zucchini’s Restaurant

Munster – Grow HQ

Ulster – The Olde Post Inn

All Ireland – Grow HQ

Local Food Hero

All -Ireland – Seán Hussey of Hussey & Sons Fruit & Veg

Dublin – Seán Hussey of Hussey & Sons Fruit & Veg

Best Emerging Irish Cuisine

Dublin – Forest & Marcy

Connaught – An Port Mór Restaurant

Leinster – Thyme Restaurant

Munster – No. 35 Restaurant

Ulster – Wine and Brine

All Ireland – No. 35 Restaurant

Best Digital Marketing

All -Ireland – Michael’s Mount Merrion

Best Cookery School

All -Ireland – The Neven Maguire Cookery School

Best Private Dining and Club Restaurant

All -Ireland – Stephens Green Hibernian Club

Best Seafood Experience

All-Ireland – Fish Shop, Benburb Street

Best Cocktail Experience

All -Ireland – The Tack Room at Adare Manor

St. Andrew's church to become food hall

New food hall to open in former Dublin church

A continental style food hall is to open in Dublin city centre next summer. The new dining experience will consist of 15 different outlets serving up to 400 diners is set to open in St. Andrew’s Church on the corner of Suffolk Street and St Andrew’s Street.

The church, which measures almost 20,000 sq. ft. and operated as a tourist office until 4 years ago, will undergo a € 6 million fit-out and renovation. Construction is set to start in January with an opening date expected in June. Well-known hospitality group Michael JF Wright Hospitality Group have signed a 25-year lease on the building. The group currently operates eight Dublin bars, restaurants and Marquette airport outlets, employing 700 people.

The current plans for the hall include 10 food vendors operating from the main body of the church, and a further three dessert and patisserie outlets, two coffee kiosks and two bars. Communal seating will occupy the central aisle of the church, with additional tables for smaller groups on the first floor. The former parochial hall behind the church will be linked to the main structure by an enclosed walkway “wrapped in black zinc”, and will accommodate an additional 100 diners. Further seating will be available in an outdoor garden setting.

A purpose built stage is planned to facilitate cookery demonstration with regular musical and theatre performances also planned. According to Wright, the venue is expected to operate as a cultural space as well as a dining venue.

“The idea is to create an indoor urban food hall for the city centre; a new casual dining experience with emphasis on great food, social interaction and entertainment,” says Michael Wright. “I had visited food halls all over Europe and the US and had seen how popular and atmospheric they were. Irish hospitality and the Irish welcome are legendary; eating, drinking and entertainment are at the heart of this, and to me it made complete sense that Dublin should have one.”

A strategic mix of high-quality vendors is seen as pivotal to the success of the project.Wright continues “Our concept is to bring the best of Irish artisan food to this location. Really high-quality Irish food and Irish ingredients, but with a global flavour. Hopefully, this will translate into a really great choice of foods – something to suit all palates, from traditional Irish dishes to Korean delicacies, to the latest in vegan offerings. The mix is central to the success of the food hall,” says Wright.

According to Ewan McDonald, chief operating officer for Michael Wright Hospitality, the group is in advanced negotiations with a selection of high-profile operators on the Dublin dining scene including John Farrell, whose restaurants include Luna, 777 and Butcher Grill; Niall Sabongi (The Seafood Café, Klaw, Klaw Poke) and Shane Mitchell (Asador).

“We want to add something very different to the Dublin food scene,” says McDonald, speaking to the Irish Times. The venue will be open 7 days a week from 8am to 11pm.

Shane Mclave General Manager

Shane Mclave on Budget 19: VAT increase for hospitality industry ‘recklesss’

The Restaurant’s Association of Ireland has called the Budget ‘thoughtless’, a sentiment that will be shared with many in the hospitality industry this week as they begin to do the sums on how the VAT increase to 13.5% will affect their business.

I, and Excel Recruitment, have always supported the campaign to KeepVatat9 and while expected, feel Tuesday ’s decision by the government was absolutely the wrong one. The Minister for Finance showed not only a lack of understanding on the difficulties faced by the industry- particularly rural and border area businesses but also complete disregard of the importance a buoyant tourism industry to the wider economy.

Budget 2019 was most certainly an election budget. While social housing and healthcare are hugely important and deserve as much funding as possible where these increases have come from have not been thought through- or fairly distributed, with employers being forced to pick up the bill. It’s not a case of business in general being hit. Most companies, including some of the country’s most profitable were unaffected by the Budget while landlords with hundreds, often thousands, of properties and few employees escaped any tax hikes at all.

‘These are the businesses that need to be protected- not placed under further pressure’

In contrast, small and medium businesses such as family-owned pubs, cafés and restaurants are going to take a big hit over the next year. These are actually the businesses that need to be protected- not placed under further pressure. Many are located in rural areas and are vital to employment and life in their local areas.

These businesses were also hit with the news that minimum wage will be increased to €9.80. It’s great that workers on minimum wage will receive an increase but on the flipside, employers are now facing an increase in VAT, an increase in minimum wage and increased employer’s PRSI. To add to the pain, both increase come into effect in January, typically the sector’s quietest month.

While the industry is far healthier than it was when the 9% rate was introduced, it still faces many challenges particularly with Brexit looming and still no idea of what the implications will be on our sector. The tourism industry has already weathered the storm of the recession and is one of our most important indigenous industry- supporting economies and creating jobs across the country. This decision is irresponsible and recklessly endangers one of the country’s biggest employers.

East meets West: Solving the Chef Crisis

Many people within the hospitality industry lament the lack of chefs in Ireland, with everyone having their own opinions and perceptions on the reason behind the low, and falling, number of chefs working in Ireland.

I myself have spoken and written about the issue many times, but as the problem reaches epidemic levels- who is actually doing anything constructive in order to try and resolve the issues?

As a proud and active member of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, I was delighted to get the call from Adrian Cummins to assist them with their latest recruitment drive. I have travelled to Korea to attend the World Job+ Recruitment Fair at the Seoul International Travel Mart 2018 (SITM) to meet and interview prospective Chefs who are interested in coming to Ireland on the new Chef Work Permit scheme, announced earlier this year. The new regulations came into effect in March this year, removing some chef grades from the ineligible occupations list and making it easier to recruit chefs from outside the EU. The is an overall quota of 610 employment permits available.

Even though it’s been a few years since I was last in my whites on a full-time basis, the Chef inside me was really excited to come to this corner of Asia. As my only previous experience of Korean cuisine came from eating on Dublin’s Parnell Street, I was excited by the prospect of trying as much of the local cuisine as possible and I have to say I was not disappointed in the slightest. The bustling but pristine streets are filled with the amazing aromas coming from street food stalls, fresh produce on display and live prawns and octopus in the tanks, a stark contrast to the mammoth New York-style skyscrapers y towering above and the familiar four and five star hotel chains that you would expect to see in Paris, London or Dublin.

And what of the Chefs?

Koreans by their nature are extremely hard working, knowledgeable, diligent and creative and this really comes across when you talk to the chefs. They are connected with food and take great pride in the skills that they gain in Culinary College and their careers, most of the Chefs have a good level of English and the main reason for wanting to come to Ireland seems to be to further that knowledge. I have met with a considerable amount of Chefs and there is great interest amongst them in coming to Ireland. Although the initial permit will be for two years, most of them are already planning to extend this further as even though there are countless restaurants in Seoul it can be difficult gaining employment opportunities and advancement in a city with over 10 million people.

If you are struggling to hire Chefs or retain them for long periods and want to find out about how Excel Recruitment can help you through the work permit process please do not hesitate to contact me for more details.

Dublin restaurant Etto takes top spot at Irish Restaurant awards

Dublin’s Etto has been crowned Ireland’s Restaurant of the Year 2018.

The winning restaurant, located on Merrion Row, has taken home the award for Best Casual Dining Experience for the past four years. The restaurant also took home Best Customer Service award while head chef Barry Sun Jian took home the award for Best Chef in Dublin at the awards run by the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) earlier this week. Etto was opened in 2013 by Simon Barrett and Liz Matthews. Announcing the award, the RAI said: “Etto offers a daily changing, seasonal menu, served in a relaxed and informal environment and describe its dishes as honest and simple, using ingredients from local producers and suppliers where possible.” The prestigious award for All Ireland Best Chef went to Jess Murphy, head chef and co-owner of Kai Café Restaurant in Galway. Kai was also singled out for Best Digital Marketing.

The awards are now in their 10th year, received more than 90,000 online nominations were received for Irish restaurants and other hospitality businesses. Along with the public vote and votes from industry experts, winners were decided by judging panel assessment at regional level and by mystery inspections at National level. More than 1,000 restaurateurs, chefs and industry figures attended the All Ireland finals of the awards in Dublin on Monday night. A team of chefs, including several previous winners of the Best Chef title, cooked a six-course dinner for the finale at the Clayton Hotel, Burlington Road. The kitchen team included well known chefs included Gary O’Hanlon, of ‘The Restaurant’ fame and Danni Barry, whose restaurant, Clenaghans, took the Best Newcomer national title. Bistro in Waterford, and Elena Martinez of Crover House Hotel.

Liam Edwards, president of the RAI, said: “As an industry, the restaurateurs, pub-owners and entrepreneurs of Ireland continue to defy the odds. You strive to create jobs, expand upon Ireland’s understanding of food standards and world cuisine, all while maintaining exemplary customer service. Your support of Irish produce has never been greater and for this you should be wholeheartedly applauded.”


Best Gastro Pub:

Dublin – The Legal Eagle

Connaught – Cronin’s Sheebeen

Leinster – Lennons Gastro Pub

Munster – Moorings

Ulster – The Brewer’s House

All-Ireland – The Legal Eagle

Best Hotel & Guesthouse Restaurant:

Dublin – The Marker Hotel

Connaught – Wilde’s at The Lodge

Leinster – Ballyfin Demesne

Munster – Park Hotel Kenmare

Ulster – Newforge House

All-Ireland – Park Hotel Kenmare

Best Newcomer winners:

Dublin – Michael’s Mount Merrion

Connaught – Hooked

Leinster – Barrows Keep

Munster – Dooks Fine Foods Fethard

Ulster – Clenaghans

All-Ireland – Clenaghans

Best Cafe winners:

Dublin – Honey Truffle

Connaught – Pudding Row

Leinster – Strandfield Café

Munster – Maison Gourmet

Ulster – The Jolly Sandwich Bar

All-Ireland – Pudding Row

Best Wine Experience winners:

Dublin – Piglet Wine Bar

Connaught – Aniar Restaurant and Boutique Cookery School

Leinster – La Touche Wines 4 U

Munster – The Black Pig

Ulster – Ox Cave

All-Ireland – Piglet Wine Bar

Best World Cuisine winners:

Dublin – Nightmarket

Connaught – MoMA Restaurant

Leinster – Pink Salt Indian Restaurant

Munster – Palmento

Ulster – Tuk Tuk Asian Bistro

All-Ireland – Nightmarket

Best Kids Size Me winners:

Dublin – Michael’s Mount Merrion

Connaught – Gather Restaurant

Leinster – Platform Pizza Bar

Munster – GROW HQ Café and Food Education Centre

Ulster – Amici

All-Ireland – Michaels Mount Merrion

Best Local Food Hero winners:

Dublin – Jenny & Patrick McNally of McNally Family Farm

All-Ireland – Mark Murphy & Mark Doe of The Apprentice Chef Programme

Best Casual Dining winners:

Dublin – Hey Donna

Connaught – Gather Restaurant

Leinster – Truffles Restaurant & Wine Bar

Munster – Pilgrim’s

Ulster – Shu Restaurant Belfast

All-Ireland – Pilgrim’s

Best Emerging Irish Cuisine winners:

Dublin – Craft Restaurant

Connaught – Tartare Café + Wine Bar

Leinster – Kernel Bar & Kitchen

Munster – Sage Restaurant

Ulster – 28 Darling St

All-Ireland – Craft Restaurant

Best Restaurant Manager winners:

Dublin – Talha Pasha of Michael’s Mount Merrion

Connaught – Lee Hanifa of The Cottage Restaurant

Leinster – Joanne Harding of the Aldridge Lodge

Munster – Sally O’Brien of Farmgate Restaurant and Country Store

Ulster – Saul McConnell of NOBLE. Holywood

All-Ireland – Sally O’Brien of Farmgate Restaurant and Country Store

Best ‘Free From’ winners:

Dublin – I Monelli

Connaught – Sweet Beat Café

Leinster – Zucchini’s Restaurant

Munster – Nutrilicious Food Co

Ulster – The Dirty Duck

All-Ireland – Sweet Beat Café

Best Customer Service winners:

Dublin – Etto

Connaught – House of Plates

Leinster – Roundwood House

Munster – The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge

Ulster – Harvey’s Point

All-Ireland – Harvey’s Point

Pub of the Year winners:

Dublin – Walshs Stoneybatter

Connaught – Flynns Bar

Leinster – Morrisseys

Munster – Murphy’s Bar Brandon

Ulster – Tomneys Bar

All-Ireland – Walshs Stoneybatter

Best Chef winners:

Dublin – Barry Sun Jian of Etto

Connaught – Jess Murphy of Kai Restaurant

Leinster – Sam Moody at Ballyfin Demesne

Munster – Aidan McGrath of Wild Honey Inn

Ulster – Chris McGowan of Wine & Brine

All-Ireland – Jess Murphy of Kai Restaurant

Best Restaurant winners:

Dublin – Etto

Connaught – Cian’s on Bridge Street

Leinster – TwoCooks Restaurant & Wine Bar

Munster – Mews Restaurant

Ulster – The Muddlers Club

All-Ireland – Etto

National winners:

Best Private Dining & Club Restaurant – Locks Windsor Terrace

Best Cocktail Experience – The Sidecar at The Westbury

Best Cookery School – MacNean House & Restaurant

Best Seafood Experience – Klaw Seafood Restaurant

Best Digital Marketing – Kai Restaurant



Ballyfin Demesne named Irish hotel of the year


Ballyfin Demesne has been named the AA’s hotel of the year 2018.

The five star hotel in Co. Laois is a former boarding school which underwent an extensive nine-year restoration before opening as a luxury hotel in 2011. It stands on 600 acres of grounds and is home to a series of formal gardens designed by Jim Reynolds. The hotel was previously voted best hotel in the world in 2016 by readers of US travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler.

The B&B rate at Ballyfin starts at €960 for a double room, running to €1,710 for the best suite in the house. Most guests, however, opt for the full board package (from €1,275 for two people), which includes lunch or afternoon tea on arrival, cocktail hour, dinner in the State Dining Room or the Van Der Hagan Room, and breakfast the following morning.

Until 2015, Ballyfin was open only to residents, however reservations are now accepted for dinner for groups of up to six guests, who have variety of menu options to choose from, costing from €105 for three-courses à la carte, to €125 for an eight-course tasting menu.

Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, presenting the award to Ballyfin’s general manager Damien Bastiat in Dublin last night, said: “The story of Irish tourism over the last 10 years has been one of hard work and perseverance to get through the troubled times of the economic downturn in order to come out the other side as a thriving industry. “Ballyfin Demesne, with its welcoming staff and steep history only highlights the best of what the hospitality industry offers to visitors from at home and abroad.”

The other main award winners were Aldridge Lodge in Duncannon, Co Wexford (AA Guest House Accommodation of the Year), and The Twelve hotel in Barna, Co Galway (AA Courtesy and Care award).

New 134 room hotel planned for Galway

Press Up Entertainment, Ireland’s largest and fastest growing pub and restaurant group, are said to have acquired a site in Galway with planning permission for a 134-bedroom hotel.

The site is located near Prospect Hill received planning permission for a hotel last year following an application by Highgate Properties. It is understood Press Up paid €4.5 million for the land. In addition to the bedrooms, there is permission for two bars within the building, which will ultimately have a total gross floor area of 5,310sq m. The acquisition comes as Press Up eye opportunities to expand into the UK market in the near future.

Press Up is the largest restaurant and venue group in the country and the group behind well-known restaurants such as Captain America’s, Roberta’s and the Dean Hotel. Press Up, which last year had a turnover of about €52 million, has said it hopes to open at least nine new hospitality venues over the coming year, including the Devlin hotel in Ranelagh, Dublin, which will open in the summer.

The group is also reported to be developing a 140-bedroom hotel in Cork. It is also planning a revamp of former private members’ club Residence on St Stephen’s Green, which it purchased recently. In addition, Press Up will soon open a cocktail bar in a three-storey building on Dublin’s Aungier Street, which company documents suggest will be called The Dutch Billy. The group’s other recent purchases include the well-known Elephant & Castle restaurant business in Temple Bar.

Job vacancies in hotel sector increased 200% in last five years

Job vacancies in the hotel sector have increased by almost 200% from 2013- 2017 according to

The job board said demand for key hotel roles such as hotel chef, bartenders, waiters, receptionists, porters, cocktail mixologists and concierges have all increased hugely. Every role has experienced growth in the last five years, particularly since 2016. Vacancies for hotel chefs increased by 149 percent over the five-year period and although vacancies were down by 9pc in 2017 compared to 2016, the number remains high. Hotel bartending, mixologist and concierge vacancies all soared by 80 percent in 2017 compared to just the year before.

Ireland’s hotel sector has demonstrated remarkable resilience,” said Christopher Paye, general manager of Despite a drop in visitors and revenue from the crucial British market, 2016 proved to be a turning point for the sector, thanks to rising numbers of tourists from the rest of Europe, North America and Asia. Paye continues, “However, there is a mounting risk that demand for workers will outstrip supply, and this is already proving the case for chefs,” and he warns the growth of Ireland’s tourism industry will be “short-lived” if the skills shortages are left unaddressed.

The hospitality sector is worth €7.2bn to the Irish economy and supports an estimated 235,000 jobs. There was welcome news for the sector last week when Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys announced changes to employment permit regulations which saw the removal of certain chef grades from the ineligible occupation list. These changes will make it easier to source chefs from outside the European Economic Area.

Meanwhile, hotel group Dalata has said it expects to add some 300 jobs in Ireland this year thanks to the opening of three new hotels, two in Dublin and one in Cork. The new properties are expected to open by the end of the year.