Executive Chef at The Glasshouse Hotel for the last five years, Alan Fitzmaurice is no stranger to accolades for his creative culinary skills. This high flying chef is surprisingly down to earth though, and certainly hasn’t lost touch with his west of Ireland roots.
Born in Castlerea, Co. Roscommon, Alan was sixth in a family of seven and recalls a happy, country style childhood. It’s only in retrospect that he realises what an excellent and organised cook his mother was, effortlessly managing a teaching career and her brood of youngsters. His memories are of home baked bread, hearty puddings and casseroles slow cooked to perfection in the Aga, ready for hungry children after school. They fished and hunted with their Dad and learned to forage nature’s wild bounty as a matter of course. He remembers rushing into the back kitchen one day and swinging the door shut, only to be clocked on the head by a hanging pheasant.
The full time chefs course in GMIT Galway introduced him to the classics of cooking, beginning with the basics. They learned butchering and with a smile he remembers a small girl from Clare ‘only five apples high’, wrestling with a huge forequarter of beef, with only the meatsaw visible from across the room. He believes these lessons are a vital part of a chefs training and regrets the change towards a more theoretical syllabus. He cites kitchen porters who have come up the ranks and learned on the job; ending up more skilled than some with strings of qualifications.
After college Alan spent a few years honing his skills in top class Galway kitchens. He worked for the fiery but immensely talented John Casey in the Westwood whose CV included the Roux Brothers La Gavroche and the Dorchester. The 26 chef kitchen in Park House was a fertile training ground and great experience for the young chef. Following his heart (aka his now wife, Tracy) he moved to Sligo working in Cafe Cairo and then The Waterfront in Rosses Point. An 18 month stint in Castle Dargan brought him back to hotels before he moved to The Glasshouse.
His approach is to take classic dishes and add his own individual twist. Quality ingredients are key and he demands the best from his suppliers, buying locally where possible.
Alan has rediscovered his childhood love of foraging and brings his own children out searching for wild raspberries and strawberries, and teaching them to identify wild mushrooms. Wild ‘peas’ were a recent discovery – the seedpods of the vetch plant. He’s perhaps not quite as single minded as his mother who had an obsession with crab apples. Hearing of a fruiting tree, she would bundle all seven kids into the Mark 1 Cortina and travel the Roscommon byroads on the hunt.
Although when he begins to speak about chocolate, it seems that obsessive streak might have passed down a generation. No wonder he earned a Gold Medal at Catex for hand crafted chocolate.