Anne O’Dowd’s youth, enthusiasm and can-do attitude are surely a recipe for success in the hospitality industry. Along with her brand new husband of just two weeks, the wonderfully named Mark Tickle, Anne runs Áit Eile restaurant in her home town of Enniscrone.
The pair met seven years ago in Melbourne, where Business Management graduate Anne was waitressing and Manchester born Mark was plying his trade as a bricklayer. Anne adored the hospitality scene in Australia finding it vibrant and lively compared to home. She loved the new tastes and abundance of fresh ingredients available to chefs. When customers asked the shy Irish waitress what she planned to do with her life, she glibly replied that she wanted to open her own restaurant. Those turned out to be prophetic words.
After two years the young couple left Australia. Anne spent a year in Galway, gaining more valuable front-of-house experience while Mark returned to his native Manchester. However their travelling days were not yet over and they grasped an opportunity to work in New Zealand and headed back down under. This turned out to be a seminal experience for Anne who really found her feet and her vocation. First she spent time in a contemporary Auckland café where the coffee culture was king and this left a lasting impression on her. Then further south in Tauranga, she was involved in a restaurant start up situation, where her combined hospitality and business skills came to the fore. The seeds for running her own business were well and truly sown.
In 2013 Anne and Mark moved to Enniscrone and Anne began managing Áit Eile, the restaurant at Gilroy’s pub where she had worked as a student. A year later when the lease came available, the entrepreneurial pair grasped the nettle and the rest is history.
It’s not the most orthodox of combinations – a business graduate and a brickie running a seaside restaurant – but it works. Recently things have taken yet another quirky turn and when the kitchen was shorthanded, Anne pitched in to help. To her surprise, she loves it, and that’s where she plans to stay. She works alongside talented Head Chef Mark Kavanagh and has discovered a real grá for baking and desserts. Mark manages the front of house team. Their staff are all local and many of the waiting staff are students – doing exactly what Anne did a decade or more ago.
Áit Eile opens seven days a week in high season and Thursday to Sunday at this time of year. They close for three weeks each November, giving everyone a chance to take a much needed holiday. For Mark and Anne that will be a delayed honeymoon in the Philippines where they got engaged last year.
Despite her upbringing in surf mad Enniscrone, and the years in Australia, the surfing bug never bit Anne. Instead, she enjoys horse riding as her way of taking time out from a busy work environment. That’s not Mark’s idea of relaxation though, he’s a golfer through and through –and where better to settle down than Enniscrone?