If ever there was a chef who loves what he does with a passion, it’s David Shannon, Head Chef in The Hill Hotel, Gurteen. He’s a man who is just where he wants to be.
Born just three miles down the road, David is the youngest of four and has three brothers and a sister. The family was raised by his mother after the premature death of his father when David was just four years old. Although intelligent and active, he found the discipline of school a challenge, and his daydreaming was a nightmare for teachers. He preferred to be out fishing and hunting or helping his mother in the kitchen.
Post school, it turned out that David’s social and outgoing personality was a perfect fit for sales work. His natural enthusiasm for people led to a successful career in selling maintenance and repair products all over the west and north west. Life was good.
However an unexpected spell of illness changed that and although he made a full recovery, his outlook on life had altered. During his recuperation, food sparked his interest and he was drawn to the kitchen once more. He had lost his previous enthusiasm for direct sales, confirmed by a short spell back in his old job. Spotting an article about a course in Hospitality Operations was to change his life forever; David jumped at the opportunity to learn about cooking and kitchens. That 12 month course in Drumshanbo opened a new world and suddenly he couldn’t get enough of reading about anything and everything to do with food. As he remarks wryly, if he’d done half that amount of reading in school he would have been a model student.
He used the qualification to get work experience in top kitchens around the northwest, soaking up knowledge like a thirsty sponge. He learned much from his older sister, also a chef. He speaks with awe of the kitchen regime at The Cottage Restaurant in Carrick on Shannon. David waxes lyrical about the organisation backstage, the almost regimental efficiency which leads to perfect consistency front of house. It’s clear that this has strongly influenced the way he runs his own kitchen.
David is very proud of traditional Irish cooking, harking back to the kitchen of his childhood. Despite his training and experience, he reckons there are still dishes his mother produces that he can’t replicate. Like her potato cakes for example – even a rumour that’s she’s making them will bring her four burly sons from every corner of the county!
This is David’s first position as Head Chef and although he’s still fairly new in the job, he has put his own stamp on it. He is effusive in praising his team, particularly David O’Neill, his vastly experienced second in command. He loves planning menus, using local produce and combining the best of Irish traditional cuisine with his own special touches.
It looks like his long suffering teachers have forgiven him as well; at least two of them are regulars at The Hill Hotel.