Amateur chefs a hit with diners

A TOP pub and restaurant has let four amateur chefs loose in its kitchen, giving a local twist to the celebrity chef-style competition.

Cronin’s Pub in Crosshaven, Co Cork, threw open the doors of its award-winning Mad Fish restaurant to the four food novices. And their menus have been going down a treat with diners.

Flame-haired pub owner Joleen Cronin, who organised the hugely successful Red Head Convention in Crosshaven last summer, said she was stunned by the response to the competition.

“The idea behind the Cronin’s Celebrity Chef series was to invite people who are not typically in the food industry to design their own menu and cook in the Mad Fish Restaurant,” she said.

Applicants were short-listed, and following interviews, the four finalists were selected.

They are IBM Cork’s engineering manager Fintan Ronan, taxi driver, Triona O’Neill, who is a former cook on board the Asgard, Jeanie Johnston and Dunbrody tall ships, fashion designer James Upton and Pfizers lab chemist Chris Brack.

Self-styled ‘foodie’ James took over the kitchen last week, under the watchful eye of head chef, Denis Cronin, Joleen’s brother.

He transformed the restaurant into a French bistro, serving a mouth-watering six-course meal to 32 diners.

Guests enjoyed a glass of kir and roasted chestnuts while perusing the menu in the bar, and a choice of amuse bouche — foie gras or an oyster topped with vinaigrette.

His starters included country liver pate, chicken terrine, a warm mousse of mussels in a saffron jus, French onion soup, or fricassee of mushrooms topped with poached egg.

The main course offered a choice of slow cooked tender beef cheeks with maize dumplings, a bistro steak with thinly cut French fries and bearnaise sauce, a fillet of monkfish wrapped in bacon with tomatoes and black olives, and a parcel of goat’s cheese. And for dessert, he offered a creme brulee with a hint of ginger, a chocolate mousse, floating islands, apple tart tatin, creme caramel, sorbet cassis or a traditional chocolate tart.

The final contestant, Chris Brack, will swap his lab coat for an apron on March 3.

The judges — Virginie Sarrazin of Star Anise Restaurant on Bridge Street, Cork, restaurateur Claire Nash of Nash 19, Tom Durcan of Durcan Meats, English Market, and Conor O’Brien of James Nicholson’s Wines — will announce their winner on the night. The prize is a cooking course with Clodagh McKenna.

Meanwhile, Joleen confirmed Cronin’s will host another Red Head Convention on August 20.

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