|Up Close & Personal with Martin Lynch, Head Chef, Strand Palace Hotel|
Martin Lynch has always had a passion for food and cooking, using his imagination and experience to create endless mouth-watering dishes. After an incredibly colourful career that has taken him all over the world, he now works at the Strand Palace Hotel as Head Chef. We take the opportunity to ask Martin a little bit more about his work and passions…
Sitting in his office, above his culinary kingdom in the Strand Palace Hotel, Martin explains his own unique style of cooking and tells us that his food is pretty eclectic. He chooses to focus on local seasonal ingredients with an underlying emphasis on flavour. In the hotel’s Carvery & Grill restaurant, a variety of dishes bursting with international and Mediterranean flavours combined with fresh, seasonal ingredients make for a delightful exploration of contemporary cuisine. For Martin, visual presentation is as important as innovation in flavour, with judicious use of spices and other seasonings being central to the authentic dishes that he and his brigade create for the hotel’s fabulous Indian restaurant, Daawat.
“The good thing about being so well travelled, is that I’m not scared to taste; some chefs will avoid adding something outrageously random to food because they are too afraid.” Martin suggests putting a few tiny seeds from a vanilla pod into mashed potatoes for example, “A lot of chef’s would say, ‘oh no, vanilla is a dessert’ but I’m willing to take the risk.”Thanks to his extensive travels, Martin has exceptional experience in cooking a variety of exotic cuisines including mouth-watering Turkish dishes, which are mostly evolved from the rich heritage of Ottoman cuisine – a mixture and refinement of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines.
So what advice would Martin give to anyone wanting to be a Chef?
As a self-confessed workaholic, Martin tells us that as Head Chef a lot of his time can now be taken up with managerial responsibilities, but he still makes a huge effort to get involved with cooking and creating the fabulous menus that are on offer in the hotel’s popular outlets. “Being a Chef is not a job, it is a passion. You can’t cut corners and take courses and think you are immediately a chef. It takes years of training to perfect your skills and craft. Some people come into my kitchen after studying NVQ’s and they don’t even understand the very basics of cooking.” Martin suggests that anyone who wants to become a great chef starts with a basic knowledge and understanding of working with fresh, seasonal produce. When it comes to training, Martin insists that all his commis chefs learn how to work in every area of the kitchen and to taste everything as they cook, relying on their palette as they develop their skills. The most successful commis chefs are fast learners, who are not afraid to ask senior chefs in the brigade as many questions as necessary. Before moving on, Martin proudly tells us that some of his team are even beginning to come to him with their own ideas for dishes.
So where does Martin find inspiration?
“Inspiration for me, can be found in everyday things, 24 hours a day, from the quality of the ingredients I work with, to something that I have seen or experienced on my travels around the world. It’s a word that’s always associated with creativity, and it’s part of every chef’s career – it’s like a light that we have within us, and that, through passion, commitment, work and knowledge it is switched on from time to time and allows you to do extraordinary things. A good chef can be inspired from others, you watch someone cook and you think ‘oh that’s interesting’ and you adapt it and make it your own.”
Which country, out of the many that he lived and worked in, did Martin enjoy the most?
“Each of the places that I have lived and worked has been great for different reasons, depending on the culture, food and the way of life. I loved South Africa for the people, Bahrain for its colourful markets and traditional Bastikyas (wind towers), a common sight in old buildings in the old districts of Manama, and Botswana for the lifestyle. However, if I had to pick just one, then it would have to be Istanbul, Turkey – I think that has to be my favourite city and probably my most favourite cuisine.” What is the strangest thing that Martin has ever eaten? Well, Martin couldn’t really think of the strangest thing, but he says definitely the most horrible was live monkey brains!
Keep posted for some of the Head Chef’s favourite dishes and mouth-watering recipes!