Chef and writer who was at the frontier of Irish cuisine for more than four decades

First volume of poems was launched by Michael D Higgins

Gerry Galvin was one of the most creative chefs of Ireland’s culinary development . He was also an influential food writer. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Gerry Galvin was one of the most creative chefs of Ireland’s culinary development . He was also an influential food writer. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Sat, Mar 30, 2013, 06:00

Gerry Galvin, who has died aged 70, was best known as one of the most creative chefs of Ireland’s culinary development and also was an influential food writer, a published poet and the author of a gastronomic crime thriller.

At the frontier of Irish cuisine for more than four decades, his “outstanding contribution” both as chef and educator of chefs, was acknowledged in a special award by Euro-toques Ireland, part of a European community of chefs and cooks formed to protect traditional foods, culinary heritage and committed to sourcing quality ingredients locally. As a founding member of the group, he was selected to be one of its first commissioners by Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House.

A lover of poetry, Galvin was a poet in his own right and at one stage considered turning his hand to writing as a career. But having earned a meagre £11 from writing in the space of a trial year, he wisely decided to concentrate on the restaurant business.

Continuing to write, nonetheless, his first volume of poems, No Recipe , was launched in 2010 by his fellow poet Michael D Higgins.

Like most restaurateurs, as patron-chef of two highly successful restaurants, the Vintage in Kinsale and Drimcong House in Moycullen, he had little time for food critics. Doubtless, this explains why a fictional member of that profession is portrayed as a serial killer in his satirical thriller, Killer á la Carte . “I like to think people can see the book as a bit of a send-up of the nonsense and bullshit that goes on now around food,” he said.

Born in Dromcollogher in west Limerick, where his family had a drapery shop, he was educated in Newbridge College and at the Shannon College of Hotel Management. When he was 17, he cut his culinary teeth in the kitchens of Dublin’s Gresham Hotel, an establishment that counted the rich and famous among its guests.

These included Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco and the stellar celebrity couple of their day Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who was in Dublin filming The Spy Who came In From The Cold .

‘Dress dance turkey’
Galvin’s daily chores, however, were far from glamorous. He learned how to squeeze oranges for fresh orange juice with a hand squeezer. He also learned to plate up for dinner dances, hours in advance, and prepare the “dress dance turkey”. And grapes had to be peeled and pipped.

Later, at Shannon, he was impressed by the director, classically trained Swiss hotelier Jorgen Blum, whose sophisticated approach to hotels and catering was new to Ireland.

Graduating in 1965, he worked in the hospitality sector in England and South Africa before returning to Ireland to manage the Trident Hotel in Kinsale. Having spent another year in London – specifically to gain restaurant experience – he and his wife, Marie, sister of journalist Vincent Browne, returned to open the Vintage in Kinsale.

Over the next 12 years, Galvin was to play a significant role in putting the Cork seaside town on the culinary map. However, the family moved to the elegant 17th-century Drimcong House in Galway which for 18 years became one of the country’s leading restaurants. In 2001, they sold Drimcong, bought a camper van and spent an idyllic year touring in Europe.

His cook books include Everyday Gourmet and The Drimcong Food Affair .

He is survived by Marie, his wife, daughters Christina and Jennie, and son John.