First Encounters: Sandy and John Wyer

Sat, Jan 4, 2014, 00:00

Sandy Wyer grew up in Queens, New York, before moving to Germany more than a decade ago. She trained at Cork Institute of Technology before moving to Dublin. She lives in Irishtown, Dublin with her husband, John, and their three-year-old daughter, Ruby

I grew up in Queens. I left New York in about 2000 and went travelling to Germany and that’s where John was. We were both working in an Irish pub and met there. He’s from Cork, so we came to Cork then and our professional cookery started there in CIT.

Then we went off to Barcelona for a while, Galicia, and then we came back to Ireland and settled in Dublin about six years ago. After we worked together in Germany, when we first came to Dublin we worked together in L’Ecrivain for three years. We’ve worked together more often than not. So we know the things that get on each others nerves. We know when to stay out of each others way.

When I’m frantic, he’s calm.

Myself and John have been cooking for the last 10 years. It was always something in the back of our heads that we wanted a restaurant.

Our training is in fine dining for the most part, but we enjoy going out to eat in places that are a little less formal. We wanted to give people fine dining at an affordable price . . . The design is influenced by]New York and places we’ve seen and travelled to. It’s a simple style, not too much stuff on the walls, really clean design, open and airy.

I think we both had a passion for food. We both ended up in the kitchen in the restaurant where we previously had been front of house. This realisation that we had a passion for cooking that we didn’t really know about brought us together. We’re both quite relaxed personalities – well he’s not relaxed in the kitchen but he’s quite a relaxed person!

The whole thing has been a dream really . . . And we have a three-year-old daughter, so we wanted to do it for all three of us, so when she grows up she can see us being successful and be successful herself.

John has a lot of conviction and he believes very strongly in those ideals that he has. That’s one of the things I like most about him: he doesn’t waiver from what he thinks, he sticks to it no matter what the consequences might be. He’s passionate and holds firmly to his beliefs. He’s a very kind person.

He doesn’t cook at home so I would have to say the best thing he makes there is scrambled eggs because that’s all I get! But he brings the same passion he has in the kitchen to everything else. He’s competitive, he plays guitar, he speaks three languages, he’s great at sport. I don’t want to toot his horn, but he’s very determined.

When he wants to do something well, nothing stops him. He’s a good leader, he loves teaching people. I think he’s really soft as a father, so when she wants something she goes to him! He’s an excellent father. He makes sure the time he spends with our daughter is quality, but she’s got him wrapped around her little finger!

John Wyer is from Cork and met his wife Sandy in Germany where they worked together before returning to his homeland. After moving to Dublin and working in fine dining, they recently opened their own restaurant, Forest Avenue in Dublin 4.

I remember the first time I saw Sandy. It was in a pub in Germany, and I was just kind of checking her out. A few days later I spoke to her, in the same pub in Heidelberg, a small student town in Germany.

That was the start of our working relationship and we’ve always had a great one. I trust Sandy completely. She’s very good at what she does, so there’s never been a reason for us to fight . . . The last few months here have been hard, because it’s been a completely different animal. Setting up a restaurant has been a strain, so you have a few arguments here and there, but we enjoy each other’s company.

I suppose we had spent nearly three years in Germany and both of us had worked in a few different restaurants, so the thought process was we would come back to Ireland and begin the project of trying to better our careers, learn more, and ultimately begin on a path of setting up our own restaurant. We were young chefs at the time, went to the technical college in Cork while working in restaurants in Cork city.

Her accent is quite funny to me now . . . I only realise the difference when I meet her family. When I hear her sister go into her Queens accent, I realize that’s how Sandy should sound, but instead she sounds a bit like me!

Sandy is very calm. She has amazing self-control and has a massive calming influence on people. She’s very, very good at handling pressure, whereas I’m edgy and I can lose the plot very quickly. She’s at her best with pressure – she eats it up. We had a pretty tough year setting up this restaurant, a project of about nine months. She was so solid throughout the whole process, very strong . . . I knew that before, but after setting up the restaurant, I reflected on it again and just thought, ‘God, that’s so amazing to be like that’. Not a lot of people can. Even now she’s taking on a role that’s new to her, running front of house, and she’s thrown herself into it.

She’s a great home cook. She does amazing Thai curries. At home we like to eat things we’re normally not surrounded by, so North African food, that kind of thing. She whips up curries in a few minutes. There will be nothing in the fridge and all of a sudden she has an amazing green curry and I’m like, ‘how the hell did that happen?’

We’ve got a week off in January and we’re going to spend that week focusing on the next step for the restaurant. We haven’t had time to think about it. People say, ‘you must be so proud’, but we haven’t even thought about it.

We’ll go to Cork on Christmas Eve, go to my local, and take a couple of days to sit on the couch, eat and drink wine, just like most Irish people.