The Irish man cooking for 400 a day at an outdoor café in New Zealand

My kitchen rules: Francis Nolan, Marlborough, New Zealand

Francis Nolan, head chef at Vines Village Café in Blenheim, Marlborough

Francis Nolan, head chef at Vines Village Café in Blenheim, Marlborough

 

As part of Food Month at The Irish Times, Irish chefs working abroad tell us about their jobs. Francis Nolan, from Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, is head chef at a restaurant in Marlborough, in the heart of New Zealand wine country.

November is Food Month in The Irish Times. You will find food-related content in all of our sections, plus reader events, competitions and lots of exclusive content at irishtimes.com/food
November is Food Month in The Irish Times. You will find food-related content in all of our sections, plus reader events, competitions and lots of exclusive content at irishtimes.com/food

Where a did you train as a chef?
I trained at Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), from 1998 to 2000.

Where are you currently working?
I’m head chef at the Vines Village Café in Blenheim, Marlborough.

What took you to New Zealand?
In 2001 I went travelling to Asia, then Australia for a year. I wasn’t ready to go home so I got a year visa for New Zealand ... and I’m still here.

What has been your career path leading to your current job?
I trained and worked in Dublin, then I worked around Australia and New Zealand in various hotels, restaurants and cafes. I worked my way up from chef de partie, sous chef to head chef. I learned a lot of different styles, techniques and cuisines along the way.

What type of restaurant do you work at?
The Vines Village Café specialises in nourishing breakfasts, coffee, wine industry catering, tasty lunches, private functions and events.

Outdoor living at The Vines Village Café
Outdoor living at The Vines Village Café

What does your daily work routine involve?
I start work at 8am and begin by checking the bookings, setting up the kitchen for breakfast, setting up the preparation needed for the salads and cabinet food. Usually the bakers are already at work making the cakes, slices, scones, and desserts. I have to prepare the à la carte, and make sure all the chefs and front of house staff are ready to go for service. Service begins as soon as the first order comes in and we can do up 400 meals a day. After lunch service I have to make a prep list for the next day, ensure the kitchen is cleaned properly and order food for the next day. I also will check the kitchen garden for fresh vegetables and herbs.

How does working in your current job differ from your previous experiences?
Before I had my children, most of my other jobs were evening jobs. After years of working nights, this is a day job. It is far busier, due to the variety of food served at the café. It doesn’t stop, from the morning until late afternoon. Even though this is a café, it is still a professionally run kitchen with the same high standards as anywhere else I have worked.

Do you work with any very unusual ingredients?
There is no difficulty sourcing ingredients in Marlborough. We are lucky to live in an area rich in seasonal fresh produce such as vegetables, meat and seafood. We are close to the sea and the weather is great most of the year. Most of the ingredients are the same as at home. I have cooked with Paua, a New Zealand abalone, clams and whitebait, which are a bit different than in Ireland.

Francis Nolan: ‘We are lucky to live in an area rich in seasonal fresh produce such as vegetables, meat and seafood’
Francis Nolan: ‘We are lucky to live in an area rich in seasonal fresh produce such as vegetables, meat and seafood’

Is eating out expensive in New Zealand?
Eating out is expensive here, but it is in Ireland too. It depends where you go.

Where do you like to eat when you’re not working, and what is it you like about it?
I have a wife and two young children, aged five years and 19-months, so we don’t get out that much. For a special treat, we go to a nice restaurant or bar. All the bars here do food. Most nights we eat at home or at friends’ houses. Barbecues are popular.

What should someone visiting New Zealand not miss as regards a culinary experience?
Do not miss Marlborough, for the amazing choices of food and wine and the fantastic weather and scenery.

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