A minute on the clock: Katie O'Brien

24 November 2005
A minute on the clock: Katie O'Brien

Chef Paul Kitching and partner Katie O'Brien, of the Michelin-starred Juniper in Altrincham, celebrated the restaurant's 10th anniversary last week with a 10-course gourmet dinner. Joanna Wood, who was there alongside several well-known chefs, spoke to O'Brien about the night

How does it feel to have got through 10 years? Relief at still being here and being a success. People are still interested in us and what we do, probably even more so than 10 years ago.

Did you ever feel like giving up? No, not really. There was always something positive every year, whether it was a great review or award, so we've continued to achieve recognition - and that makes it easy to carry on. To be honest, time just flies. It doesn't feel like 10 years.

Did you feel like joining the party instead of hosting it? It was sort of like a work night, but my staff did a great job and I could enjoy it. But you do still want to impress everyone, so you have to keep your eye on the ball. For Paul, it was more work, but once the food was gone he could enjoy himself.

Were the front-of-house and kitchen teams excited or nervous to be cooking for such a prestigious bunch of chefs? The front of house weren't really nervous, because they deal with people all the time. We treat everyone the same and just do our job. But I'm sure for the boys in the kitchen there was great excitement and nerves, because they didn't want to let Paul down.

How did you choose the menu? Juniper is renowned for lots of small courses and meals that go on forever. But we did not want that on this night, as I feel the before and after bits of parties are the best because you're free to talk to whom you want. We planned a relatively short menu so guests could enjoy the meal and not have to go straight home. Paul wanted to get all his "best bits" into a few dishes, so he just based his dishes around that idea.

Paul's food is very individual. Do diners get the humour behind the dishes? Yes, it is, and that's why people come. We are sort of deadpan about the humour. The thing I like is when people go for the gourmet dinner, which is 12 courses, and right at the beginning we serve them loads of little plates of extras. We know what they're thinking, so I'll count the plates in front of them, get to 12 and say: "Well, that was quick. Shall I order you a taxi?" They then look at each other and laugh, and then they relax, realising there's more to come.

How easy is it working in a business alongside your partner? Very, although when a table of four order one of each dish, it's always my fault.

What are your plans for the next 10 years? I'm not ready to think about that one…

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