Ross Lewis, chef-patron of Chapter One in Dublin, was head chef for the State Banquet during this year's state visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland. He tells James Stagg how he represented the best of Irish produce and how the industry is overcoming Ireland's economic woes.
What was on the menu? We served cured salmon with Burren smoked salmon cream and lemon balm jelly. Main course was eye of the rib of Slaney Valley Beef with wild garlic and pickled garlic sauce, ox cheek and tongue. Dessert was Carrageen set West Cork cream with Meath strawberries.
So you clearly deliberately chose ingredients that said Ireland. I was asked to devise a menu and oversee the banquet for the Queen on behalf of the President of Ireland and wanted to reflect the patchwork quilt of seasonality and small, quality producers. We set about assessing what was the best and available for the time of year. Based on that we came up with a somewhat traditional dinner, as it would have to be being the occasion that it was.
So you kept it traditional with a bit of innovation? We wanted to articulate the quality of small suppliers with a little story to tell, so it was as innovative as strawberries and cream could be. We wanted food that had a narrative.
Did you get any feedback? It was a great success. Obviously a huge task, taking up six weeks of my life. The next morning I received a call from the president herself who articulated to me how grateful she was that the food was fantastic and the night went so well.
How is the hospitality industry in Ireland faring? Like anywhere you have an economic downturn you have strong products still doing reasonably well. Most people are doing well at the weekends but there are less people out during the week. Whether every restaurant can survive medium or long term on weekend business only remains to be seen.
What is the industry doing to increase trade? The industry has reacted very quickly. It's lowered prices and been very flexible and been a lot more resilient that I thought. At Chapter One we always give good value and haven't raised any prices for the past three years. But we've still got a very strong business.