Two words that came to define Ireland in 2020 and continue to do so this year. As we struggle to come to terms with the impact of Covid-19 and the ever shifting pattern of restrictions and regulations, we have certainly come to appreciate the power of pulling together.
Eric Matthews, head chef at Dublin’s Michelin star Chapter One Restaurant knows all about the necessity and benefits of teamwork. “It’s the most basic ingredient to success in any enterprise, but nowhere more essential than in a restaurant kitchen,” he says.
“We’ve always been flat-out busy at Chapter One but I’m a believer in looking after our staff and achieving a balance in life. It benefits everyone. So we had in effect introduced a four day week by moving shifts around, keeping us all fresh and energised which again, is vital in this business.”
Eric Matthews, Head Chef of Chapter One
A Change of Routine
It also gave Eric and the team time to focus on training and standards, “we focus on a particular aspect – anything from chocolate to butchery, bread or fish – as an opportunity to share knowledge in key area” says Eric.
Passing his skills on to the home cook has been keeping him busy since the first lockdown was suddenly implemented in mid-March.
Eric, with his most cherished teammate, and since Christmas, fiancee Ciara, were in her hometown, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford enjoying a break when she got a call asking her to come back to the office in Dublin. As Head of Social Media for a major retailer, she and Eric packed and returned. Only a few days later lockdown was announced so they couldn’t get back to Dungarvan.
The ever busy Eric, suddenly having time on his hands, toyed with the idea of writing a book. He instead decided to partner his skills with Ciara’s and the two launched the now Instagram renowned Cabin Fever Classics cookery school for the home chef. Sharing his secrets for everything from producing the perfect steak and chips to fish pie and paella, he and Ciara chat and talk us through the steps.
“She’s awesome,” says Eric. “She got back from a full day’s work and then each of our episodes took six hours to create. But we have had the greatest time. And we now get randomly approached by generous people with bottles of wine, thanking us for our efforts!”
The global reset on all levels of society due to Covid-19 and lockdown has led to a shift back to the home, baking and cooking, using the best ingredients, as we seek to boost the immune system as well as family and household comfort. The health, wellness, and protection of our friends and colleagues has become our priority, changing the habits of a lifetime and strengthening our understanding of interdependence and appreciation of community.
“It all ultimately highlights the priority of supporting our food producers. Obviously I and my team at Chapter One have always understood this, and are honoured to work with the best. We couldn’t function without our suppliers,” says Eric.
The food industry across the board stepped up admirably and promptly to the challenge. “Our staff readily adapted to changing shifts to cope with the pressure of increased production of our high quality fresh foods while maintaining standards,” according to John Casey of Galmere Foods Limited.
(image:Jennifer Oppermann for Galmere Foods)
The New Roots and Shoots Vegan Meal Bowls
He continues, “Like all of our colleagues in fine food production our team has implemented a raft of new measures and have been working flat out. Obviously, measures such as personal protection wear, masks, gloves, deep cleaning at frequent and regular intervals have been introduced as well as a new on-site Covid-19 testing centre to facilitate regular testing. Our team’s wellbeing is our top priority.”
“We work in the heart of Galway’s fine food production community and we take our responsibilities extremely seriously. Our team live and work close by so our responsibility is to the schools, shops and local businesses as much as it is to our own customers,” he says.
Galmere, as one of the industry’s premier advocates of supporting Irish producers, has also launched a number of new products with health and wellbeing front of mind.
The new products include a range of vegan meal bowls for their plant friendly brand, Roots and Shoots. The range which includes Kerala Aubergine Curry, Chana Palak Masala (Chickpea & Spinach Curry), Butternut & Chickpea Tagine, & a Green Lentil Dahl are now on shelf in Tesco Ireland and Joyce’s Supermarkets across Galway.
The home cook, stocked up with Galmere’s range of salads, soups, sauces and pestos, and armed with Eric Matthews’ tuition is becoming a true pro. “My top three tips,” says Eric when asked, “would be cook what is in season, become good friends with your local grocer and butcher, and cook what you enjoy cooking. And experiment!”
With renewed Covid-19 restrictions, Cabin Fever Classics is running three times weekly on Instagram, at @eric.matthews87. And yes, Eric runs 10k daily. Worth it though for a slice of that classic fish pie.
Get Curated Insights by Galmere
The newsletter, issued every few weeks, will contain interesting and entertaining news, articles, and interviews. As well as sharing our own news, we will be linking you with top Chefs, marketing specialists, and other leaders in the Irish and international food industries. Showcasing career journeys and focusing on issues like sustainability within both our dynamic industry and others we connect with.