Published 02/03/2008 | 00:00
His restaurant, Bon Appetit, in Malahide, had only been open a year when it was awarded a Michelin star, breaking all records in Irish culinary history. At only 30, Dunne has won his Michelin stripes in the shortest time ever in Ireland.
He planned his career trajectory by reading the Michelin guide. Dunne made a decision to work his way methodically through the very finest kitchens in the British Isles, and has worked with Gary Rhodes and Gordon Ramsay.
He insists that Ramsay's famous bullying is played up for the camera. "I've worked with Gordon Ramsay and he doesn't behave like that," he says. Dunne has no time for kitchen egomania, which he considers to be bad practice that fundamentally undermines the relationship between a chef and his staff.
He gave up almost everything in his 20s to pursue excellence as a chef. Having started out in Gotham Cafe and Peacock Alley, he moved to London where, having no friends or family around, he allowed himself to become completely submerged in the job.
He crammed two-and-a-
half years' experience into a single year when he first moved to London. He worked 70 to 80-hour weeks in the kitchens of restaurants such as City Rhodes and Le Gavroche. On his days off, he would work in other restaurants. "I was like a dead man walking," he says.
He's adamant that Michelin's rigorous and exacting standards aren't restrictive or a tyranny. "People have this cloak-and-dagger perception of the Michelin guide. But it's only half the story. You don't have to clean the toilets every two hours or have exactly four metres between the tables, or any of that stuff. One star is just a marker of guaranteed quality," he says.
He knows he is lucky that his fiancee, Sabine, has worked in the restaurant trade. She understands completely the dedication it takes to run a restaurant to Dunne's exacting standards. The couple have a son and, in taking on Bon Appetit, Oliver wanted to find a way to fit in family life. "I wanted a good balance. I was beginning to feel like a social misfit. Sometimes, the only contact I'd have with the outside world was listening to the radio on the way to work," he says.