Life Food & Drink

Monday 21 January 2019

'I broke down the day I left. I told him to go stick his job up his a**e' - Chef Adrian on working for a 'bully'

Young Cavan chef Adrian Martin
Young Cavan chef Adrian Martin
At the launch of the Taste of Cavan Food Festival were Adrian Martin, Eddie Atwell, Gearoid Lynch, Neven Maguire, Simon Delaney, Masterchef Ireland and Shane Smith. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Irish TV chef Adrian Martin has opened up about how a bad experience working under a 'bully' in a kitchen caused him to break down and reassess his career options.

Adrian Martin (26), who regularly appears on TV3's Six O'Clock show and has written a bestseller cookbook, told how, after working his way to the top of some of the best kitchens in Ireland and the UK, he was forced to quit his job.

"I experienced that side of it. The first day, from when you walked in the door - this guy worked under Gordon Ramsay - and his idea was that you worked under fear."

"You walk in everyday day - and I like winding people up, it's a bit of fun, if someone slagged me off I'd slag them off, and I'd slag myself off as well – but it was this environment where there was no enjoyment in it, you were put under fear."

"He'd put the fear into you no matter what you said."

"One night I got a call at 3am in the morning, where he said 'oh there are ten grams of sugar missing in that panna cotta mix and I knew I had to go in and fix it the next morn, but he rang me in the middle of the night to tell me. That's how it was'."

"Just a bully, the only word."

Martin eventually decided that he'd had enough. Eight other chefs had left the restaurant during the short time that he was there. He packed his bags, hopped on a bus, and returned to live with his parents for two months. 

"I broke down the day I left. I told him to go stick his job up his a**e. I left my apartment. You're sitting on the bus and you go home in tears."

"I had chefs telling me I could run my own Michelin star kitchen myself, but you have to go through this. But I thought I don't have to go through this, I've experienced different restaurants and you don't treat people like that, it's not the way you treat people."

"I haven't spoken to him since. I'll never speak to him again. He doesn't deserve to be spoken to."

Adrian, who is deeply passionate about food and travels around the country to demo how good food can be made easy in Irish schools, says he wants to spead a positive message about food. Young people can find life changing mentors and make great careers in the world of food. 

Fake Away by Chef Adrian, with photographs by Rob Kerkvliet, published by Mercier Press
Fake Away by Chef Adrian, with photographs by Rob Kerkvliet, published by Mercier Press

"I've seen myself come away from it and take two months off, go back to my home place in Cavan, and sit there depressed. You don't know how to get it all back."

"There are still places like that out there. If one chef goes out there and experiences that, why would he want to work in that atmosphere? The hours are colossal, it's very hard to afford to rent your apartment."

But he said: "I got back on my feet. All my friends were travelling to Australia but I said I'd stay in Ireland. But I said I'm not working for anyone ever again."

"I really recommend people going into food; we have amazing restaurants out there. I'm not trying to put people off. I just think light should be shined on it, and these bullies shouldn't be allowed to get away with it. Young chefs should be treated with respect. You can take them on a journey, you don't have to bully them."

"I'm a big believer in taking people under my own wing. When I was shooting for my second cookbook I invited in a student chef to teach him everything, stay in my apartment, cook all the recipes and teach him all I know because I said to him you deserve to learn what I know and further on your own career. Maybe I'll be there to turn around and support him when he'll bring out his own cookbook."

"I'm just about enjoying what I'm doing. I wake up in the middle of the night and jot down ideas."

The mass rush to buy bread in Storm Emma in March demonstrated the need for Irish people to return to the kitchen and learn how to bake their own.

Adrian is all about inspiring passion and know-how in students. Simple things like making omelettes and breads are easily learned, he says.

"I've been going into schools for the last three years. The idea is that we get the secondary school kids geared up for college, we teach them the basics, simple things like how to make an omelette, you'd be surprised how many kids don't know the rules of an omelette. As chefs, we say the rule is one egg, ten secs, two eggs, 20 secs, and three eggs thirty seconds."

"You have a lot of kids who go away to college, and most of their meal times are takeaways. If I could inspire one kid to cook for themselves out of each talk that I do, I'm a happy man."

"I was in a school in Sligo yesterday, and each school requests what they want to teach kids. In the snow, everyone was running out and buying a sliced pan, but really you only need four ingredients to bake bread, that's flour, yeast, water and salt."

"So we were making everything from plain white bread to blaas to cheap sourdough. Every kid had the chance to make their own. It's gorgeous bread, we learned all the folding methods, the kneading methods, then knocking back the dough. We show them how to make a simple tomato sauce and they can't believe that they can make restaurant quality pizza with their own bread."

"I've messed it up so many times myself, trust me, it's all about practice."

Adrian, who is a Manor Farm ambassador, will take to the main stage at Bloom festival this weekend. He will also host demos at Electric Picnic, the National Ploughing Championships and the Love Your Home Show in Belfast. His second book is due out later this year.


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