Monday 22 January 2018

The young chef who overcame an obstacle to set the culinary world alight

Passion for food: Patrick Phillips in the kitchen. Photo: Andrew Downes
Passion for food: Patrick Phillips in the kitchen. Photo: Andrew Downes

By Graham Clifford

Patrick Phillips was born with a congenital birth defect giving him the use of his right arm only, but that hasn't stopped the 22-year-old Galway and Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) student from lifting this year's 'Student Culinarian of the Year award' in Belfast.

"I've grown up with the disability so know how to adapt in the kitchen. There are some tasks which require two hands but I've always found a way to get around these. You have tricky tasks like making some rugby ball-shaped pastries, to do those you normally need to use both hands but I've been able to get by with just one.

"The disability office in GMIT has offered some adaptive technology but so far it hasn't been necessary" says the student from the village of Cooraclare in County Clare.

As well as being a student, Patrick works as a commis-chef at the weekends in Galway's only Michelin-star restaurant, Aniar. He cites the award-winning British chef Michael Caines as an inspiration. He says Caines proved that working with one hand doesn't have to be a hindrance in the kitchen.

"Before Michael Caines lost his right arm in a road traffic accident he had two Michelin stars and for me it was good to see that he has maintained those stars. Someday I'd love to work with him."

Patrick originally studied Architecture in the University of Limerick but his passion for food would take him down a different path.

"My father was a quantity surveyor and since I was young it was programmed into me that I'd study architecture. I completed three years of a five-year course and decided it wasn't for me. It took a while to build up the courage to tell my dad but now he's fully supportive of my choice.

Having completed a two-year catering assistant course in Limerick's Natural Learning Network, which provides options for those who may require specialist support due to a disability, Patrick decided to further his studies at the GMIT.

"GMIT has such a great reputation in the field of culinary arts that I knew it was here I wanted to study. I started my higher certificate in culinary arts just last December, so to receive this award so soon into the course is brilliant."

At Aniar restaurant, Patrick, who's also a keen photographer, relishes the importance placed on using local fresh produce. "I hope one day to open my own restaurant, maybe even in Clare."

Irish Independent

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