Culinary arts student Roisin Gillen tells Donegal Woman about life in the kitchen of one of the world’s smallest Michelin-star winning restaurants.
To be a student of any kind means you are growing and learning in your field. Young Donegal woman Roisin Gillen is a student who found herself in a particularly unique position this year.
She has been working in Heron & Grey in Dublin, a restaurant which has shot to the forefront of the Irish culinary scene this year.
Not every student has the chance to learn their trade in a restaurant as it earns a Michelin star, which is what happened to Heron & Grey within seven months of it opening.
Roisin (27) is from Donegal Town, but her days are now spent in Dublin between classes at DIT and three days a week working at Heron & Grey. She is one of a team of five, working with Andrew Heron, who manages front of house, and head chef Damien Grey.
Speaking with Donegal Woman, Roisin says that she feels lucky to be part of such a success story.
“Our college wants us to work in the best places we can get into. I’m very lucky in the fact that I started in a new restaurant, I saw Chef work and how he gained a MIchelin star. It’s not something students normally get to see,” she said.
She came to be part of this exclusive team through connections made during work experience. She had always wanted to be a chef, and had taken time out to travel before taking on her culinary arts degree.
“My mum was a baker in Donegal Town for years. I helped her in the bakery, and I always thought that I wanted to go into it.”
“It all started almost this time last year. I did my work placement in Brioche in Ranelagh, where Damien Grey was the head chef. When he left he mentioned that he was hoping to open his own place. A while later he rang me and asked “Are you in?” and I said yes.”
Heron & Grey has become so popular that tables are now fully booked until August 2017. The exclusivity is mainly down to the restaurant only having a capacity for approx 20 diners on a night, and it opens only three days a week.
Working in this tiny environment means that Roisin is getting a first-class experience in a unique setting. For Christmas, she will have some weeks off when Heron & Grey closes, in order to be redesigned and have its first toilet installed. It was so small beforehand that customers and staff had to use a toilet around the corner.
Heron & Grey is an ever-changing challenge. Roisin works to provide a nine-course tasting menu that changes every two weeks depending on what is in season.
“We have had Greek themes, Asian fusion and others. Chef would email us on a Tuesday every second week with the menu that he has made. Because I’m in college I can’t get to the prep days on Wednesday. On Thursdays they go over the menu and we have the first service. After, we get together and talk about how the menu went, and if the balance was right with all the different plates,” Roisin explained.
Roisin seems very happy with this new update. “We are actually pretty excited about getting a toilet. And the staff are getting their own too.” she revealed.
The limited opening of Heron & Grey on Thursday, Friday and Saturday also suits Roisin in a personal sense.
“Chef opens his restaurant when he wants to, it’s his own rules and he can go spend time with his family, which is important to him. And me, I have a boyfriend and a dog and college work to do.”
Roisin is now in her third year of studying for her degree. Her final year will see her travelling abroad to gain more experience in the world of fine dining.
“I’ll be leaving the country for nine to ten months, so now I’m figuring out where to go for that. I’d hate to leave Heron & Grey. I’ve always worked in a small kitchen, and in that kind of environment you’re always learning and you’re always growing.”