Mark Moriarty on changes young chefs need to see to encourage them to stay in the industry

The  Staff Canteen
As the youngest speaker at Galway's Food on the Edge, Mark Moriarty, winner of San Pellegrino Young Chef of the Year 2015 and creator of The Culinary Counter. He had a fresh outlook on the future of the industry and the 23-year-old from Dublin is the second chef to feature in our coverage of Food on the Edge. Last week we featured Clare Smyth who spoke about the responsibility of the government and big corporations when it comes to the future of our food. Mark raised the issue of the chef shortage and how the world's top chefs, as 'inspirational leaders', should take responsibility for and 'develop' young chefs. Pellegrino_Chef_8 low res“I’m a young chef who is just starting my journey in food and I’m excited about where it can take me,” said Mark. “Every speaker who has been here (Food on the Edge), in their vast experience has achieved it all – I’m speaking from the other side of the fence. “All the speakers who I’ve seen are not just head chefs, executive chefs or owners – they transcend what they are doing and they turn from just a person who runs a business and does the orders to what I call inspirational leaders. They inspire people, you look up to them and they are the people that get you excited when you go to visit their restaurant and see them in action. “With that comes huge responsibility, way beyond producing food and people paying for it. In my opinion it’s what makes the industry tick over and reproduce chefs.” He added: “But while that’s all great, there’s no point being completely rose tinted about what’s happening. There is a shortage of chefs, less and less people are becoming chefs – so the question is why is that? “Well it’s pretty obvious and everyone can tell you why – it’s tough, it doesn’t reward you financially, it can be very unhealthy at times but what I’d like to do is talk about the future.”mark quote He believes that instead of moaning about the problem people need to start looking for a viable solution. He said: “It’s the responsibility of today’s generation, I’m talking about the Tom Aikens’ of the industry and those kinds of people and the responsibility they have for us as young chefs. There have often been cultures of fear and intimidation which adds greatly to what is already a very tough profession. “So take this scenario, we look in the next five years at restaurants which are very highly regarded. People don’t just go to eat there they are essentially universities for people like me who want to learn. “It’s up to the people who do the figures because essentially they are a business, but let’s look to see a day less of work, reduce working hours or investing in two extra chefs or an extra two for staff rotation.” Allowing a little bit more time and balance in life, Mark feels is important for the industry to move forward but he also believes education and backing from already established chefs is equally essential if things are going to change. “It’s about chefs taking on young chefs like myself and not having them stand in the corner peeling veg for three months,” said Mark. “Of course everybody has to do it, it doesn’t matter what the job is, you have to do the ground work and work your way up from there but it’s the responsibility of the top chefs in the world to say, ‘we need to take these people, we are inspiration leaders and we need to develop them, give them confidence, technical ability and back them'. Pellegrino_Chef_3 low res“I was told when I first entered into the industry ‘you need to back yourself because no one else is going to’ – well why should that be the case? Why can’t the inspiration leaders around the world back the young chefs when they see talent? What can be worse than wasted talent in any profession?” He added: “That again is my view as a young chef, it’s a rose tinted view and people will probably say ‘oh, he just wants it easy’.” Mark is not pushing for an easy ride for himself and other young chefs, he appreciates that with the changes he wants to see, comes responsibility for those young chefs reaping the benefits of these changes in the future. He said: “Let’s say in five years’ time we are going into restaurants, it’s a four day week, there’s a half day due to staff rotation and the owner of the restaurant has invested in better working conditions. It’s now my responsibility to go in there, to commit for two years, to show up on time every day, focused, determined, ready to work and buy into the ethos of the restaurant. “It’s a controversial thing for me to say but it’s something worth thinking about if we want to look again into this great industry.” Mark explained why he wanted to become a chef, saying it was after he had a meal with his parents, aged 15, at Kevin Thornton’s restaurant in Dublin - Mark later went on to work for Kevin.quote Mark moriarty He said: “It wasn’t just the pleasure of eating, it was how I felt having experienced a fine dining restaurant at the top of its game. I remember saying to my parents, ‘if I can do something in whatever I do or wherever I work that gives people as much pleasure as I had that day eating, then I will be extremely happy with what I’ve contributed in life’.” As with many chefs he is often asked by friends and family not in the hospitality industry why he does, what he does. “It’s a good question,” said Mark. “Why would you do 100 hours a week and never eat, never see your friends?” He added: “You do sit in bed some nights when you’ve had a bad service and think ‘well, why am I?’ “I have friends who work in offices and things, they are constantly working but there is never really a goal or anything to show for it. They are working for money, for a means to an end.

>>>Read: Clare Smyth calls out the government and big corporations in a bid to change the future of food

“When I go to work in a kitchen on a morning, there is always a vast amount of raw materials and ingredients and you pour out your passion, what you’re taught and your skill. Four hours later you have what is essentially a piece of art or a dish to show for it. Mark Moriarty. Photo: Boyd Challenger“So there’s that constant reward for creativity, which fed me and gave me substance in what I was doing. It didn’t matter how many hours you did, how much weight you lost or what you missed because every time you put up a dish and sent a table there was a great sense of pride in what you were doing. Not only that, hopefully the dishes that went in front of the customer made them feel what I felt at 15 when I ate for the first time in a top class restaurant.” He may be at the start of his career but Mark has already taken part in a number of competitions and won awards but he says it was never about the accolades. “It was about me representing young chefs, first of all in Ireland and now all over the world,” explained Mark. "I am Irish and the proudest moment when I won San Pellegrino was when I turned around and it was an Irish flag above my name.” Mark says Ireland is not known for its food so it’s important for young Irish chefs to go and do two years in Australia, two years in America, wherever it may be and learn how to cook a perfect piece of fish, perfect piece of meat or vegetables and great sauces. He said: “It’s about then coming back as young chefs in Ireland. If we want to make Ireland the next food destination it’s about going away, learning but always coming back and innovating instead of replicating.” By Cara Pilkington @canteencara
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 19th November 2015

Mark Moriarty on changes young chefs need to see to encourage them to stay in the industry