Joery Castel, chef and owner, The BoatHouse Restaurant

The Staff Canteen

After years of developing his passion for food back in his hometown of Holland, a position at Ireland’s famous, Castle Leslie led to Joery Castel plating up food for the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Prince Pierre of Monaco. It wasn’t until 2008, after a stint working for an outside catering company, that Joery was able to branch out on his own bringing his brother, Jasper into the fold to open the award winning, The BoatHouse Restaurant.

Since it’s humble beginnings almost 10 years ago, The BoatHouse has gone on to achieve phenomenal success being listed at number 50 in the Sunday Times Top 100 UK Restaurant supplement, earning 3AA Rosettes and also placing at 831 on La Liste- The World's Best 1000 Restaurants.

We recently caught up with Joery to find out what his one rule in the kitchen is, why his friend refers to his food as ‘chaotic with structure’ and why we should look out for his son in future chef profiles.

You were quite into football when you were younger but gave it up for the kitchen, what was it about cooking that attracted you at such a young age?

I did love playing football at a younger age, but I was also aware that I was never going to be Marco van Basten or Johan Cruijf. At first it wasn't the cooking that attracted me to the kitchen, it was my love of food. The first question after coming home from school was always, ''what's for dinner, mum?'' This turned into helping her out in the kitchen, which is something my own son does as well when he spends the weekend with me. Watch out for him in future chefs' profiles as his Marie Rose is fabulous.

You obviously co-own the restaurant with your brother Jasper, did you always want to have your own restaurant and with your brother?

We never really hadPress Eye thought about going into business together until the opportunity arose for us in 2008. Jasper started in catering because of
me; the chefs I worked with needed their cars washed, so he started doing that once a month and when we needed a kitchen porter he was moved into the kitchen. Eventually he went his own way and became a Bar Manager and later Restaurant Manager. When I ended up in Ireland he followed a few years later to help me in an outside catering company before this beautiful little restaurant presented itself to us.

When you were at Castle Leslie a lot of famous faces such as Mick Jagger and the Prince of Monaco were frequent customers, what was it like to plate up for them? Was there a lot more pressure on you and the rest of the chefs?

As cool as it is to cook for 'famous' people I always had one rule in the kitchen which is that everyone is special, we treat all of our guests as VIPs, never-the-less you can always feel the excitement among the staff when celebrities are in the restaurant.

After leaving your role at Castle Leslie you went on to become head chef of an outsidePan-fried Hake low res catering company, what was that like and how did it compare to being in a restaurant?

Outside catering is a different ball game, I mean, you never know where you'll end up cooking, it could be in a field where cows were grazing hours earlier or a remote beach. I had done a similar job in Amsterdam before so I knew the drill. The key is to be even more organised than in your own kitchen, perfect preparation is essential as if you forget an ingredient or a tool you're in trouble. I would pack everything and more as when you're out it's always better to be looking at than looking for.

Having worked in a lot of kitchens and with some great chefs, who would you say inspires you the most?

I did the stage with Allistair Little when I was 20 which was a bit of an eye opener. Coming from a little village and being able to stay and work in London for a while was amazing. The restaurant’s ethos was exactly what I needed to learn about at that time. More recently I became a big fan of Sergio Herman's food. I never worked with him but after having had the pleasure of eating in his three starred, Oud Sluis restaurant twice I came back buzzing with new ideas for flavour combinations and presentations.

The Boathouse was recently featured in the Sunday Times Top 100 2015, how did that feel knowing you were the only restaurant in Northern Ireland to be featured?

It was an unreal feeling, I mean we were informed that we would be featured, so on the day the list came out I started at number 100 and worked my way up. By the time I came to number 60 I started to worry that someone had pranked us as there were so many good restaurants on the list and I thought we wouldn't be rated better than them, so I did do a little 'OMG' when I saw The BoatHouse at number 50! I mean, people still mention it now and I get a smile on my face. Red Fruit Consomme low res

Aside from being in the Top 100 you also have 3 AA rosettes and you won the best wine experience at the Irish Restaurant Awards, what do you think makes your restaurant stand out against your competitors?

Receiving 3 AA Rosettes was a great achievement for our consistency.  I think the European approach makes us stand out from other restaurants in the area. I was brought up in the Netherlands with different food styles compared to the chefs from here, and I’m trying to produce that background onto the plates. We ate Indonesian food once a week and my Mum went through phases serving new ingredients like couscous, polenta or quinoa before anyone in our area had heard of it or before it became fashionable.

So how often do you change your menus?

We try to change the menu seasonally, so it could be that we run a menu for six to seven weeks, or in spring and summer maybe for only four weeks. During summer we grow some of own produce so we sometimes have a surplus of produce coming in which helps us in creating something new. Sometimes though we bring back an old favourite in a new coat, just because it works well and sometimes it's just what our guests are asking for.

How would you describe your cooking style?

I find it hard to describe my cooking style. Modern European would cover it, but a friend of mine described it once (after a seven course tasting menu with wine pairing) as 'chaotic with structure', I think he meant that the mixture of flavours and textures seemed chaotic on paper, but worked really well on the palate. I kind of like the way he described it as it hits the nail on the head. We're not bound by classical or modern techniques, we do what we feel works best and mix things up with different textures, temperatures and techniques that we have learned over the years. We hope that because of this there is a feeling of surprise for the diner when eating at The BoatHouse.

What is your favourite ingredient to work with and why?Exterior 1

Seafood has always been my first love in the kitchen as I was born in an area in the Netherlands famous for mussels, lobster and oysters to name but a few. I used to fish a lot myself, obviously before I started my own restaurant, as now there aren't enough hours in the day!

What is next for The BoatHouse and for the future?

We don't know what the future is going to bring us, last year was amazing, what with the 3 AA Rosettes, number 50 in the Sunday Times top 100 UK Restaurant list and also placing  on La Liste - The World's Best 1000 Restaurants at number 831. It will be hard to better than that, but we will keep on working on providing good quality food and service to our guests. At the end of the day our  biggest pleasure is seeing our guests enjoying their meal in The BoatHouse.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th April 2016

Joery Castel, chef and owner, The BoatHouse Restaurant