By Chester Simpson
Daniel O’Connell’s Restaurant & Bar
112 King Street
Old Town Alexandria
When did you first become interested in cooking and what made you choose a culinary career?
During my whole childhood and into my adult years my mother and her mother and my mother’s sisters all have been a big influence on my cooking and also my father who was an avid hunter and fisherman .With my Mom’s input and her side of the family, I got to prep lots of different food and different styles of cuisine from vegetarian to the whole of Delia Smith’s repertoire and the mad man himself, Keith Floyd. These two television shows were religion in my house. When growing up, one of my aunts will tell you a story of when I cooked her honey and mustard glazed grilled lamb chops with creamy garlic potatoes and steamed green beans at the age of 8 .With my Dads input I got to see, catch and butcher all sorts of fish and game birds as well as venison. Apart from the foraging we would do while out hunting and also summers spent with family, we picked black berries, gooseberries and raspberries off in the countryside in Ireland.
Who or what has been your biggest inspirations during your career?
My biggest influences in the professional cooking world were the likes of Conrad Gallagher in Peacock Alley. I ran his 1 star Michelin restaurant at the age of 20, Jamie Oliver, Adian Byrne Manchester House, Charlie Trotter, Nico Ladenis, and Frederic Robert of La Grande Cascade where I worked in Paris on one occasion. My biggest inspiration of all the chefs was Dylan Mc Grath of Mint and Fadestreet Social and now Taste; but above him there is one other Irish chef who has inspired me and guided me partially through my career and is a big mentor of mine and a great friend – Patrick Faye who is the owner of a little lovely Irish restaurant in Tinahely called Madelines.
What dish on your menu reflects your personal style?
They all reflect my cooking as my team and I push to make everything in house and to be cooked fresh from scratch, did I mention we make all our own stocks for gravy and all our sauces and dips are made in house. My creative juices flow when doing the specials and when getting a new menu ready. My bangers for my sausage dishes are my own recipe sausages produced by Logans sausages in Alexandria. It is my own recipe and it is close enough to the sausages I remember at home.
What do you feel sets your cuisine apart from others in your field?
I am trying to move away from the Walt Disney style Irish food and to show people of this great country of America what Irish food is all about. It is so diverse now and an eclectic mix of many nations and cooking styles.
If any chef in the world (past or present) could prepare you a meal, who would you want that to be?
Well….Paul Bocuse would be one and Emeril Lagasse would be one. I would love to have him “BAM” me up something and of course I would want Action Bronson to sit down and break bread with me – that “boy” knows what to eat.
What’s your guilty food pleasure?
I love lasagna – not just any lasagna, only my Mom’s “lol just like momma used to make”. Seriously, hers is the best I have ever tasted and I have eaten it in Italy – still not the same – and her moussaka. Her food is elysuim. I do have a particular liking for my wife’s handmade Brigaderio’s – “My Lovely Brigadeiro” – which, by the way, are for sale in Misha’s coffee Shop -and a Dolce Latte. They are both devine.
If you would like to see your favorite chef featured in this space, send contact information to Chester@ChesterSimpson.com.