Aiden Byrne: What I really thought about Restaurant Wars
Aiden Byrne is Cheshire Resident’s newest columnist. Aiden, recently the subject of a BBC TV’s Restaurant Wars gives us insights into his life on the kitchen “frontline” at Manchester House and the Church Green in Lymm.
Did you always want to be a chef?
I see myself as a very lucky person as I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life at 13 years of age. When choosing subjects in early school years I chose catering and the moment I walked into that classroom I knew I would spend the rest of my life doing what I love.
Was anyone else an early influence?
I have taken influences from a number of people throughout my life because when you sacrifice so much for a career that demands so much, you need continuous moral support.
How did you start on your career path?
After leaving school, going to college seemed the natural choice, there I met a lot of like-minded people and this gave me my first taste of an industrial kitchen. I went on a work placement to a small hotel in Wilmslow called Stanneylands where I met the wonderful Gordon Beech and the extremely disciplined Iain Donald. Both of whom were extremely inspirational.
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Did you enjoy working in London, or did you prefer Dublin, or like both equally?
I have worked in London on three separate occasions all with very different experiences. As a young lad it was very tough and lonely but as I got older I was able to handle the demands much easier. For a chef, London is a phenomenal place to work as you are deep within the melting pot of talent, determination and competition and Dublin was very different as I was one of a handful of Michelin restaurants in the country. Both were amazing experiences and have influenced my career immensely.
You achieved a Michelin star at an early age, how did this affect you?
When we received the star back in 1994 we didn’t really appreciate what had just happened, my team and I were genuinely too busy understand what had really happened. We were all too young and naive. If I was more savvy back then I would probably be a much richer man now!
Blame it on the TV progrmme restaurant Wars but the pressure seems to be on to attain a star?
The programme’s initial idea was to see who would win the star first. They very quickly realized that it wasn’t as simple as that. There is a reason why Michelin stars are so elusive. (They are not so easy to come by)
The TV show was also based around a healthy rivalry between you and Simon Rogan – does that exist too? Simon and I are good friends and our products couldn’t be further apart. When I heard that Simon was also opening in Manchester I was very excited. Competition is healthy, very healthy. If anything it helps raise the standards of those around you.
How has the programme affected Manchester House? Are you more booked up than ever?
The programme has had an amazingly positive effect on Manchester House in more ways than one. Business is incredible, our bookings stretch out to December now for Saturday nights. Also we have been able to attract a higher calibre of staff due to the footage on the show.
How do the menus there evolve?
Our kitchen is like a playground for chefs, we have an awesome platform from which we can deliver what we want and I feel very fortunate to be in that position.
The seasons dictate a lot of the menu changes and one dish will inevitably influence another. Our dishes are largely based on classical marriages so that way we can give our guest something that they can recognize.
Have you been able to cook for any heroes/famous people you admire?
Over the years I have cooked for a lot of famous people, too many to list. I have never cooked for my sporting hero Steven Gerrard - but there is plenty of time for that!
Have you any new plans for the Church Green?
The Church Green has developed itself into what it is now and grown quite organically. Our customers (who are largely Lymm based) dictate what we cook, we learnt that to listen to what our customers want makes total sense. The Church Green as a business is stronger now than it has ever been.
When you are not working – if ever – how do you spend your time?
I don’t get to spend much time at home and I’m sure there will come a time in the not too distant future that I will regret it. My children are in crucial stages in their schooling years and I really should be there sharing it with them but I believe that you do truly get out of life what you put in and believe me I’m putting in at the moment.
What is your all-time favourite place to eat?
There is a beautiful restaurant in Bilbao called Azurmendi, this has to be the best dining experience I have ever had. I went with a few friends (Simon Rimmer, Andrew Nutter, Danny Spencer from Boutitnot wines to name a few) and it was really a life-changing experience.
When you’re not tasting food what do you cook for yourself?
My wife does all the cooking at home and she does a good job too, she is really into making curries at the moment, something perfect for me when I get home at 1-2am
What does the future hold for Aiden Byrne
The future for Aiden Byrne is to take each day as it comes, I very much live for the moment, we are taking part in a new television program which is involving lots of professional chefs, this should be aired in late September on Channel 4. Look out for it.