Dylan's development kitchen
15 April 2015
It’s early in the afternoon as I climb the stairs to Dylan McGrath’s development kitchen atop his ever busy restaurant Rustic Stone. I knock tentatively at the door before entering and am greeted by Dylan and three colleagues. They’re all dressed the same- in stark chef’s whites and all wielding a knife or spoon.
The first thing I notice is the light and brightness of the room. Exposed brick, solid wooden support beams and what I can only imagine to be the most modern kitchen appliances make up this new playroom for the chefs. Careful not to interrupt their creative process, I slip into the corner to observe.
They’re working on a seafood dish, one stirring what looks like crab and another deftly popping a something into the oven. Immediately I notice the excitement in this kitchen; the buzzing energy of the chefs is nearly palpable. Dylan himself is at the helm, chopping some fresh herb and grating lemon zest into a bowl as the others look on, anticipating what he’ll say next. It’s as if he is in another world, one where he is required to notice nothing but the ingredients at hand and the chefs at his side.
I’m here to find out for myself what goes on inside of a development kitchen. The space Dylan has built is the first of its kind in Ireland, a personal kitchen for him to focus his creative energy and churn out the innovative dishes we’ve come to expect from him. It’s also a hub for other chefs, a place for them to come and learn- perhaps more importantly to collaborate.
Before I know it, a smile has broken across my face as I watch these four men at work. They move from one flavour to the next so quickly, and what becomes apparent even more than the knowledge that Dylan has for the ingredients in front of him is his passion for them. He tastes everything, smells everything, and as he picks up another bunch of herbs I can almost see the ideas taking form in his mind.
After no more than fifteen minutes they’ve come up with a recipe that they’re happy with. Fifteen minutes. I’m lucky enough to be handed a piece, and when I can’t find the right words to respond, they all burst into laughter and smiles.
Dylan explains to me the point of this kitchen: it’s a place for him and his chefs to experiment, to work with new ingredients and techniques, and most importantly, to get things wrong. Where in Rustic Stone and Fade Street Social there is little time to spend outright on creativity and even less room for error, Dylan and his chefs are hard pressed to find the space to work on new dishes.
Speaking to Dylan, it’s apparent that this new project has him excited. He divulges that it’s been over seven years since he’s cooked full time. For a chef hailed for his creativity, this seems an exceptionally long time to spend away from his craft. I suppose he catches the look of surprise on my face, because he reminds me about the perfectionism he’s long been characterised by. His personal creativity necessarily took the back-burner, so to speak, in order for him to develop the two restaurants that have become staples on the Dublin dining scene.
With a seemingly unlimited supply of fresh ingredients at his disposal, Dylan is walking down a new path in his career. While he’s clear that the immediate purpose of his work is to bring new variety into his existing restaurants, he is also anticipating a time where the precision and the fine dining style he is so passionate about will belong again, in one form or another.
For now, he’s working with some long standing chefs in each of his kitchens, incorporating their ideas into new recipes, teaching them new techniques and together coming up with new recipes to excite all his chefs. Where it wasn’t possible before, the development kitchen gives Dylan the opportunity to include more chefs in the creation of his menus, making them a part of the process from start to finish.
I take a few moments to watch as Dylan re-joins his team. Their break clearly did not result in coffee and a rest, because they’ve got two new dishes ready to present to him as he crosses the kitchen. A blowtorch warms a piece of fish, and there’s one of the plate for me too. I think it’s a piece of perfection, but Dylan is already back in the creative zone I saw when I arrived, listing flavours to further accentuate the freshness of the turbot.
In the coming weeks, Dylan plans to unveil his newest restaurant, an Asian influenced dining experience unlike anything currently served in Ireland. After spending an afternoon in his development kitchen, I can only wonder what will grace the menu- but I’m certainly excited to see.