Tricia Doyle, Head Chef in the British Embassy Dublin, tells us about cooking for high profile guests and the Embassy’s drive towards sustainability.
Before joining the British Embassy staff five years ago, Tricia Doyle had a wide and varied career in food. She had trained in Tante Marie Surry, England and taught with Alix Gardner in Alix' Dublin cookery school. Tricia also ran her own catering company, Tricia Doyle Catering, for 27 years.
She has been head chef at the British Embassy for five years and has cooked for a host of dignitaries including Britan's Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Parker Bowles earlier this year and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018.
“I love it, it’s a fantastic world,” Tricia says. “You can go through times that you’re extremely busy and you’d have back-to-back catering but, at times, there’s not as much going on."
She adds, "What’s great is that you get to see the people you’re catering for as well. We have musicians, politicians, the business community, writers, the British royals; we have a great cross-section of people we entertain.”
Classic with an Irish twist
In the kitchen, Tricia loves classic dishes but also enjoys working with different flavours and trying new dishes. “I’m very much French-trained so my cooking is very classic but I have an Irish twist and use Irish ingredients. I love fusion and the flavours of fusion cooking. The ambassador is a member of a curry club so I’ve been introduced to curries recently too.”
Suppliers are, of course, an essential part of cooking and Tricia - who is based in Greystones - has a great relationship with many of them them. “Frank Doyle in Bray (no relation) supplies me with all my meat; my beef, lamb, chicken, and game. The Catch in Cornelscourt supplies me with my fish. It's great because I know where everything there comes from: the crab is from Lambay, the prawns are from Fleming Seafood, based in Co Galway, the fish comes from O’Flahertys at Kilmore Quay and wild salmon is from Ballyhack Smoked House."
When it comes to fruit and vegetables Tricia says, "I try and keep things in season as much as I can.” Other producers she uses for embassy and ambassador's residence meals include Iona Fruit Farm for coloured carrots and root vegetables, Hussey Fruit and Veg for fruit and vegetables, and Paul Mc Connell for potatoes. “Paul does a lot of the old types of potatoes. When we had the royals (Prince Charles and Camilla) I used pink fir apple potatoes which seemingly go back to the time of the famine,” Tricia notes.
For the last few years, the embassy has taken a keen interest in sustainability, working to reduce single-use plastics and excess packaging. However, as Tricia explains, there has always been mindfulness around waste and the environment. “Going back to our previous ambassador we had pigs and hens at the residence so if there was waste it was always recycled back to them. Then there was Paul the gardener, who’d put our coffee out on the plants. We compost a lot but, I suppose, it’s different for us as I know exactly the numbers I’m going to have. Whether it's a dinner for 20 or canapés for 200 people, I know exactly what I need to buy so, from that pint of view, there is very little waste on the food side.”
The embassy has done a lot in reducing plastic and with suppliers, asking them to provide the food in more sustainable packaging. “We’re not using plastic cups anymore or glasses for receptions,” Tricia says, “The embassy is very much looking into sustainability, like glass or something that we can use again, not a throwaway."
Even the gardens are getting in on the sustainability act. The Ambassador’s residence boasts its own walled garden with apples, pears, raspberries and gooseberries. It is involved with Fallen Fruit Harvest, an initiative that harvests excess fruit to be given to charities for people to cook with. Tricia also uses the garden's wares, making jams and selling them to raise money for children’s charity LauraLynn.”
Tricia has given us recipes for a starter and a dessert, if you fancy trying some VIP-worthy dishes at home.