Sometimes the food and drink industry can get a bad rep, but Chad Byrne is on a mission to change that perception.

Chad Byrne, head chef at The Brehon Killarney, founded Chef Collab last April to help connect young chefs with more experienced individuals for mentorship. As part of the programme, the young chefs spend up to three days in their mentors’ kitchens, learning new skills and working together to create a dish. Each pair then cooks their dish at the Chef Collab event, resulting in a multi-course meal cooked by some of Ireland’s best chefs and up-and-coming talent.

Chef Collab’s upcoming event will take place on Monday 28th January 2019 at 8pm in Soberlane Cork. Participating chefs include Gareth Smith from Michael’s of Mount Merrion, Gavin McDonagh from Gather & Gather, Alberto Rossi who is head chef at the InterContinental in Dublin, Forest Avenue’s Paul Brogan and Liam Kirwan from the Montenotte Hotel in Cork. Previous contributors have included Fiachra Kenny, Phillip Roe, Paul McDonald and many more.

Read more: Monkfish with cockle linguini

The hospitality industry is currently suffering through a massive chef shortage – we’ve too many restaurants and not enough chefs to staff them. Chad founded the Chef Collab programme to try combat the bad name that the industry is often given and to encourage people to stick with the profession:

“The industry gets a lot of bad press and you only ever hear negative things about it, but I think that day and age is long gone. There is no more machismo and shouting. Everyone is always struggling for chefs as there’s a sense that this is a difficult trade, but there are so many people out there that want to nurture young chefs.”

Chad also credits his own culinary background with inspiring the Chef Collab programme: He left school at 14 before getting a job as a kitchen porter. Chad then began working as a chef at The Merrion Hotel in Dublin, where award-winning chef Ed Cooney took him under his wing:

“It was so amazing for me to see him look after me and help, even though he’s such a great chef and so talented, he really mentored me. I think that shows young chefs that they can go somewhere and that there are people there that want to help better them.”

One of the dishes from a previous Chef Collab event

One of the dishes from a previous Chef Collab event

Read more: Q&A with Ahmet Dede

The event brings the public and members of the industry together to enjoy a meal at a very reasonable price point – next week’s event costs just €35 per head! Chad told us that creating an atmosphere of inclusion was paramount to him:

“When you start out as a chef, you’re on minimum wage for at least two years, so it was important for us to make sure this event was accessible to young people in the industry. The Chef Collab events are a way to get us all together as I would say that around half of the tickets for these are sold to industry professionals and the other half fo to the public. There’s always huge interest within the industry”

The tickets, which cost €35 and can be purchased here, are sold at as close to cost price as possible and the money is all used to help the young chefs travel their mentor's restaurants. This low-cost atmosphere can be seen throughout the entire event: when they’re not cooking, the chefs serve the food and even Chad gets involved with prep and cleaning.

Chad Byrne

Chad Byrne

To find out what it’s like to be a mentor with Chef Collab, we had a chat with Gareth Smith from Michael’s of Mount Merrion:

“I had read about the last Chef Collab event and was interested in getting involved. I really think it sends an excellent message to the next wave of chefs and it is always so positive when chefs and suppliers work together too, great things happen.

When chefs get together we talk techniques, chat about food trends and suppliers; It’s a great source of sharing resources and information. It’s a great example to set for the young chefs of today, to show that the days of not talking to other chefs as they’re your competitors are gone. It’s super important to nurture the next crew of chefs, they’re going to be the next batch of leaders and it keeps the cycle going for the industry.

I’m really looking forward to the event; It’s such a great experience for all involved. Daniel, my young chef partner, will get to see five different styles of food and see different chefs cooking on the day. It’ll be a good learning curve for all of us in fact. It’s fantastic to see this calibre of chefs giving up their time for this because they care about connecting with these young chefs.”

The team at Michael's Mount Merrion took home two awards at our 2018 F&W awards, Gareth is pictured furthest right

The team at Michael's Mount Merrion took home two awards at our 2018 F&W awards, Gareth is pictured furthest right

We know where we’ll be on Monday night! Get you tickets for Chef Collab here and keep an eye on the website to keep up with the next event.