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How I Got Here: internationally renowned Irish chef Anna Haugh
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How I Got Here: internationally renowned Irish chef Anna Haugh


by Nathalie Marquez Courtney
27th Jul 2023

Having worked in some of the best eateries in London, internationally renowned Irish chef Anna Haugh went on to open her own restaurant, Myrtle, in 2021. The MasterChef: The Professionals judge is now heading up a pop-up at Dublin’s Conrad Hotel.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB? I did a paper round for the local newspaper, the Tallaght Echo. I was also a clown in my teens – my friend and I went to children’s parties dressed as two dolls from outer space. My first real job was working in the ladies’ department in Dunnes Stores. I was so young and so nervous working in the big store. The canteen terrified me – I don’t think I ever ate there.

WHEN DID YOU BEGIN YOUR CAREER? I was lucky to do my apprenticeship in L’Ecrivain in Dublin and went on to work in France, Spain and England in wonderful kitchens. I also did a stint in America while I worked for Gordon Ramsay. I never had a huge plan or goal, except I really wanted to understand food and why one day something would work perfectly and the next day, bizarrely, it didn’t.

WHAT PARTS OF YOUR ROLE DO YOU FIND MOST FULFILLING? I get great satisfaction from small tasks. A silky delicious purée. Perfectly baked bread. A crunchy potato crisp. When I am cooking, there are days where although it’s tiring, I feel very satisfied at the end.

WHAT IS ONE OF THE MOST DISRUPTIVE THINGS HAPPENING IN THE INDUSTRY RIGHT NOW? The focus on mental health – it has to be the scariest and most freeing time for our industry. The industry is getting better but it’s not something that is easily fixed. It’s the right time for us all to take a look at how we do things and what we can do to promote a better environment for people.

YOU’VE SPOKEN ABOUT THE CHALLENGES – AND OPPORTUNITIES – OF BEING A MOTHER AND WORKING IN THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY. HOW HAS THAT JOURNEY BEEN FOR YOU? Work-life balance is currently tricky for me. Opening a restaurant in Dublin wasn’t a quick decision – I’m extremely proud of where I come from and have always wanted to be part of the Irish food scene, but to be able to have my parents have lots of quality time with my son, Oisín, who is 17 months old, is also important. At the moment, I work and have family time. There isn’t a huge amount of brain space or time to squeeze much else in – I’m a very sociable person but I have to prioritise. I wanted to have my own businesses so I could go back to work after having my baby, but also to not have to go back and take a step down. This is where our industry could really step up and improve opportunities for women.

WHAT ARE SOME MEMORABLE CAREER HIGHLIGHTS? Opening up Myrtle [Haugh’s restaurant in Chelsea, London] was such a huge mountain to climb. Even now, as I walk in and switch on the lights and the kitchen extraction, I look at the booking and swell with pride and gratitude that I am where I am.

WHAT IS THE SINGLE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT YOUR JOB? That hard work is not enjoyable. It’s the hard times that make the smooth ones seem like bliss.

annahaughatconraddublin.com

Anna Haugh

1 GRÁINNE O’KEEFE Her Ballsbridge restaurant, Mae, is included in the Michelin Guide, while O’Keefe is also culinary director of the much-loved BuJo burger joint in Sandymount. 2 DANNI BARRY With an impressive CV including head chef at EIPIC, Belfast, where she was awarded a Michelin star, Barry has now joined Ballynahinch Castle as executive head chef. 3 BETH O’BRIEN The Cork-based chef is a wonderful Instagram follow (@bethcooksthings) for her in- depth recipe testing. 4 ALICE JARY Co-owner and chef of Rúibín in Galway, where you can expect dishes that focus on local produce, Jary’s travels influence her masterful flavour combinations. 5 TARA GARTLAN A pastry chef and chocolatier, Gartlan recently launched her own range of chocolates (@taragartlanchocolate) that would make spectacular gifts, and are all coeliac-friendly.

Portrait of Grainne O’Keefe by Ruth Calder Potts. Portrait of Beth O’Brien by Nathalie Marquez Courtney. Portrait of Tara Gartlan by Angela Gartlan.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of IMAGE Magazine.

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