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Kitchen Confidential: Martin Cahill

Debonair steps into the kitchen with Martin Cahill, executive chef at Dukes Dubai

When cooking any meat, allow it to rest for half the time you’ve cooked it for before you cut it. ~Martin Cahill

What is your earliest food memory? I remember going to local markets with my mum and being in awe of how she would buy such simple produce and make enough food to feed six people and it would be so tasty. This inspired me a lot.

How did you enter the industry? I started as a young part-time pot washer in my local hotel while still at school, and remember always being jealous of the camaraderie the chefs seemed to have. Only later would I realise how hard they worked!

Professional kitchens are renowned as stressful environments. How do you handle the pressure? I’ve learned to stop, reassess and look at the bigger picture of what’s going on, then tackle each section on its own. 

When cooking any meat, allow it to rest for half the time you’ve cooked it for before you cut it. ~Martin Cahill

How often do you cook outside the workplace? These days its mainly on weekends and when we have guests over or friends around for barbecues.

What’s the best restaurant you’ve eaten at and what made it memorable? My wife and I drove to Gleneagles in Scotland one year, and we ate at Andrew Fairlie’s restaurant. The setting, company, wine cellar, cheese room and exquisite food made it a memorable experience. All in all it was an experience for many reasons. 

Conversely, what would you never eat again? After many years spent in the Far East, a lot of which was in Hong Kong, I would have to say I think I’ve eaten enough chicken feet and snake soup for a while. But I would say it is worth a try — at least once. 

The Great British Restaurant (GBR) is a celebration of classic British cuisine, serving traditional hearty roasts to dark chocolate fondant, and everything in between.

Does a man who cooks win brownie points at home? Yes, I would say so. I tend to cook more for friends and family now rather than just my wife. My two daughters love it if I show them some kitchen secret — and the more sugar the better!

What’s your top life hack for the layman in the kitchen? When cooking any meat, allow it to rest for half the time you’ve cooked it for before you cut it. This can turn a dish into a restaurant-quality marvel.

What’s your one indispensable kitchen implement? There’s always more than one! Definitely a very sharp knife and a Microplane grater. 

What new trends are you seeing, and how do you feel about them? I think trends are always down to personal preference, they can come and go and also vary by culture and country. At the moment there’s a huge healthy eating trend, which I do agree with and try to follow myself, but I am a strong believer in everything in moderation.

Who’d you invite to your ideal dinner table? An interesting table would include Richard Attenborough for his insight and to pick his brains, Noel Gallagher for his musical talent and chat, John Cleese for comedy value and Jessica Ennis-Hill for motivation — she’s a real role model for young girls.

If you could choose your final meal, what would it be? I’d start with 12 Kumamoto oysters and a glass of Sancerre. Then a classic bookmaker sandwich, French fries and a pint of beer. Dessert would be Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese with crackers and a glass of port. 

Martin Cahill is executive chef at Dukes Dubai hotel

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