Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Season’s greetings from the Slieve Donard


Happy Christmas everyone, sorry it's late I have just about caught up with myself a month later. All I’m saying is that it defiantly is one Christmas I will not forget. 
            After an uneventful November with very few functions or events, we were catapulted into a December of madness it started with a complete change of menu on December third after a jam-packed weekend of functions and buffets. The Christmas dining menu was slightly simplified and designed to be suitable for the influx of customers we were going to get in the coming month. 5 simple deserts with great flavours that were both classic and modern. It was great being the chef that was in charge of implementing the change over to the new menu. It was a tense busy day in the kitchen and a few technical challenges arose but in the end, the customer was happy and I learnt a lot in the process. Along with Santa Sunday buffets for 120+ every weekend, functions, afternoon teas and regular ALC service I don’t know how we didn’t burn out but we survived (just about)
            Every year the Slieve Donard plays host to the polar express a magical train ride to the north pole which brings on average 1100 people a day through the door for 8 days to meet Santa and his elves. It’s a magical experience for everyone on the right side of the pass. On the other side, unfortunately, It means double the work and half the time as service begins at 4:30 as opposed to the regular 6:30 and a completely different menu along with various other things such as gingerbread men for kids to decorate and shortbread for parents. To top it all off the other member of the pastry team had to call in sick for the first few days so it was really a matter of sink or swim and I think I just about managed to tread water for the few days. After polar express ended on the 21st it was straight into my last few days in the Slieve. But first, we had to celebrate with a wee trip to Quinn’s as a kitchen group while we were still all together. The next day we woke bright eyed and bushy tailed into the kitchen for a busy weekend of afternoon teas as per usual, a buffet for 130 people on the Sunday with an impending feeling of doom in regards to the 1000+ covers we were going to do in the following 3 days somewhere during the rush of that weekend we lost our executive chef Keelan who was destined to leave on Christmas day but decided to cut his stick before that . After the eventful weekend, it was straight into Christmas.
 Christmas begins in the Slieve Donard on Christmas Eve at 2pm after check-in the residents are treated to a self-service buffet style afternoon tea to fend off any peckishness before a scrumptious 3 course a La Carte dinner. Saoirse and I worked in pastry for this service which was fantastic. I hadn’t worked together with Saoirse in a section until that service as she usually covers me on days off. service was flawless but I will say no matter how smooth I never want to see another blueberry baked Alaska ever again. We had to stay back late that night due to a few beverages being had to celebrate such a successful service and to prepare some dressed salmons for the buffet on Christmas day.

The next day was the big day we were even up early enough to bump into the man himself. we were in at 6:30 to prepare for the 430 people coming for Christmas lunch. Dessert consisted of 36 various items ranging from traditional Christmas pudding to tropical mango and passionfruit delice to name just a few. It was all presented in its own room with a tricolour chocolate fountain and ice sculptures.
Once we had fed the 430 people it was straight back at it to prepare the light bites supper for the residents as if the lunch wouldn’t have rendered them paraplegic. It consisted predominately of leftovers from lunch rejigged and presented differently as well as some new additions.
 Then it was finally time for the kitchen to eat. The pastry kitchen was set for dinner with our brussel spout tree and steaks were cooked as we had all seen enough turkeys for one day. Of course, Christmas dinner isn’t the same without crackers and wine and in our case espresso martinis. We shortly called it a night and went home. In preparation for my last day at the Slieve Donard resort and spa. 

Stephens day or boxing day as they call it up north, was simple. Lunch was soup and sandwiches in the ballroom and then it was a full three-course service again for 175 people. My last service in the Slieve Donard. It was great to go out on such a buzz of service and fast passed work. I said my goodbyes and I swear I didn’t bawl crying. Ok, I did but working in the Slieve was one of the best work experiences I could have asked for I was trusted to run the pastry section and I had many great tutors in my time there. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the Slieve Donard for their wonderful hospitality and for giving me the opportunity to work in such a fabulous hotel with such a great group of people  I have truly made some great friends for life.
For the last time 
Robert J. Condren

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