Wednesday, 17, January 2018

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The Westbury

A Day in the Life of Austin Byrne

Head Chef in the bustling Balfes restaurant

Austin Byrne, head chef of Balfes in Dublin

Balfes is one of the most popular spots in Dublin, whether you’re looking for a quick lunch or a leisurely dinner with friends. Head chef Austin Byrne is responsible for the beautiful dishes you’ve likely spotted on Instagram. He’s been working in Balfes for a year and a half, and we sat down with him to find out what an average day looks like for him.   

“My day generally starts with a short drive to the train station for the 8.05am to Pearse Station, which is packed without fail! But I still enjoy around forty minutes of calm before the day ahead. On the journey into Dublin I mostly spend my time scrolling through Instagram and various foodie forums, searching the posts of my contemporaries in the restaurant business in Dublin, London, New York or basically anywhere I can find ideas or spot an emerging trend.

Austin Byrne, head chef of Balfes in Dublin

First task on arrival in Balfes is coffee, always coffee, and a scan through our reservation system for updates on the previous days notes which can and do change day by day.

Then it’s on to brief the team on coming days bookings and run a through the mornings deliveries, we have a great relationship with our suppliers whom are for the most part artisan producers and regularly send us new or interesting items to trial and test. 

For example we have cured and smoked Sashimi Tuna sample in today, produced in a similar way to traditional smoked salmon. It may or may not make it onto our menu after a tasting session with the team, but we are always looking for the next big hit.  

Balfes is probably one of the busiests restaurant in Dublin and the morning shift has to run at a fast pace. The guys open the kitchen at 7am to prepare for the beginning of breakfast service at 8am and it’s not uncommon to see some of our regular guests sitting on the outdoor terrace just before the doors open.   

Without a doubt lunch service throughout the week is the busiest time of day, particularly Saturday and Sunday brunch. We are generally booked out well in advance and this can mean up to 400 guests. We do have a very efficient hand over system when switching to dinner service, but at times it all rolls into one which can be challenging to say the least.

Generally I get to take some time out just after lunch service as the evening shift is arriving, mostly spent chatting about the previous evenings business with my sous chefs and discussing upcoming events. 

When I’m finished working, I do enjoy the stroll down Grafton Street in the evening. Rain or shine, it’s always interesting. 

Buskers singing their hearts out to crowds of tourists, bunches of people with glasses of wine or pints of beer in hand standing on the pavement outside Keoghs pub or Davy Byrnes. 

I can never resist a quick look at the competition’s menus as I head back towards Pearse station for the train home.   

I been very fortunate to have been able to travel extensively throughout my career, so there have been many good times, starting in London, a couple of years back home in Dublin then on to Manhattan and Miami. 

If I had to pick, the most memorable period would have to be the three years I spent in The Hamptons, New York, where I opened a restaurant with far less capitol than I should have had and left with a bit more than I hoped I would. 

My favourite thing about my job is undoubtedly the people. The people I work with, our team spirit and the opportunity to be creative."

Balfes in Dublin, A Parisian style brasserie for cocktails dinner lunch and breakfast