When chef Anthony Walsh joined the Shannon Springs Hotel in mid-2016, he had no idea that by April 2017 he would have entered and won his first-ever cookery competition. Now, the proud owner of a gold medal, he understands and appreciates hotel owner John Gavin’s winning ways with food and the level to which he can deliver.

It was at Gavin’s prompting that the duo joined forces to cook and serve a four-course menu to a panel of 14 judges, emerging ahead of 7 other teams of chefs to win gold and be declared overall winners of the ‘Cook Serve’ category at CATEX 2017 which was held in the RDS, Dublin.

Using locally sourced produce, their winning menu comprised a starter of scorched fillet of Ballyvaughan mackerel, followed by a main course consisting of Burren lamb cooked in two ways. Their banana flambé dessert, prepared by Caroline Moloney, a third year student at Shannon College of Hotel Management, was set aflame with Bunratty mead.

Commenting on their achievement, John Gavin said, “Winning did not come easy. We had two hours to prepare and serve our menu so this involved long hours practising to ensure that we had every aspect of the dish timed to perfection. In culinary terms, we had sixty movements between all dishes and if any one fell behind, we knew we would be up against it as the competition was stiff.

“While we had completed three full-menu trial runs and had everything timed to the minutest second before going to the RDS, it was quite nerve-wracking being watched by sixteen sets of eyes: eight judges from the Panel of Chefs of Ireland judged our food and six judged the service provided by Caroline. It was a tremendous team effort and I am so proud of what we have achieved for Shannon. It’s all down to team spirit,” said Gavin.

He added, “Each of us is as good as the support we give each other. Each member of staff impacts on the other and if service slips in any one area, it affects the team. That’s why we want to keep our standards at a gold level. It’s good for us and it’s good for the region as a tourism attractor.” The Shannon Springs Hotel has injected some of the fine dining standards displayed at CATEX into its new gastro menu, compiled by Chef Walsh.