Image left: Wade Murphy, Executive Chef at The Lodge at Doonbeg in 2012
Image right: Foie Gras Terrine with Pineapple and Rum-soaked Raisins
THE LODGE AT DOONBEG: 2012
In the fall of 2012, I took my first trip to Ireland. It was an interesting flight that day. We landed in Dublin for a layover, and the connecting flight was my first experience on Ryan Air. It was an unusual aircraft, I mean, seriously, there was no padding on the plane's interior walls, and it was freezing; I did not take my coat off!
We landed very early in the morning at the tiny Shannon airport in County Clare, Ireland. It must have been 5 A.M., and it seemed I was the only one that needed a ride to my destination, The Lodge at Doonbeg. My driver had my pickup time wrong, and I had to wait for several hours for him to arrive. When he came, I went on a magical adventure to the town of Doonbeg and then to the Lodge.
I was enchanted by what appeared to be a castle from years gone by. The building, however, which John Haley from Kiawah Partners designed, opened in 2002.
From the General Manager Joe Russell, the Rockstar Golf Professional Brian Shaw, Grass Superintendent Jim McKenna, and all the staff at that property were an absolute delight. The accommodations were fit for a King.
Working with Wade Murphy, the Executive Chef at the time gave me an entirely different perception of Irish cuisine.
Please see my interview below that was published in my first book Golf Club World, Behind the Gates in 2013.
The Lodge at Doonbeg, Country Clare, Ireland
Image by Patrick O'Brien, Kiawah Partners
(The Lodge at Doonbeg is now Trump International Golf Links)
an interview with wade murphy
GK: Tell us about your journey to become Executive Chef at Doonbeg Golf Club and Lodge.
I have been cooking from a very young age. I grew up in Gorey, County Wexford, in southeastern Ireland. My grandmother was a cook, and I spent many weekends with my grandparents. When she was cooking, I would stand on a bucket, peeling potatoes into a sink. That is one of my earliest memories. Ever since then, I knew I wanted to be a chef or involved in the hotel and catering industry. Fast forward. I attended the Dublin Institute of Technology where they have a culinary program. Simultaneously, I worked in a few Relais & Chateaux hotels part-time. At the time, there were only a few restaurants in Dublin creating fine dining menus. As a young chef, all I heard of was London. When I finished culinary school, I packed my bags and went to London. I spent seven years working in various two- and three-star Michelin restaurants and hotels. After those seven years, I returned to Ireland. Some friends told me about a new five-star hotel opening in Dublin. It was the Four Seasons. I applied for a position, was hired and spent six years working there. During that time, I was part of a task team that helped to open Four Seasons properties around Europe. I helped with the openings in Sharm El Sheikh, Prague, Budapest and London.
In 2005, I wanted to expand my culinary knowledge and branch out. Mr. John Brennan, who was General Manager at the Four Seasons in Dublin, arranged for me to transfer to the Four Seasons in Chicago. I went there as a sous chef, stayed for a few years and then was sent to New York to help with the re-opening of the Four Seasons after its refurbishment.
When I returned to Ireland, I opened a small boutique hotel called Lisloughrey Lodge, further up the West Coast from where we are now. It was my first executive chef job, and I spent 3-1/2 years there. While I was working there, we won various awards for best chef and best restaurant and two AA Rosette Awards. The hotel was so popular that, at one stage, I worked for several months without a day off. My boss then arranged a break for me to get away for a few days. And it’s funny because that break was at Doonbeg.
I came down and stayed here for a few days with my wife, Elaine. It was the off-season. I had a great time chilling out here; it was really what I needed. As we were leaving Doonbeg, I turned to my wife and said, “I could work there.” Two years later, I got a call from Kevin Kenny who was in charge of Darby’s restaurant at Doonbeg.
Kevin had his wedding at Lisloughrey Lodge. He told me, “We are looking for an executive chef to take over the complete running of the food at Doonbeg.” I told Kevin that I was very happy where I was and that I would think about it and then get back to him. Then I called my wife and said, “We are moving!”
GK: There are many dining areas at Doonbeg. How do you manage everything so well?
I have complete control over the food, every aspect of it from the Long Room Restaurant, the members’ bar and Darby’s to the Marquee Pavilion where we hold weddings and large functions. It’s a great property. When I came on board, the guys had been through a tough time, a very busy time, and they were all tired. I said I wasn’t going to come in like a Tasmanian Dust Devil, so I decided I would slowly make the changes needed, without upsetting the team. We’re starting to see the benefits of that now. I am lucky to have a great team by my side.
The Long Room Restaurant was just awarded Best Hotel Restaurant in Ireland this year , which was a great accolade to receive. I have won many awards as a chef, but I would rather win best restaurant because that award is for the whole team. The chef is only as good as his team. I enjoy working at Doonbeg. I come here every day and get to look at the most amazing scenery during the trip here. I look out toward the ocean and know that the next thing past that ocean is America. Millions of liters of water!
GK: Do you support the local markets?
We have great local produce in the area. My mission is to source and use as much local product as is physically possible. My fish comes from right out there [he points to the Atlantic Ocean]. The guy who fishes for me also has my lobster pots. I can see his trawler some days. His fish is phenomenal, fresher than fresh. All of my meats and game come from within a 50-mile radius of the property. It’s inspiring to me as a chef to be able to do that. During the wild garlic season, I walk out onto the golf course where the wild garlic grows, and I forage for it.
GK: Besides your grandmother, who has influenced your cooking?
I have been inspired by many chefs whom I’ve met during my travels. I worked for some of London’s most famous chefs during the ‘90s, and I loved that style of cooking. In Ireland, I admire people like Ross Lewis of Chapter One Restaurant; it’s my favorite. There are others such as Paul Flynn at The Tannery in Dungarvan, County Waterford; Derry Clarke from L’Ecrivain in Dublin; Neven Maguire at MacNean House and Restaurant in County Cavan and Mickael Viljanen, chef of the Greenhouse Restaurant in Dublin. Mickael is cooking phenomenal food and is probably the most talked about chef in the country at the moment. In the U.S., Tom Colicchio is a favorite along with Grant Achatz and my old mentor, Kevin Hickey, at the Four Seasons Chicago.
I am also very passionate about Irish ingredients, but you also will see some outside influences in my style of cooking. James Beard had a quote that I sometimes put at the bottom of the menus. He said, “I don’t like gourmet cooking, I don’t like this and that cooking, I just like good cooking.”
I’m an Internet fiend who constantly looks at YouTube to see what other chefs are doing. Whenever I take a vacation, I choose a food destination. I also read a lot of cookbooks. My wife has banned me from bringing books into the house! My Amazon account is massive. Last year, I had to build two new bookshelves to fit all of the books. When I am not working, I am a food sponge.
I am really passionate about food and, today, that is a requirement in order to achieve anything in this industry.
***Wade Murphy currently operates his restaurant 1826 Adare in County Limerick. (2022)
Recipe: Stuffed Quail with Apple and Celeriac Purée, Celeriac Confit, Crisp Walnuts and Lentil Paper
Recipe by Wade Murphy, Executive Chef at The Lodge at Doonbeg.
(The Lodge at Doonbeg is not Trump International Golf Links.)