Malte Half – Chef de Cuisine at The Marker Hotel, Dublin
Malte Half was certainly not the showpiece student. But he did it, proved them wrong and went his way. Today Chef Malte works as Chef de Cuisine at The Marker Hotel, Dublin. Seasonal foods and local produce are some of his most important principles in the kitchen.
How love brought him back to Ireland after he had almost given up, you will learn in this Chef Portrait.
Malte Half – Chef’s Portrait
Chef Malte, today you are Chef de Cuisine of the Marker Hotel in Dublin, Ireland, with 15 years of experience as a Chef in various well-known restaurants. How did your career as a Chef begin? Why did you become a cook?
My parents had to move to Munich shortly before my 18th birthday for professional reasons. I had a hard time in my life and hated my parents for taking me away from friends and my environment. At the time, I did not really know what to do with my life, many young people have the same problem.
I liked cooking and therefore decided to send some CVs to hotels and restaurants in Baden-Württemberg. I got a job at the Teddybären Hotel in Kressbronn – which was a disaster, but I will not go into it. I moved away from home in this small cozy village on Lake Constance – an absolute culture shock for me as an 18-year-old from Berlin. I guess I enjoyed cooking and getting better over time.
In Germany, you were trained as a cook at the Landesberufsschule für Hotel- und Gaststättenberufe in Tettnang. What has been your greatest learning during this time?
I think I was a difficult apprentice and student. I changed my job twice during training and attending school – it was not easy. At the time the school in Tettnang was one of the best in Germany, I wanted to do things different than all the classics and obviously I was young and cocky.
My head chef at the time always told me that I would never be a chef because I lacked focus and had a million other things in my head. They believed in me at school, and I wanted to prove it to anyone anyway. (laughs)
I had to return to Ireland for her. – Malte Half made a decision.
At the beginning of your career as a Chef you moved to Dublin, Ireland to work as Demi Chef de Partie for the Four Seasons. How do you remember your first time as a chef in another country?
When I got my first job in Germany and saw my first paycheck, I said to myself, no way! I got the German government to help me find a job abroad. The choice fell between Great Britain and Ireland. Ireland had the Euro, so here we are.
I moved to Ireland and took a job at O’Connell’s restaurant – at that time there were only German, Swiss and Austrian chefs, the head chef was also German. It was not great, everyone spoke German at work and I could not really improve my English. I rented a small room in an old lady’s house in a very rough part of Dublin. I hated life.
After 3 months I decided to return to Germany, booked all my flights etc. Three days before my departure I met this beautiful young Polish girl (well, she has worked with me, but I was pretty shy). I asked her out and we fell in love. So obviously I had to return to Ireland for her.
And I accepted the job in the four-season hotel after a month in Germany. Yes, after all, the beginning in Ireland was very tough.
By the way, the young Polish beauty now has been with me for 15 years!
How would you best describe Irish cuisine?
Back then, when I arrived here: very boring, but it has developed a lot. And now Irish cuisine is all about the ingredients.
Traditional Irish dishes in a new modern way – what are some examples?
Not my cup of tea, really. The Irish cuisine is mostly English. Irish cuisine has really made a name for itself over the last 10-15 years. Before, all were very French classics.
Dublin Coddle, Irish stew – classic stews, which we just took apart and put them back together in different techniques.
How has the time in an Irish kitchen influenced your cooking style today?
I would say a lot. I am German and proud of it, but I am also very proud to be involved in the food evolution in Ireland and to promote the amazing products that we have in the country.
So I’m narrowing myself down to seasonal foods and local produce here in Ireland. You would not really find exotic foreign vegetables/fruits on my menus.
Which culinary line do you follow as Chef de Cuisine at The Marker Hotel in Dublin? What do you offer?
Brasserie-style food and atmosphere with a touch of fine dining in a very stylish, modern and contemporary dining room.
We change the full menu at any time of the year, always promoting the season and the region and always having an interesting twist. I would say I want to surprise myself. (laughs)
Do you have any German-Irish fusion creations?
Oh Jesus, plenty. But I would not call it fusion, more like inspiration from German/Polish, Hungarian cuisine, etc., or things I grew up with, and then combine them with amazing Irish ingredients.
- Samphire Dumplings, Chamomile Broth, Roast Leek Oil
- Seaweed Gnocchi, Peated Barley , Fermented Beets,Nettles
- Flamed Market Fish, Rhubarb Risotto, Apple Crisp, Ramson Oil
- Pork rillettes, Schmalz, Horseradish, Pumpernickel Powder
- Oven Baked Candy Beets, Sauerkraut Roesti, Celeriac& coffee Cream, Garden Cress
- Venison, Salt Baked Pear, Guiness Roast Chicory, Potato Paper
I guess I could go on and on.
What are some of your special cooking techniques?
Never really got into the molecular cuisine. I love the ‘simplicity’ and look of Nordic cuisine, and everything what comes with it.
Fermenting, pickling, smoking, curing, ageing. I guess this would be my way to go to add textures and layers to food.
Do you use lesser-known spices in your kitchen?
Well, I like to use different peppers such as long and Jamaican peppers, I like to cook with grains like millet, malted rye and peated barley from the brewing process.
I like to dry vegetable waste and trimmings and make my own spice blends and umami powder. I go foraging whenever I get the chance and collect Alexander seeds, fennel pollen, mustard seeds etc.
And lesser-known vegetables?
There are amazing local products and producers like
- Ballymakenny Farm – purple potatoes, veal, melon radish
- Drummond House – Elephant Garlic, Garlic Scapes
And I go foraging whenever I get the chance for sea shore vegetables like samphire, aster, purslane and seaweeds like Dulse, peppered Dulse (taste like truffles, amazing!).
If you wrote your own culinary book about Ireland; what would it look like?
Good food! Food should be medicine, Irish wild life, Irish farming. I guess that would be some of the topics I would include.
If you do not cook for yourself, what are your local street food/dishes in Dublin you like the most?
Since I am a vegan it is not easy to eat out so I mainly cook at home. But here are a few places that will you make forget abotu meat:
- Sova Vegan Butcher
Many foreign chefs are interested in working in Ireland. Is it difficult to find a job as a cook in Ireland?
The job market is extremely good for cooks, and there are many jobs in good restaurants. We do not have enough qualified trained chefs in Ireland. Too many open positions and not enough cooks to fill them.
The salaries are only ok in terms of the cost of living (rent, etc.), and unfortunately the health services here are also really bad.
Any place in the world you would like to work as a chef one day?
Japan or India.
It’s so different in every way from the European kitchen. That really excites me.
Thanks a lot, Chef Malte!
Malte took the chance when he had her.
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