From The Archives: Derry Clarke Talks To Chef Martin Bealin

By Publications Checkout
From The Archives: Derry Clarke Talks To Chef Martin Bealin

Exclusively for Premium Plus and digital website members, Hospitality Ireland presents a piece originally featured in the October 2017 issue of our print publication in which Irish celebrity chef and proprietor of Dublin's L'Ecrivain restaurant Derry Clarke talks to Martin Bealin, chef/proprietor of the award-winning Global Village restaurant, in Dingle, Co. Kerry.

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Derry: Where did the Global Village name come from?

Martin: It's about thinking globally but acting locally, using international ideas with local ingredients. A book I read talked about action taking place in one area of the planet and having a reaction in another place, so that's where it really came about. You support the people around you and let them support the people around them, and the whole thing will start up.

Derry: You’ve been a chef for over 30 years. Can you tell me about your background?


Martin: I'm originally from a farm just outside Dublin, near Brittas, in Co. Wicklow. I grew up on a small farm, so I grew up with a garden. My grandfather was a super gardener. Back then, you could kill your own animals, so we would butcher our own sheep, chickens, etc., and we had our own eggs. Some of my earliest memories are cutting up lamb on the kitchen table with my dad. He wasn’t a butcher, but he had a lovely touch and did things well. That was my first introduction to food.

Derry: So you knew the source of the food.

Martin: Yes. You go off travelling and you forget about all that, but when you come back to it, it all comes back to you because you did it as a kid, and that’s what I'm trying to do with my kids. We grow all our own vegetables. We bought a field right beside us, put up tunnels, hired a gardener, and the kids are running out there, picking carrots. One of the most beautiful things happened to me recently. My daughter said, "Daddy, will you promise me something? Promise me you’ll always grow carrots."

Derry : It must be a lovely thrill to go out to your garden and pick your own vegetables and have them on your menu.

Martin: It's beautiful, and all the little things that would cost you an arm and a leg to buy in from the big distributors – the baby fennels and all the rest – sure, they grow in six weeks. They're beautiful on the plate and people love to work with them, and they're fresh, so they’ve got the taste as well.


Derry: Did you start your cooking career by going to college?

Martin: I went to college in Waterford, way back in the 1980s. I did my very early training at the Great Southern Hotel in Rosslare under John Savage, and he was "savage by name, savage by nature", as they say. We weren't permitted to speak to each other in the kitchen, but, in fairness, great learning. Then I went to work in Ballymascanlon House, run by the Quinns, near Newry. They had their own farm, and that started to become a thing for me.

Derry: You find, nowadays, that a lot of people are doing the techniques of fermenting and pickling, and smoking and curing, but there's nothing new about them.

Martin: They're all acting like, "We totally invented this," and I say, "My granny invented this! You're just doing stuff my granny did!" It's wonderful that they're connecting with the thing, and they're doing it in their own way.

Derry: Did you work for long periods in any of the countries you travelled through?


Martin: I worked in Austria for a good while, Australia for a good while, and New Zealand for a good while, and did stints in the Caribbean and Belize. They were all very different experiences, but great ones.

Derry: None of them gave you to urge to stay?

Martin: Oh, they did – absolutely – but I came back here in 1995. I'd been away a good few years, so I wasn't entirely sure what was happening on the food scene in Ireland. I said, "Right, I'll join an agency and see where they send me." The agency sent me down to Cahersiveen. I was driving down and thought, "It's lovely around here," so I asked the agency if there was any other work around the area. They said, "The Skellig Hotel is looking for a chef for six weeks," so I said I'd take that. Seán McCluskey was the manager. He was brilliant. He made you feel special. I did that job, and then I saw an empty building on Main Street in Dingle. I thought, "This place has got that thing," that magic thing that I saw around the world in different towns, and it just bit straight away. I have oceans, I have mountains, which are sure to have produced. I have tourism, which is vital when setting up shop in a provincial town.

Derry : When you opened, you had Beginish and Doyle's in the town.

Martin: Those were the two – Beginish was fantastic. I started off doing breakfast and lunch because there was no way I was going to get people in in the evening. I'd no reputation, no money, and no credit.


Derry: I remember, in the 1990s, Dingle was not as busy as it is now.

Martin: Nowhere near as busy. It was a six week season, and outside of that, there were too many places to compete for the small pool of people. Now we've turned it into a foodie town. It always had the culture, the language, and the natural hospitality of the people – the beautiful scenery. It had everything. We said, "Let's add food to this because it’s here," and now it's a food destination as well, which is brilliant. If you're not moving forward, you're standing still or going backwards. You need to progress. In a strange way, the name Global Village actually made me more motivated.

Derry: Can you explain the annual Dingle Food Festival and how it's getting on?

Martin: I got a phone call from the president of the chamber of commerce, and he said, "We need to do something around food." I said, "I totally agree. I'll call in a few chefs, and we'll think about what we can kick off." So, 11 years ago, we sat down in my restaurant and decided, "Right, we want to do a food festival. Let's look at the models around the place and see what we can do." Then we had the great idea of the taste trail, which was my wife's idea, actually. The first year, we had 15 people on it. The next year, we had about 40, and now we have about 85. We have about 200 market stalls looking to get in, so we get to handpick some decent ones. In year two, we decided, "What's the point in doing this if we're not going to profile the town as a great food destination?" So we set up the National Food Awards to get reporters interested and invite them down as judges and bring in extra funding. Then it got legs and became an incredible event.

Derry: I've never seen crowds relate to food quite like those at the Dingle Food Festival.

Martin: It really is something. The country has changed, and now we have a different relationship with food, particularly with seafood. When I came down here first, the fish coming off the trawlers excited me.

Derry: Where do you see Dingle in the future?

Martin: I think it will thrive because the people here are so used to hospitality. It's in their blood. It will always have its beautiful scenery. It's developing beautifully as a food destination. It's always got the music, the language, the culture. It should go from strength to strength. There are obviously a few housekeeping issues in terms of housing, extra accommodation and parking, etc. that need to be dealt with, but they're problems that will be dealt with. I think Dingle's a super destination.

© 2019 Hospitality Ireland – your source for the latest industry news. Interview conducted by Derry Clarke. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.