Face To Face With Martijn Kajuiter
Published on Dec 12 2012 3:15 PM in Food
Martijn Kajuiter is one of Ireland's few Michelin-star chefs. Working out in Ardmore, at the Cliff House Hotel, Martijn has just launched his new book, 'Lets Go Disco', which features many dishes served at his famous restaurant.
How did you start off in business?
It comes from loving to eat. My parents had a café and a bistro so that was always around. I was tested in school and I was doing really well but I dropped out at a young age. I didn’t like it, so I went to catering school; you can start at 13 in the Netherlands.
I always wanted to work in a Michelin-starred place. Then I did, so I wanted to work in a two-star, then a three-star. Then I wanted tobe head chef of my own one-star. I’ve wanted many things and worked hard to get them.
Your best business decision?
To relocate my family back to Ireland and take the job at the Cliff House. It gave me independence as a chef, and in the first two years I was back, I probably spent more time with my family than ever. Now my wife lives in Netherlands, I live here, and commute home a lot.
The best thing about your job?
A lot of passion is needed. There are not many jobs where you get so much recognition as well as so much criticism as in this industry.
The biggest challenge?
That it’s never over! I always want to go on, do something different, achieve something else. In this industry you are only ever as good as your last dish.
Ambition for the coming year?
The book was a reflection of the past 8-10 months, a true reflection. Every week we took out a couple of dishes which we were serving and profiled them, took photos. So for next year, we just want to control the controlables. Try to relax and let the team grow.
Your most embarrassing moment?
Oh, I have plenty. But the one that stands out was when I was working in a two-star restaurant in the Netherlands. We had soufflés for 20 people in our oven, which had a fan. I was asked to add steam to the oven to get a better finish, but I pressed the wrong button, turned on the fan and ruined the souffles. There was a team of 14 chefs, all the front of house staff, everyone, left waiting for 20 minutes because I messed up. And I knew the second I pressed the button! It was horrible. It’s important to learn from your mistakes but, if I’m honest, a two-star Michelin kitchen was not the place to make that mistake.
Your favourite pub/restaurant/hotel?
I really like Keohoe’s in Dublin. It was one of the first pubs I was brought to in Ireland. Fishy Fishy is a simple, nice restaurant, and I have had many good meals there with my wife and kids.
Your worst job?
When you are a comis chef you have to work every stage, and often you can’t see at the time why you are doing a specific task. Because I was tall, I always had to clean the canapé and remove all the grease. That was awful. If you could do any other job apart from the job you are doing now what would it be and why? When I was a boy I wanted to be a test driver for Lambourghini. I guess I’m a little past that now...
Why Lambourghini, that’s a bit specifc?
It's just a nice car. Rustic, not as smooth as a Ferrari, but great.
Your earliest memory? When I was a child, I know I used to dip my finger in my parents’ oxtail soup…
Your business motto?
Well, 'Let’s Go Disco' seems perfect. When I got to Ardmore, I had a plan, as everyone should have. But you have to readjust, people have different tastes, cultures are different. It’s all about the guest really. Actually, that would be it – ‘It’s All About The Guest’. They pay our bills, after all.
The best advice you ever received?
From my wife: ‘Martijn, stay true to yourself, make sure you can look yourself in the eye in the mirror.’
Which fictional character do you most identify with?
One thing you always have in your refrigerator?
View on Critics?
They’re all guests. Everyone who eats in your restaurant is a guest. No one is better than anyone else; they are all important.