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Last years winners of ‘A Taste of West Cork Schools Cookery Competition’, Ellen O’Regan & Pearse O’Flynn from Schull Community College have just sent us this account of their prizewinning trip to Neven Maguire’s MacNean House & Restaurant:

neven & grace inehanOn Wednesday, 13th May 2009 we travelled the seven hour journey to Blacklion, Co. Cavan with our Home Economics teacher, Ms. Grace Linehan. We were welcomed at MacNean House & Restaurant, in Neven’s absence, by his uncle Frank and local lady Sheila. Neven and most of his staff were at the Irish Restaurant Awards ceremony at The Burlington Hotel in Dublin. We relaxed for an hour in the lovely surroundings of MacNean House before we sat down to a delicious meal prepared specially for us by Chef Vicky. We had the restaurant to ourselves that evening.

After nine o’clock breakfast next morning we were told of Neven’s successful night in Dublin. He picked up six awards including the coveted All Ireland Best Chef and Best Celebrity Chef awards.

Before meeting Neven in the kitchen, we had a few hours off which we spent at Enniskillen Shopping Centre just fifteen minutes away. At one o’clock we were back at MacNean House to meet up with Neven. Before getting down to work in the kitchen he spoke briefly about the awards ceremony the previous night and gave us the history of MacNean House.neven in kitchen with shane and ellen   He introduced us to his chefs, kitchen staff and his enthusiastic, three year old nephew who obviously adores Neven as he was dressed in full chef’s outfit and wanted to cook with Neven. Then it was time to put on our aprons and set to work. Neven showed us how to make spring rolls, chocolate tart, roast pineapple, pineapple chutney, chili jam and how to spin sugar into baskets and other designs. He also showed us cooking techniques such dicing and how to roll pastry correctly. Meanwhile he made us a lovely chicken curry for lunch while at the same time we watched as he set about preparing dinner for guests later that night.

After lunch we presented Neven with a hamper made up of West Cork produce, generously sponsored by: Irish Yoghurts, Glenilen Farm, Gubbeen Cheese, Bantry Bay Seafood, Union Hall Smoked Fish, Clonakilty Black Pudding, Skeaghanore Duck, Durrus Cheese, Sally Barnes Smoked Fish, Desmond/Gabriel Cheese and FollainTeo.Neven presented with West Cork Food Hamper

At 6.30 p.m., before the pièce de resistance (8 course dinner in MacNean House, prepared by Neven) we watched from the kitchen while table service began. It was interesting to see how smoothly things ran in such a busy kitchen and celebrity chef Neven wasn’t at all like other t.v. chefs who seem to shout at their staff all the time.

Dinner was an exceptional dining experience from beginning to end. Starter included Trio of Goat’s Cheese, Assiette of Rabbit or Seared Sea Scallops, to name just three. This was followed by Carrot & Coconut Soup with smoked ham Hock Ravioli and Passion Fruit Jelly. Main course included Assiette of Irish Beef, Rare Breed Pork Plate or Trio of Turbot, all with delicious accompaniments. A wonderful selection of deserts was preceded by ‘pre-desert’ of Tiramisu with popping Candy! Tea or coffee was accompanied by MacNean House petit fours.

The presentation of each dish was truly amazing and the wonderful combination of flavours and textures made it a dining experience we will never forget.

Next morning after a delicious breakfast, Neven invited us to join him on a visit to his producers but unfortunately as we had a long journey ahead this wasn’t possible. Before we left, Neven kindly presented us with a signed copy of his new cook book and again invited us back to MacNean House to complete our Transition Year work experience. We are very much looking forward to it.

Ellen O’Regan & Pearse O’Flynn

3rd Year students Schull Community College

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