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Sheebeen chef comes full circle

Living

RETURNED TO HIS ROOTS Anthony Printer outside Cronin’s Sheebeen, where the gable wall is adorned with a mural of Granuaile by Mexican artist, Kathrina Rupit. Pic: Conor McKeown

Anthony Printer’s route back to Westport was circuitous, but guided by Michelin stars

Interview
Ciara Galvin

“We’ll get some more of that turbot, it’s lovely.” Anthony Printer is multitasking, ordering the day’s fish, for that evening’s offering at Cronin’s Sheebeen in Rosbeg, Westport.
Printer, who is passionate about local produce, says things have gone ‘full circle’ in the restaurant business.
From back in the day when there were ‘old-school suppliers’ like Vincent Burke, and everything was so fresh, to importing a lot from overseas, to now, thankfully, when fresh, local fare is being sourced once again.
Food trends have changed a lot since those old days too, says the head chef.
“Everything was so fresh, like looking back on it now. They used to throw us in whole monkfish; they couldn’t sell them, and they’d give them to us for free. Now you’re looking at €22 per kilo. Same with lamb shanks; we used to just throw them into a stock pot.”
Still, while the free monkfish might be a thing of the past, the quality of the produce has remained as good as ever.   
“I try to get produce as local as possible. I’m looking here at Michael Madden with a van full of turbot that landed into Rosaveal this morning, it’s incredible the stuff we can get. You cannot beat that quality, it makes my job so much easier because I don’t have to do anything with it,” says Printer.
The 39 year old has come a long way since his start in the hospitality business. His first job was cleaning the yard and sorting the bottle returns 25 years ago at The Towers at Westport Quay. But – just like the quality of freshly caught fish – some things have stayed the same. His first employers were Colm and Dolores Cronin, who then owned The Towers, and now he finds himself working for them once again. A lot happened in between, however.

From here to there, and back again
Printer’s parents moved to Rosbeg from their native Scotland, after falling in love with the area while on holiday 40 years ago.
You could say that Anthony was born to work in the hospitality industry. While in Scotland, his parents owned a small hotel on the outskirts of Glasgow – and not just any hotel: It once belonged to Walt Disney. Here in Mayo, they decided to convert an old slatted cow shed into a purpose-built guest house. “We ran Wilmaur for 13 years and were the first B&B to be listed in the Michelin Green Guide in Mayo.”
Printer’s father sadly passed away not long after they moved into the B&B, and life changed immeasurably for young Anthony. “If I wanted anything I had to work for it, so I worked wherever I could.”
His first job in a kitchen was in family friends Mary and Michael Cadden’s establishment, The Asgard, and the chef reveals that it was this experience that got him set on the idea of cheffing.
“It’s a funny thing, what hooked me was the sheer craic really. But also, everyone worked together, working at such pace, putting out such numbers … we were so busy,” he explains.
After studying culinary arts, Printer worked in Galway before getting his first start in the two-Michelin-star kitchen of Patrick Guilbaud.
“From shelling langoustine ’til my fingers bled to thinking everyone spoke French because they shouted ‘oui’ all the time, I was hooked.”
Soon the chef was working at the prestigious three-Michelin-star Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London, under Clare Smith, who has recently been voted the best female chef in the world.
Working upwards of 12 hour days doesn’t phase Printer these days. He had some serious training in that regard while he was in London.
“I’d leave north Clapham on the 5.47am tube to get to work for 6.30am. We got a break at 5pm for half an hour, and we in the pastry section finished at 1 or 1.30am. I’d get the night bus home and bed at 2.30am.”
He was soon promoted to demi chef de partie, but eventually he found he could not continue to meet the manic demands of the job.
Before giving into the call of home, he worked at various locations in Galway, including Ballynahinch Castle.
“It’s great to be back in Westport, it’s home. Working in The Sheebeen, 500 metres from where I grew up, there’s no feeling to beat that.”
His new appointment bore fruits sooner than many expected, including owner Colin Cronin. In March, just three months after taking up residency as head chef, the eatery won the Best Gastro Pub in Connacht at the Restaurant Association Awards.
Printer says the award meant a lot to all at Cronin’s Sheebeen. “It’s great for everyone in there … the long hours, people have recognised that. It was great to get it for Dolores and Colm, to give them that award.”
Looking to the future, Printer’s plans are ambitious and his standards are high, but ultimately, the head chef wants to bring joy to people through his food.
“We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing, and whether we get awards or not, it’s more about keeping the locals happy. This is where I grew up, I want to be able to give them really, really great food and make them happy, that’s reward enough.”