A Day in the Life: Paul Cadden


READY TO ROLL Westport born Paul Cadden has six restaurants ready to reopen to the public in Dublin.  Pic: Eoin Holland

Name: Paul Cadden
Age: 47
Lives: Rathmines in Dublin, native of Westport
Occupation: Owner, Saba Restaurant Group

I RUN three to four mornings a week with a friend just up the road from me. I normally start my day around 6.30 and I meet him for a run around 6.45. I’m back around 7.30 and then shower. If I’m running on my own I can be listening to podcasts like Tommy and Hector and Laurita Blewitt – sometimes I have to stop running with the laughter! It can be anything from Elizabeth Dade to David McWilliams. I took up mediation over a year ago as well. I’ve found that really helpful, just to stay in the day and manage the stress. There’s been a lot of that over the last 13 months!
Thankfully the kids – George, Carrie and Sadie - are back to school. The mornings are very busy getting breakfast, making them a packed lunch and getting them out the door. We’re lucky we can scoot or cycle to school. On the way back I’ll grab a coffee and be ready to start around 8.45.
I’ve an office on South William Street but since lockdown, the dining room in the house has become the office. Myself or my wife Sarah definitely enjoyed homeschooling and made the most of it, but the kids ran back to school last month!
When everything closed last March we got back open after two weeks and got four out of six places open quite quickly. No one knew what they were dealing with, but we got huge
encouragement from our customers. Our team have been absolutely incredible throughout the last year. They’ve done everything they possibly can to keep the business going and we’re so grateful for that.
We have a place in Kildare Village which we’re hoping to open in mid-May with retail. Our restaurant on Clarendon Street in the city is staying open serving takeaways, wines, and cocktails to go. The five guys in there have been with us a long time and they’ve mortgages and families. As the city starts to open up it will definitely do better.
Saba Baggot Street has taken on a life of its own since the pandemic started. We opened a coffee hatch very quickly, then we opened a grocer and wine store serving everything from artisan producers around the city like local honeys, chocolates, pastas - you name it, we sold it.
Last summer we had a car park at the back of Baggot Street that we transformed that into Saba’s Secret Garden. We’re planning on getting that ready for opening as soon as we get the go-ahead from the government.
My brother Alan - who works with me as the office manager of Saba To Go - he’s basically my right hand man. We make all our decisions together on the business. We’ve a brilliant relationship. We work hard but we also have a great laugh too. Saba To Go has been an absolute lifeline over the past few months. We’re very fortunate to be in the takeaway business in the last few months because you can’t just simply flip into takeaway. Thai Vietnamese food is very suited to takeaway because it’s wet currys, stir frys, noodles, it travels well.
We’re proud partners of the Ireland senior women’s hockey team. They’re flying off to Malaysia for a climatising camp before they go to the Olympics. We feed them post-match, post training and work with their nutritional and performance directors with regards to their meals. That’s been really interesting, they’re an amazing bunch of girls.
We are also currently delivering 1,000 meals to the hospitals in Dublin. That’s given them a much-needed boost.
Depending on the day of the week, you could have a meeting about marketing, finance, or human resources. We have a great senior management team. We’ve been open 15 years and nearly all our general managers and chefs been with us for the majority of that.
Fun atmosphere
The biggest thing for the team in the last year has been mental health. They’ve been under huge pressure travelling to work. We’ve so many Thai chefs and people from Italy and Poland that can’t travel home. We’re pretty much their family, so it’s really important that we keep the atmosphere as fun as possible, make sure they get their time off and make sure they take care of themselves.
Thai New Year is coming up this week, it’s very important for all our Thai staff. We had 140 staff before Covid, we’re back to about 75 now.
We’re planning new menus and wine lists for reopening to come back with a fresh look. Believe it or not, we’re working on Christmas menus so we don’t have to be thinking about it when we’re back in the operation.
As the day goes on I might get a chance to collect the kids in the afternoon, which is great. I mightn’t always get the chance to do that being in town or in Kildare Village. The kids are all cycling now so we might go to the park in the evenings.
With the restaurant being closed I’m at home more, which is great. I’d always be on to my brother Mark, who has Bar One in Castlebar. I’m the eldest of Mark and Alan, and the three of us are in hospitality. I’d be onto my Mam and Dad once a day. They had the Asgard bar restaurant in the Quay Westport for over 20 years. Mam and Dad instilled a great work ethic in us, how important customer service is, and gave us a love of hospitality. It’d definitely in our blood. It’s in our DNA at this stage.
I do think there will be a bounce when this is over. I think people will want to celebrate those missed birthdays and weekends away with family and friends and treat themselves. Spending time in pubs, restaurants and hotels around the country, that’s where it will be. I’m very optimistic looking forward to the next quarter of this year. We’ve a lot of plans and projects in the pipeline. They say it’s darkest before the dawn, and I think it rings true.
We’re looking forward to getting back into the buzzing restaurant, the cocktail shaking in the ice, the clink of glasses, the laughter and smiles of customers, helping our customers create memories and see friends. I can see it, I’m already there in the restaurant, and that’s what’s keeping me going!

In conversation with Oisín McGovern

Quickfire questions

If money was no object?
More time off, but I’d still be in the restaurant business.

Something you don’t know about me?
I sing with the Stellar choir and I love it.

Most unusual thing I’ve ever tasted?
Snake wine with my brother Mark in Vietnam was very interesting!

Favourite place?
Westport. Not being able to visit my parents during Covid has been very difficult.

What makes you angry?
Poor attitude. You can teach anyone if they have an eagerness to learn and a positive attitude.

How do you unwind?
Spending time with the kids and trying new recipes.

Three things in the fridge?
With three kids; 20 litres of milk, 3 blocks of cheddar and Guinness in case of an emergency!

What makes you nervous?
The few seconds before jumping into the Forty Foot for an early morning swim.

Last book you read?
‘That Old Country Music’ by Kevin Barry, he’s brilliant.

Favourite tv show?
We are really enjoying Your Honour - I love Bryan Cranston

Most famous person you ever met?
Billy Connolly arrived into Saba thinking it was an Indian. I walked him round to my friend’s restaurant Jaipur. I was gutted!  

What do you miss most about being a kid?
Cycling around the Quay and Westport House and playing hours of soccer and rugby.

Most prized possession?
My phone. Literally my whole life is on there, probably an addict!

Best advice you were ever given?
My dad Michael told me to study accountancy which has proved an invaluable skill in running the business.

Three words to describe me?
Resilient, loyal and fun.

First thing post-Covid...
A swim in Old Head, pints in the Sheebeen with the family followed by dinner in my brother Mark and his wife Katie’s place Bar One in Castlebar. Heaven!