At Dalata we do things differently. The Dalata Difference enables us to tell our stories and celebrate the exceptionally talented people we have at the company. Growing our people, empowering them and developing their careers is at the heart of everything we do. In this edition we catch up with Executive Chef, Darina Brennan to find out what the Dalata Difference means to her and how she sees it being lived by our people every day.
I joined Dalata back in 2014 as Head Chef at the Ballsbridge Hotel in Dublin, before progressing to become Executive Chef. My background was in restaurants, but I moved to the hotel industry with Dalata at just the right time as the company embarked on a period of expansion, something we are of course still focussing on. I joined Dalata under Tony McGuigan and my role centres on Chef Support, something we didn’t really have before. I have a great team of two other Senior Chefs, working in a total team of six.
My job includes everything from recruitment of Head Chefs, training and support, systems, procurement and working with suppliers across Ireland and the UK. It is certainly a busy position, and one which requires a lot of travel, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I also support the company’s PR and networking strategies and I am always happy to undertake activities which help encourage people to join our industry or promote diversity.
Dalata is such a people-focussed business and it was wonderful to be able to organise our first Head Chef Conference recently at the Clayton Hotel Liffey Valley. As a large company, it can be difficult for all of our Head Chefs to get to know each other but this event brought them all under one roof. It was fantastic to witness a real openness to sharing best practise and networking throughout the event – there was a real generosity of spirit from the chefs who wanted to really help and support their colleagues. We also invited well-known businesswoman and broadcaster, Norah Casey to speak at the event on the importance of wellness and good mental health. In addition, we also spoke to the chefs about ongoing training and development needs – we want them to really shape the direction of their own careers and their personal development.
I have experienced first-hand and greatly appreciated how our company treats people fairly. During the pandemic I was able to complete a Diploma in Food Nutrition which would prove to be extremely beneficial as I was diagnosed with cancer shortly after. The knowledge I gained from the diploma was priceless for me during my treatment. During this time I was supported throughout by everyone at Dalata which was such an incredible thing and something I am very thankful for. I am pleased to say I am through my treatment, am feeling well and am back to work again. I also find it very fitting that one of our chosen charities is the Marie Keating Foundation, this is a charity which is very close to my heart.
As a company, Dalata really wants to support its people, and this is certainly true for our chefs. I was delighted to see Maldron Hotel Belfast City Head Chef, Adam Curley win Northern Ireland Hotel Chef of the Year and some of the cooking at our Chef Live competition really is second to none – it really is Master Chef quality. Running events like this inspires and challenges our chefs while also providing an opportunity for them to showcase their skillsets. In turn it helps raise standards across our kitchens which translates into greater service for our guests.
While our hotels come under certain brand umbrellas, there is real autonomy for the GMs and Head Chefs to make their own decisions. In my role I work to support our chefs in a number of ways such as reducing food waste or working with suppliers but they are always encouraged to take the lead. We want them to be in charge of their own destiny and to always be themselves. We are there when they need us for things such as learning and development along with other benefits and to support them in their development. This is when we see their excellence really come out – we know they can cook but by not micro-managing them their individuality shines through and this is often when the best dishes are conceived.