Meet our Executive Head Chef, Stephen Holland
Meet our Executive Head Chef, Stephen Holland
Stephen, a Tyrone man, started working in kitchens from the young age of thirteen, inspired by his grandmothers love for cooking. Having studied at South West College in Dungannon, Stephen spent his teen years training as part of the Northern Irish culinary scene. His studies afforded him the chance to travel to America and gain valuable skills in how to communicate, delegate and organise; all of which are key when leading chefs in a kitchen. As well as working in America, Stephen had the opportunity to work in leading hotels around the world including Dubai, New Zealand and Australia. These hotels included the Lamborghini Hotel Huangshi China, Westin Harbour Castle Hotel Toronto, CBD Bar and the House Restaurants New Zealand, as well as Castle Leslie in Ireland.
Stephen’s hard work and dedication were recognised by the range of awards he won, such as Student Chef of the Year and Seafood Chef of the Year. No stranger to awards, he held claim to winning the ‘Young Chef of the Year’ title three years in a row.
After spending time studying at The Culinary Institute of America - Greystone in Napa Valley, Stephen fell in love with the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group having tasted the delicates of The French Laundry, Bouchon Bistro and Bouchon Bakery. What made these restaurants stand out to Stephen was the strong focus on local produce and work ethics. He was particularly impressed by their commitment to grow their own produce in a garden which they had created next to the restaurant.
Stephen has proudly been a part of the resort team since 2010, having worked his way up to now overseeing all the culinary offerings at the resort as Executive Head Chef. Stephen’s journey to the top position was guided by the mentoring of the resorts previous Culinary Director Noel McMeel, who Stephen had met and worked with previously at the luxurious Castle Leslie Estate in 2004. On his departure Noel McMeel had nothing but genuine kindness and excitement for Stephen’s future at the resort and what he knows Stephen will be able to achieve “I genuinely believe Stephen is someone who is not only well educated and highly experienced, but highly skilled, well respected in the culinary world, a trusted mentor and an inspirational leader for his team of chefs.”
For Stephen, his love for the resort is fueled by the people and quality of ingredients which are used within each dish, which is no surprise as he is a strong advocate for using local produce and telling a story with food. By supporting Lough Erne Resort’s neighbors, Stephen and his team are able to help boost the local economy as they bring a unique collection of Irish dishes to life with traditional Irish ingredients and flavors wherever possible. The team have curated a selection of local suppliers who each have their own story to tell and a unique way of doing things, such as Farmhouse Cheese, Lakeland Bakery, Burren Balsamics by Susie and Bob and Ballyrashane Creamery to name a few of our key suppliers who provide the Resort with fresh and high standard produce.
When thinking through the menus Stephen has planned and perfected, he would say his favorite dish is the Chef’s Signature Sharing Dish which is a celebration of all things local. It's a sharing platter with a range of artisan produce from across Northern Ireland, with each supplier having been hand-picked for their quality and passion. This dish is comprised of Ballylisk Cheese from Co. Armagh, Lisdergan Meat from Co. Tyrone, Erne Grove Spiced Pear Chutney from Co. Fermanagh, Irish Black Butter from Co. Armagh, Comber Potato from Co. Down and Keenan’s Hot Smoked Salmon from Co. Antrim. Having all of these unique elements from around Northern Ireland makes this dish the ultimate homage to the local supplier, especially when the drink options are also local productions that include Boatyard Irish Gin from Co. Fermanagh and Troughton’s Elderflower Tonic from Co. Armagh.
Outside of the Lough Erne kitchen, he sticks to a go to classic at home of Chicken Risotto, as he notes it as a firm family favourite that is easy to create during his downtime. While the fine dining restaurant One which is located in Dublin is his top restaurant in Ireland as it aims to create one of the most unique dining experiences in Ireland through the merging of cultures, alliances, suppliers and teams.
Stephen’s unique approach and cooking mindset has brought to the resort supplier-based menus which continue to focus on supporting local to enhance the culinary landscape and expand the trajectory of each restaurant at Lough Erne Resort.