Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Chef Diaries - Martijn Kajuiter

Let's Go Disco! 

Martijn is the Executive Chef of the Michelin Star House Restaurant in the Cliff House Hotel in West Waterford. From the Netherlands, he moved to Ireland in 2007 having previously worked with  some of the biggest names in the industry including; Michel Roux, Pierre Koffman and Marco Pierre White. 

In his beautiful book ‘Let’s Go Disco’, Martijn describes the cooking style in the House and sets out step by step instructions of how to re-create some of his recipes. The photos in the book will have you wanting to jump right in and start cooking. Or just sit back and admire them. In 2010 the House restaurant was awarded a Michelin Star and is a superb dining destination in Ireland.

He’s also quite possibly the tallest person I’ve met. 6 foot 8 inches if you’re wondering. 

When did you realise you wanted to become a Chef?

I can’t quite put my finger on one moment, I just did it. I loved to eat so that helps. 

How did you become a Chef?

Martijn started cooking in his parents' restaurants, then at 16 moved to Amsterdam. After writing to 30 of the Top 500 Restaurants in the Netherlands he was taken on by Les Quatres Canetons and Head Chef Wynand Vogel . He then worked his way up, and luckily for us, landed in Ireland. He describes how he became a Chef by working hard and compensating my lack of talent with even more hard work

How would you describe your style of cooking?

I leave that for others to describe. I would just say that the way we do it is mine!
Garden vegetable salad dish

Raspberry carmel, custard and cookie, basil pastry cream and marshmallow
compressed cucumber and whipped sauce, Coca Cola jelly and tapioca
How would your team describe you?

Hmm, I don't know – you can ask them …a few are on Twitter, so it's easy to ask them directly. But I guess they will say that I am the nicest and most flexible Chef they have ever worked for ;-)

Can you describe a ‘typical’ day in the life of a Chef?

Every day is and can be different. The only steady factor is that it starts early and ends very late. 

Is it true that it helps to be a little bit mad to be a Chef?

It depends on what kind of Chef you are...But in general it helps indeed.

What is the most common misconception about what Chefs are like?

Oufff, I can only speak about the misconceptions some people may have of me. Apparently I am difficult, arrogant and a bully, which indeed is not very positive. I think that you have to translate it as being professional, straight, clear and taking nothing else than the best you can.

Do you have a signature dish?

I guess I have a few. It sounds very normal – but for example our smoked salmon dish has been on the menu since we opened in May/June 2008. It’s not the same now as it was then, but it’s a signature.

                                          Smoked salmon dish, salmon ballotine, cured salmon
                                              Beetroot, cucumber pearls and salmon ice cream

What is the best thing about being a Chef?

The best thing is that cooking for yourself or the family is done in no time.

What is the worst thing about being a Chef?

The Paranoia.

What do you typically eat when you’re not working?

When not working I eat swift one pot wonders. If I'm with my family, we keep it very normal. We roast a whole chicken, with some salad and potatoes and pasta dishes. We also love Indonesian food, so quite diverse ,but never too spicy.

What has been the best moment of your career so far?

The best moment was when the Cliff House Hotel opened for guests. For the first time I was in charge of a big operation with a clean slate to work off in a foreign country.

What has been the toughest moment of your career?

10 October 2012. The sudden death of James Rehill ( Junior Sous Chef). He did not show up for work, which was very odd as he was always first in. He was found dead in his house down the road from the hotel. Everybody was devastated, that day and night's service were the hardest ever. May he rest in peace. 

How do you feel during service each night?

That we have to win - no matter what the cost.

How do you feel after service each night?

That we did not waste our time  - there are easier ways to make a living.

Turbot and crab velouté with grilled fennel, confit fennel and purée, saffron yogurt and 
Crab 'Bloody Mary' canneloni stuffing

Are professional kitchens the way we see them on TV – full of roaring Chefs?

The Roaring Chef sells, so that’s what we see. It's very easy to copy-paste 100 hours of filming into a 5 x 20 minute series where the Chef is an absolute idiot. It would be nice to see the other bits at times as well. That would give a bit of perspective on some matters. 

What advice would you give to anyone who dreams of becoming a Chef?

I would say that if you dream to be a Chef – go for it! Start as early as possible and for the first few years he or she needs to get the widest experience possible. Learn the basics well. Master the classic kitchen and work your way up slowly in several different kitchens on different levels. Change workplace every year and try to go to a place that attracts you personally. What is important for every trainee Chef is that they create their own identity, work with Chefs who inspire and are genuine but be careful not to become a clone of them.

Also don’t be persuaded to make a career too quickly as it is of course very attractive to become Sous or Head Chef and have a great pay and a shot of fame in the early stages. But your culinary “repertoire and vocabulary” needs to grow, and I strongly believe that that is the key foundation for a strong career in our industry. The food porn bit comes later.
Apricot and apple mint gel with a white chocolate vanilla and cider parfait sphere

If you weren’t a Chef what would you be doing with your life?

I can't imagine life not being what I am and what I do right now. But I would have loved to be a Test Driver for Lamborghini or a professional athlete. 

What do most people not know about you?

Every now and then I go for a filthy gigantic kebab. Yes I am only human and I do eat dirty food  sometimes. 

Definitely not a kebab...Mushrooms on toast with bone marrow butter

And finally, can I have a job please? Maybe someday ;-) 

I never say never...

Oooh I'll take that as a maybe then

A special thank you to Martijn for answering the questions and his photos. If you haven't been to the Cliff House Hotel and House Restaurant you need to go. Quickly. 


  1. lovely I love the interviews with the Chefs. Lovely insight into their life. Love Martijn! It just prove thoguh that their are a bit mad Lol!

    1. He's great isn't he! I loved getting his answers, thanks Peggy :-)

  2. Replies
    1. Wish I could take credit for them! Martijn kindly provided them :-)

  3. I had dinner in the bar and the food was wonderful and good value. It was a lovely calm sunny evening... The view was wonderfull. Well worth a visit.

  4. Hi Rhona, it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever stayed and the FOOD! Like you said, well worth a visit, for sure :-)