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All the best: Kelan McMichael - 'Critic Jay Rayner has chefs quaking in their boots, but he was very kind to us'

 

By Kerry McKittrick

The 38-year-old is the owner and head chef of the Bull & Ram restaurant in Ballynahinch. He lives in Killyleagh with his wife, Hannah.

My best moment

Opening the Bull & Ram on May 31 last year. I have been working as a chef for 21 years, but having my own restaurant is definitely up there in terms of best moments. It's been a mad whirlwind of a year, but I've really enjoyed it - people have been very kind to us. We have such a good team here and I still have the original 21 staff that I started out with.

My best song

I love a bit of punk and rock 'n' roll. Being from Derry means it has to be Teenage Kicks by The Undertones. I grew up across the street from Feargal Sharkey and Mickey Bradley, so I used to hear them rehearsing. I can remember the first time I heard that song - it still gives me the same feeling today.

My best way to relax

I go running. After a long day at work in the kitchen, it's the best thing for stretching the legs. It used to be a glass of wine and some meat and cheese, but now that I'm running I can have an extra glass as a reward.

My Best bit of advice

I'm a big reader and I love Ernest Hemingway, so I've been reading a lot about him recently. I discovered that he once said: "It took me two years to learn how to talk, but 60 years to learn how to keep quiet." Especially in business, there's a lot to be said for keeping quiet instead of jumping in like a raging bull, as I used to do when I was younger.

My best job

I've always had my best job as I've always been a chef, but now there's a lot more to it as I'm owner of a restaurant too. I have to do a lot more paperwork to pay people and that sort of thing, but I really love building my brand. I'm hoping to bring out a cookbook next year. It will have lots of barbecue and brining in it.

My best movie

I do love a good horror movie, but a totally different sort of film that I really enjoyed was Sideways. It's all about wine and it's all about characters. You can actually do a Sideways wine tour in the States.

My best achievement

The day that I bought the Guardian and, while having my coffee, discovered that its restaurant critic, Jay Rayner, had given us a rave review. This guy has three-star Michelin chefs quaking in their boots, but he was very, very kind to us. His review was really positive. I've read him before and since and he's a very hard man to please, so a good review from him was amazing.

My best buy

My wedding suit. I got married in Donegal a year ago and decided to get my suit made by Eddie Doherty in Ardara - he's famous for it. It was custom-made from the buttons to the lining. I've never done anything like that before, but the result was fantastic. It looks better on me than anything I've ever worn before. I'll be buried in this thing!

My best gift

I've been foraging for mushrooms for over a decade now, and one Christmas my brother bought me a handmade mushroom knife. It's made of cherrywood with a little brush on the back and comes in a little pouch. It's a small thing, but I've used it over and over since I got it.

My best book

Again, I'm going back to Hemingway - A Moveable Feast. It brings you right back to the 1930s Paris and gives you a real insight into the people and culture of the time.

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