Belfast Telegraph

Top Northern Ireland chef quits role at acclaimed Co Antrim restaurant

Chef Danni seeks new ways to earn crust after quitting business role

Chef Danni Barry
Chef Danni Barry
Clenaghan’s restaurant

By Stewart Robson

One of Northern Ireland's top chefs has stepped down from her role as a business partner at an acclaimed Co Antrim restaurant.

Danni Barry had worked at Clenaghan's in Aghalee since the restaurant's reopening in October 2017 alongside Lisburn duo Stevie and Cristina Higginson.

However, the renowned chef has decided to venture into new challenges, saying that the partnership wasn't what she was looking for at this stage in her career.

The 33-year-old previously displayed her world-class talents at Michael Deane's Eipic, helping the Belfast city centre institution to earn Michelin stars for three consecutive years.

Danni was named Ireland's Chef of the Year 2017 at last year's Restaurant Association of Ireland Restaurant Awards for her culinary masterpieces.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, a buoyant Danni said she was looking forward to taking part in a food festival in Cork today while also enjoying some downtime.

"I'm really looking to take a break at the minute and try something different," she said.

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"Obviously, that was my first partnership in running a restaurant and for one thing or another it just wasn't for me.

"It was just a massive learning experience for me with running a business and being a boss while running a kitchen and actually getting to cook a bit.

"I'm still at the stage of my career where I just enjoy cooking and being creative. When you're constantly counting pound signs it doesn't really feel like that."

The chef had travelled to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Europe before returning home to the UK, coming back to Northern Ireland under the eye of Michael Deane.

In Clenaghan's she was part of a team of eight chefs in the restaurant. Danni added: "It (being in a partnership) affected my work in some ways I suppose, but it wasn't like daily I was going in there thinking this is really affecting me.

"But there's many other things I was wanting to achieve and working for myself was certainly one of them.

"I suppose until I was in it, I didn't really know that.

"I wish them all the best.

"It's a lovely place and it'll do really well, but for what I wanted, it's not really what I'm looking for at the minute. The guys have loads of experience in terms of what they've done in The Square in Lisburn and they obviously just want to replicate that, and that is very easy to them.

"Obviously, being in a partnership was as new to them as it was to me. Sometimes these things just don't work the way you think they're going to.

"But no bad feelings at all.

"The team there are brilliant and I've no doubt it will go from strength to strength."

Looking ahead, Danni said that she'll now be taking time out to assess what her next steps will be.

"I'm just going to see what opportunities come my way," she went on.

"Since I moved back home in 2014, I've just worked pretty much since then, so I'm going to just enjoy taking stock of everything.

"I've achieved so much in such a short space of time and I'm going to reflect on that and decide what to do next."

Clenaghan's owner Stevie Higginson thanked Danni for her service.

And he paid tribute to the culinary star.

"We parted company on Saturday morning and we wished her the best," he said.

"Clenaghan's will continue as it is.

"We couldn't have asked anything more from her," he said. "She's a great girl."

Belfast Telegraph