Amid the hustle and bustle of the Killyhevlin kitchen one can’t help but notice the still presence of premier sous chef Trevor Shannon, calm and collected, immaculately turned out in toque hat and white coat, quietly concentrating on the task in hand, the creation of yet another signature dish for the Kove restaurant.
As the hotel launches a new set of evening menus for diners we take the opportunity to talk to Trevor about his long standing contribution (26 years) at the heart of the family run hotel.
“I am part of the Killyhevlin family, as is my wife Margaret who supervises the breakfast room and who has been here even longer than I have. My son Michael and my daughter Megan both worked here as waiting staff before moving away to continue their studies.”
Trevor admits he inherited his passion for cooking from his mother Dymphna who was for many years a cook at the Erne hospital in Enniskillen. He worked in two other restaurants in the area before joining the staff at Killyhevlin where both he and the current head chef Kevin Watson were formed by Gregory Dunn, a reputed chef who had trained in London. “Gregory taught us everything. He knew how to present good wholesome food made from the best locally sourced ingredients and that continues to be our aim today.”
Featuring on the new menus are Pat O’Doherty’s award winning Black Bacon, produced on Inish Corkish island in Lough Erne from his own Wessex Pure Black, Tamworth and Gloucester Old Spot pigs. Other pork products including ham and sausages are supplied by William Sprotts Ltd. in Portadown, a well established company whose cured hams and bacon graced the tables of Buckingham Palace in the 1920s. Hannan Meats provide top class meat and Trevor is a particular fan of their delicious Himalayan salt-aged Shorthorn beef which comes directly from their very own Glenarm farm. He also appreciates the crumbly texture and fulsome flavour of Clonakilty black pudding made in Cork. Fish including salmon, cod, mackerel, scallops and sea bass are delivered from Belfast by Keenans Seafood company who have been buying fresh fish daily from the ports of Ardglass, Portavogie, Kilkeel since the 1950s. Other local produce includes Corleggy cheeses, Erin Grove chutneys, jams and marmalades, Cassidy eggs and Tickety Moo icecream.
At the time of our visit Trevor is preparing a celeriac roulade and home-made piccalilli, vegetables pickled with sugar, white wine vinegar, bay leaves, star anise and pepper corns to accompany Terrine of Ham Hock, one of the Starters on the new menu.
The main courses are designed to suit steak lovers and vegetarians and include chicken and fish dishes such as Seared Sea-bass Fillet with red chicory, runner beans and garden peas, crispy potatoes and lemon scented cream.
Over the years Trevor has cooked for some well-known hotel guests including the comedian Norman Wisdom, the Rev. Ian Paisley and his wife Eileen, Brian McFadden from the pop group Westlife and the actor Charlie Lawson who starred in Coronation Street. For Trevor, the highlight of his career so far was undoubtedly the G8 Summit in 2012 when well-known journalists like Jon Snow stayed at the hotel. “There was tight security but it was a fantastic week and we got involved in the whole ambiance and really got into the swing of it. The broadcast hub was set up in a huge marquee in the car park and the journalists filed their reports to the whole world from a series of canvas covered cubicles at the front of the hotel. The sun shone on one of the most spectacular lake views in Ireland and Fermanagh showed itself in a really good light. We provided buffet lunches and a different menu in the Kove restaurant each night. The journalists genuinely enjoyed our hospitality.”
A busy kitchen that caters for weddings and functions, daily breakfasts, lunches and dinners is bound to generate some heat. Trevor agrees that, as in every job, there are good days and bad days. “The kitchen is the best place to work if everything is going right and it’s the worst place to work if it is not but when it’s buzzing it feels great.”
Trevor’s favourite celebrity chef is Tom Kerridge who has obtained two Michelin stars for his London pub the Hand and Flowers. “He is very down to earth and produces really excellent pub grub.”
When asked what he would cook on the TV programme Masterchef, Trevor said without hesitation, Scallops seared on each side for 30 seconds and served with a pea puree, snippets of bacon and micro herbs. Rack of Lamb and finally Chocolate Fondant which is his wife’s favourite dessert.
View the new Menus online here