Ken Harker is Executive Chef at The Lady Helen Restaurant at Mount Juliet, where he and his team have retained their Michelin Star – one of only eleven restaurants in Ireland to do so.
Surprisingly, Ken had originally set out to be an architect, evidence of which can be seen in some of his exquisitely presented meals. As an architecture student, he took a job as a kitchen porter to help pay the bills and found himself enthralled by the passion, creativity, efficiency and teamwork he saw among the chefs. He soon realised where his future lay and swapped the drawing board for the chopping board.
As someone with a reputation for presenting some of Ireland’s most exciting dishes, Ken’s attitude to food is pragmatic. He grew up in the North of England and his mother’s Mince & Dumplings remain one of the attractions of a trip home. “Taste is everything”, he believes. “A kitchen that strives for honesty and great taste can’t go wrong”.
With a plentiful supply of honest-to-goodness ingredients from the vegetable and herb gardens on the Estate, and from the many artisan producers in the region, you begin to see how the magic is born.
But it would seem Ken hasn’t left architecture behind entirely as – bizarrely – he keeps a spirit level in the refrigerator. “It’s for the terrines” he says, proving beyond a doubt, that he is a perfectionist as well as an artist.