Kilkenny man Garrett Byrne, chef and owner of Campagne restaurant, has been crowned Best Chef in Ireland at the Irish Restaurant Awards.
The awards ceremony was held on Monday night at Dublin’s Burlington Hotel. To cap off a perfect evening for Mr Byrne (and for Kilkenny cuisine), Campagne was also named Best Restaurant in Leinster.
Mr Byrne saw off competition from some of most high-profile chefs and top restaurateurs in the country.
“I was very surprised to get it, I really wasn’t expecting it,” he told the Kilkenny People.
“It hasn’t totally sunk in yet, but we’re absolutely thrilled.”
Campagne has an emphasis on supporting local food producers, which the Kilkenny chef says is part of the establishment’s appeal.
“This puts the spotlight on Kilkenny - if people come here for the weekend from Dublin, for example, the last thing they want is something they can get in Dublin,” said he said.
“It’s all about people coming to Kilkenny, and they should be given the best that Kilkenny has to offer. It’s also important to support the local guys, because they in turn support us.”
Mr Byrne, who is originally from Newpark and attended Kilkenny’s CBS, has worked in some of the best restaurants in Dublin and London. He returned to Kilkenny in 2008 with his partner Brid and opened Campagne, at Gashouse Lane. Despite opening in the teeth of a recession, the restaurant has gone from strength to strength, currently employing 12 staff and enjoying plenty of business.
The Irish Restaurant Awards are organised by the Restaurants Association of Ireland. The awards process is a rigorous once that starts in early February. All nominees face scrutiny from regional judges, a mystery guest visitor and a National Awards Academy that includes some of the country’s top restaurant critics.