Nigel Mannion is the Executive Head Chef at The Wolff Grill at Titanic Hotel Belfast. Originally from Sligo, he has over 20 years’ experience in cooking, 15 of them in Belfast – although his passion led him to travel almost all of Ireland and even settle in the US for a while. Do you want to meet the genius behind the kitchen of The Wolff Grill?
What attracted you to this profession?
When I was about 14 or 15 years old, I got a summer job that I loved and immediately made me realise I had a passion for cooking. So, I decided to study Catering at The Killybegs Catering College. I worked in many different restaurants until I moved to Letterkenny and did the opening for the Radisson and, later, I was asked to do the same for the Radisson in Belfast. My idea was to stay in Belfast for a couple of years and go to Australia… but I met my wife, so I stayed for 13 years. After so long I needed a new challenge - and that’s when Titanic Hotel Belfast came along.
Another one! But this was definitely like nothing else, non-stop from the very first day. Nobody could have foreseen it. The interest for the hotel was colossal – it still is. We are very proud; it’s been a very successful year and the feedback we’ve got has been excellent.
What would you say is the most important thing about your job?
Making sure that the guests leave happy. We have an open kitchen so we can see people’s surprise, the smile on their faces… There’s nothing like it. And, of course, a chef loves to hear people talking about their food!
You like to surprise guests with your food. How?
It can’t be explained, you will have to try for yourself (giggles).
Which are the ingredients that every chef should have in their kitchen?
Seasonal. Work with the season and you’ll get the best produce.
How do you adapt to guests’ dietary requirements?
We always come up with an alternative. Certainly, if they tell us in advance we’ll be able to provide more choices and better options.
Finally, please tell us: What is special about the restaurant at Titanic Hotel Belfast?
The food speaks for itself, but the setting makes everything much more special. It’s not just the first attraction; the location and the history add up to the whole experience. Eating at The Wolff Grill is definitely an experience like no other.