About Time You Met: Paddy Maher, Head Chef at Pearly QueenBy Angelica Malin
Patrick Maher, known best as Paddy, 24, heads up Pearly Queen alongside Chef Tom Brown. Originally
from a small town near Dublin, Ireland called Dunshaughlin in County Meath. Paddy’s career began
from a humble kitchen porter in a local restaurant to moving to the big smoke to spearhead new opening as Head Chef at Pearly Queen in Shoreditch. We chatted to Paddy about his stint at the Peligoni Club in Greece, cooking with seafood, and what diners can expect from the Pearly Queen menu:
Can you share a bit about your journey from being a kitchen porter in a local restaurant in Ireland to becoming the Head Chef at the Pearly Queen in London?
My first job in a kitchen was on my 16th birthday as a school work experience project. I started working as a kitchen porter/prep chef in a restaurant that a family friend ran every Friday. I really enjoyed all the madness that came with being in a busy kitchen and started working there as much as I could. The more time I spent in the kitchen, I realised that it was what I wanted to do.
At 19 I moved to Dublin and started working in some really good kitchens where I was learning loads and starting to take my career more seriously. During lockdown, due to the restaurant scene being so all over the place, I decided to move to Greece to work in the Peligoni Club. While in Greece the Peligoni hosted a guest chef series throughout the summer where I was lucky enough to work alongside some well-known chefs from the UK.
After working alongside that level of quality chefs, I knew I wanted to move to London to further my career. When I left Greece I moved back to Dublin and worked there for another 2 years. I always had the idea of London in my head and then when Tom got in touch with me about Pearly Queen I knew it was the right move to make.
Your culinary philosophy emphasises bold, strong flavours and the use of fresh ingredients. How do you translate this philosophy into the dishes at Pearly Queen, and how has it contributed to the restaurant’s identity?
We strongly emphasise using the best of the best when it comes to our produce. Obviously, the menu is based around oysters/seafood so it starts from there. We work closely with our suppliers to guarantee the best standard and quality produce comes into our kitchen. This translates into the menu when it comes to creating dishes. When creating a new dish we want the quality of the produce to stand out; we do this by not overcomplicating the dish and making sure the flavours on the plate make sense and are unmistakably delicious.
Working with the Bereen brothers and achieving recognition in the Michelin Guide at Orwell Road must have been a significant milestone. How did that experience shape your approach to fine dining?
I think achieving recognition from Michelin as a chef is always an amazing feeling. For me, it was extra special because it was achieved with a small amazing team of people. The Bereen brothers are two of the nicest people I’ve ever met – never mind worked for – so it was very nice to achieve something like that for them.
At just 21, you became the Head Chef at the Peligoni Club in Greece. How did this early leadership role shape your skills and mindset, and what were some memorable moments from your time there?
Being in charge of a kitchen at that age taught me a lot of stuff. Looking back most of the learning process had to do with learning how to manage people and a team more so than the actual food. The Peligoni Club was a busy place with loads always going on, so I guess I learned the importance of being organised and having systems in place to try and make everyone’s day go as smoothly as possible.
There were definitely a lot of memorable moments for me in Greece; I suppose my favourite moment would have to be working alongside some amazing chefs throughout our guest chef series.
You mentioned Chef Tom Brown reaching out to you. How did this collaboration come about, and what aspects of working with him do you find most inspiring or influential in your culinary journey?
I met Tom when I was at the Peligoni Club. He came over to Greece as a guest chef. A year later he went back over to do the same event again. I wasn’t working there anymore, but was lucky enough to be offered to go over to help for the week. While we were there he mentioned to me he was going to be opening a new restaurant soon and that I should come work for him. A couple of months later he called with the offer and we chatted for ages about Pearly Queen. I was really happy where I was, but I knew I couldn’t say no to the offer.
The aspect I find most inspiring about working for him is the constant effort to achieve consistently high standards and to constantly improve yourself as well as the people around you. He’s taught me that every day you have to push to improve yourself and your work.
As an advocate for sourcing the finest produce and championing seasonality, how do you ensure these principles are reflected in the menu at Pearly Queen, and why do you believe they are crucial in modern cooking?
I believe finding the best ingredients and produce is so crucial in modern cooking. To me, it’s so important to eat with the seasons to ensure that produce is at its peak.
We ensure these principles are reflected on the menu at Pearly Queen by using the freshest produce and ingredients whilst in season, nd working alongside great suppliers that can deliver the best of the best in-season produce for us and constantly keep us in the loop of what’s good and what’s not all year round.
What’s your favourite dish on the Pearly Queen menu?
My favourite dish on the menu has to be the buffalo oyster. I think the dish represents what we try to do at Pearl Queen really well. The oysters themselves are from Carlingford which are the best out there. We cover the oyster in panko breadcrumbs, deep fry them till they are nice and crispy, toss them in a spicy buffalo sauce, and drizzle on a really nice creamy ranch dressing. It’s quite a different way to eat an oyster, but the flavour profiles of the sauces are familiar to most people. That’s why I feel it’s the best of both worlds; it’s like you’re trying something bold and new but at the same time, it reminds you of something classic you have loved before.
Where do you like to eat/drink in London post-shift?
My favourite place to go post shift is the Golden Heart just down the road, every Sunday I love walking down and having a few Guinnesses with a couple of the chefs or mates. It is the one pub around that reminds me of the pubs back home in Dublin. Food-wise, post service, more often than not it’s usually a late-night pizza and beer before then straight to bed. On my day off, I love going for some solo food usually somewhere that does some nice spicy food. My favourite, and go-to, would usually be Kiln in Soho.
For further information on Pearly Queen, see here.
44 Commercial St, London E1 6LT