Kevin Thornton has been called the best chef in Ireland by no less than Food & Wine magazine, who certainly should know. Food & Wine’s writer Jason Cooke compared Thornton’s quest to the singularity of purpose and solitary grit of the long-distance runner, which in fact Thornton is. Thornton laid the foundation for his formidable skills early, working in the vegetable gardens of the Cashel Palace Hotel and parsing the essence of each vegetable and herb; helping at an abattoir and learning everything he could about meat. He left home for Galway RTC to study fine cooking when he was 17, encouraged by his sister Maura. Upon graduating he worked at Walton’s in London, then traveled through vineyards in Europe learning about wine. He then expanded what he knew by working and traveling — to Switzerland, to Canada, then back to Ireland to the Shelbourne before going to France to work at the multi-starred restaurant of Paul Bocuse in Lyons.
Following this sort of culinary boot camp, he returned to Ireland, teaching at the College of Catering. Finally, Thornton and his wife Muriel opened a restaurant in partnership in 1990, The Wine Epergne in Rathmines. The rave reviews poured in. In 1992, with the lease running out, they closed the restaurant and Thornton went back to teaching while the couple kept an eye out for the perfect location for a new place. In 1995 they selected the spot for Thornton’s, where in may of 1999, the Great Chefs team filmed him. Later, he moved his Thornton’s Restaurant into the five-star Fitzwilliam Hotel and overlooking St. Stephen’s Green. He’s never taken a night off, preferring to oversee every dish that bears the Thornton’s name. His is the discipline, knowledge, experience, and passion that have won Thornton’s its first Michelin star — and the hope for more.
While filming KEvin preparing Filet of Turbot appetizer, a Suckling Pig entree and a Nougat Pyramid dessert, New Orleans Commander’s Palace chef Matt Murphy, who was born in Dublin popped in to see what it was all about. Matt at the time was working under Great Chef Jamie Shannon but was born in Dublin. He now owns the Irish House in New Orleans.