From Leaving Cert Disaster to Michelin Star Cooking

From Leaving Cert Disaster to Michelin Star Cooking


Receiving a job offer from one of Ireland’s top luxury hotels, and an international accolade to boot, Danay Berhane has come a long way from Leaving Cert results day 2016. Danay tells us: ‘I knew I wanted to be a chef, that was all I wanted to be, so I filled out my CAO application for Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), studied for my exams and looked forward to starting in September.

“When I got the results, I knew straight away it wasn’t going to be enough to get into CIT. I was gutted and felt lost about what to do next, but a friend told me about a Professional Cookery course at the College of Commerce in Cork. I figured I had nothing to lose – so I applied.”

It’s a good job he did! Danay enrolled in the one-year Professional Cookery course in the Cork College of Commerce and before long was in the training kitchen, learning his craft. “It was very intense from the beginning,” he says, “cooking for paying diners in the college restaurant. You’re literally learning on the job, in a working kitchen. The teachers we’re great though and helped us a lot. They were good craic, hardworking and very supportive.

“I had to do a two-week work placement as part of the course and went to The Pembroke restaurant in The Imperial Hotel. After the two weeks they asked me to stay on part-time, so I was able to work there at weekends and holidays. I was learning during college and putting it all into practice in work. It was very intense, but I got to learn so much!”

After completing the College of Commerce course, Danay was eligible for the CIT Culinary Studies course and began in September 2016. 

“I was lucky in a way because I had an advantage. I was starting in a class where the majority of students had never been in a professional kitchen, and I had a full year of experience which really stood to me.”

Fast forward to 2019, and nearing graduation, Danay was selected to represent Ireland in the Dairy Chef of the Year 2019 competition. It is organised jointly by the National Dairy Council, French Dairy Council (Cniel) and CFA Médéric. Of the experience he says: “I was one of five students chosen to represent Ireland. The final was held In Paris, and it was tough, but I was paired with a French student chef and together we designed a three-course menu which won the competition!”

As part of the prize, Danay has earned an internship in the world-famous Parisian hotel and restaurant Le Bristol. A restaurant with no less than three Michelin stars!

Things haven’t slowed down since. Danay has just accepted a job offer from one of Ireland’s leading hotels - Adare Manor - as Demi-Chef de Partie. He’s feeling nervous but excited. He says: “I went to Adare recently for a trial and it’s the best kitchen I have ever seen. I was blown away. I cannot wait to start, get my head down and develop professionally.

If you had have told me on the day I got my Leaving Cert results in 2016 that this is where I would be working, I wouldn’t have believed you!"

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