What sets Dublin’s top culinary arts school apart?

TU Dublin’s School of Culinary Arts and Food Technology, which was once based on Cathal Brugha Street but is now located on its new Grangegorman campus, has been blazing trails for over 80 years.

Dublin.ie met with the Head and Assistant Head of the school, Dr. Frank Cullen and Mike O’Connor, to find out what sets their culinary school apart and what the move to a centralised campus at Grangegorman has meant for its students.

An 80-year-old institution

The Culinary Arts School first opened its doors on Cathal Brugha Street in June 1941 as Saint Mary’s College of Domestic Science. Its first ever prospectus included everything from a household management course through to a tearoom cookery course.

In the 1950s, the college changed to cater to the needs of a growing tourism industry, becoming the Dublin College of Catering. Then, in the 1990s, Cathal Brugha Street became the first culinary college to offer a degree in Culinary Arts with cooking as a core module for all four years.

In 2021, it officially moved to the heart of TU Dublin’s new home in Grangegorman. With over 500 students, it is one the largest culinary schools in Europe.

Staying ahead of industry needs

Dublin’s School of Culinary Arts and Food Technology has come a long way in the past eight decades. Though the school is still often seen as the ‘catering college’, in reality, it offers much more.

The school is constantly looking forward, anticipating the needs of the industry that its graduates will enter.

We demand a lot from our students but… they are highly sought-after.

In the 2000s, staff recognised that their students needed a more rounded education. “We have an ethos of liberal vocational education. Culinary skills and business go hand in hand…” Frank says.

So, they expanded their offering. The School of Culinary Arts and Food Technology now offers courses from Level 6 all the way up to PhD. They include everything from a Higher Certificate in Bar and Restaurant Management to a BA in Culinary Entrepreneurship to an MSc in Culinary Innovation and Food Product Development.

Book: All in the Food.

A celebration of contemporary Irish cooking from Cathal Brugha Street.

“We’ve done this so that, when students leave here, they don’t only feel that they have gotten an education. They have formed connections. A lifelong connection with the school, but also a connection to the industry,” says Frank.

The school’s in-demand graduates

The school is renowned for producing sought-after graduates and this is in large part down to the school’s links with the culinary industry. The links provide produce for the students to cook with, monetary support and even scholarships and support for students to travel and compete abroad.

“We’re lucky in that we do have great supporters in the industry and supporters of education. The links we have with the industry support our students in competing. And now they come back not just with one medal, but with a number of them. We demand a lot from our students but, no matter where our students go, they are highly sought-after,” says Mike.

It’s almost like a family.

The quality of the students of Cathal Brugha Street, and now Grangegorman, is world-renowned. Many of them contributed recipes to a book celebrating the school’s 75th anniversary. Many of the graduates included household names, like Darina Allen, Richard Corrigan and Kevin Thornton.

The fact that internationally recognised chefs, such as Michel Roux, also contributed reinforces the gleaming reputation that the school and its students have in the industry worldwide.

A culture of giving back to the community

This sense of giving something back is embedded in the ethos of the school. “It’s almost like a family,” Frank says. It has connections with the local community too.

For 30-odd years the school has organised a free Christmas dinner for local senior citizens. “The tickets go faster than a U2 gig,” Frank says, with a laugh.

A few years ago, following the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, the school – with the help of corporate sponsors – assisted with redeveloping the country’s own culinary school.

Frank is also very enthusiastic about a project to eliminate food waste by donating all produce not consumed or sold to local charities. The likes of Meals on Wheels benefits from this food donation programme.

The move to Grangegorman

The school has now set up shop in its new home at TU Dublin’s Grangegorman campus on Dublin’s northside. For both Frank and Mike, the move means they will have a premises that reflects the school’s world-class reputation.

While Cathal Brugha Street was the ancestral home of the school, it could no longer handle the volume of students applying to its courses. The move has brought more kitchens, larger lecture spaces and more facilities. And it has increased the school’s capacity by 20%.

We would like to carry our reputation with us.

The new campus boasts a 150-seat lecture theatre, a demonstration theatre, 11 teaching kitchens – five hot kitchens, a product development kitchen, three pastry kitchens and two bakeries – two training restaurants, a training bar, a wine tasting lab and a culinary arts shop.

“We would like to carry our reputation with us,” says Frank, “and will now have a state of the art campus to match it”.

To find out more about Dublin’s Culinary Arts School, visit TU Dublin’s website.

Last Updated: 14th August 2022
Amy Sergison works in the advertising industry, creating social and digital content for brands in Ireland and the UK. The child of inner-city parents, Dublin is in her blood. When not writing you can find Amy screaming at a rugby match, Instagramming her dinner, or searching for solace in the quiet spots of the city.

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