'He was a tall man and as the Italians say 'He was A Man With A Belly' meaning he was large and imposing in appearance '

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'He was a tall man and as the Italians say 'He was A Man With A Belly' meaning he was large and imposing in appearance '


Harry Browne remembers working as a commis chef in the Shelbourne Hotel - he describes some of the personalities he encountered there.


Harry Browne


Trinity College Dublin




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Harry Browne

Is Part Of

Work and Employment


Life Story

Spatial Coverage

Shelbourne Hotel, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin

Temporal Coverage


Life Story Item Type Metadata


The functions Head Waiter was a Kerryman named Claude Spillane, Claude did not soil his hands by actually serving meals himself. His job was to supervise the waiting staff and ensure that customers were properly provided for. He was a tall man and as the Italians say 'He was A Man With A Belly' meaning he was large and imposing in appearance. In his perambulations around the hotel, he was preceded by a commis waiter whose name escapes me. This lad's function was to ensure that Claude received due deference from lesser members of staff and to serve Claude's meals. The head chef prior to Jimmy Flahive was an Englishman called Marshall and unlike Jimmy he was somewhat quick tempered, as chefs traditionally are. The function of a head chef is to prepare the menus, source the food and to supervise the service of meals from the hotplate at the front of the kitchen. Rarely does the head chef actually cook and then only on 'State Days and Bonfire Nights' as the saying goes. On one memorable occasion Claude's commis arrived at the hotplate demanding Claude's lunch. Marshal replied 'In a moment, there are customers to be dealt with'. The lad demanded, in a louder voice, Claude's lunch and got a similar reply. Soup was served in Silver Bowls of which there were a number stacked up on the hotplate awaiting orders. The lad picked up one of these bowls and proceeded to bang it on the stainless steel hotplate, all the while demanding the lunch for his superior. The boy was dressed in a broadcloth morning jacket and striped trousers and Marshall reached back, picked up a raw egg, smashed it on the shoulder of the boy's jacket and said 'There, go and change your coat and Claude's lunch will be ready when you get back'. There was no trouble from the lad or Claude after that. After Captain Jury sold the hotel the General manager was a man called McGeary, he was cordially disliked by all the kitchen staff as we considered him something of a snob. He lived in a penthouse apartment on top of the hotel and on significant holidays he liked to show off his culinary skills by cooking meals for his friends. Needless to state all the preparation work for these meals was done by the kitchen staff including the sauces and vegetables so his cooking ability was not sorely tried. When making his sauces all of the ingredients used were not such as can be described in a civilised missive such as this, they did not, however cause any adverse effects as far as I know. Petty and not so petty thievery was common in kitchens. Small items such as steaks, rashers and eggs were frequently brought home in the bags in which we carried our dirty uniforms and knives. Sometimes the items lifted were considerably bigger. Hams and on one occasion a specially prepared Christmas turkey destined for Mr McGeary's table, stuffed with a very special chestnut stuffing, were wrapped in greaseproof paper and concealed in the swill barrels which were collected daily from the service entrance to the hotel. The culprit then met the swill man later and they shared the spoils.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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