Hello! I’m here! In Ireland! I survived the first week!
I’m exhausted, but I survived and I’m slowly settling in to this new city. Galway is a beautiful city on the Western coast of Ireland (more of a large town by SoCal standards). Ironically, I arrived at the busiest and craziest time of year in Galway – the Galway Races.
The Galway Races is a week where people travel to Galway from all over Ireland to get dressed up, load onto buses en masse, drink lots and lots of alcohol, bet lots and lots of money, and pretend to watch horses race. It reminds me a lot of Carolina Cup or the Kentucky Derby. It seems like a blast if you’re into that sort of thing, but for many local Galwegians, it’s a time when their beautiful city turns to a complete mess. And as you can imagine, it’s quite a busy time for restaurants across the city. What better way to learn the ropes than to be thrown in during the busiest time of year, right?
Here’s a brief timeline since I left:
Tuesday July 31: Arrived in Galway after nearly 20 hours of traveling
Wednesday August 1: Met Jess Murphy and Kai Café + Restaurant team
Thursday August 2: First day of work at Kai (post 2 hours of sleep, yay jetlag)
Friday, Saturday, Sunday: Kai, Kai, Kai
Monday: Sleep. Run. Sleep. Irish Bank Holiday (no particular reason, just a day when the Irish government decides to take a break…too much horse racing perhaps?)
Tuesday August 7: Convinced myself I had enough energy to explore Galway (or at least buy a loaf of sourdough bread and find a coffee shop to write a blog).
Like I said, I’m exhausted, but I’m glad I jumped straight into work – great for getting over jetlag.
Kai is a super cool place. Jess (chef/owner) is actually from New Zealand and “Kai” is the Maori word for “food.” It’s called Kai Café + Restaurant because during the morning/day the menu is more a casual walk-in café style – soups, salads, light bites, awesome cakes, and coffee. But at dinner, the menu is more refined, tables are mostly by reservation, and the cakes turn into bottles of wine. With both meals, the menu changes frequently as seasons change and Jess finds new ingredients to play with.
You would think that a restaurant that stays open from 9am to midnight would have a fairly large kitchen, but think not. Kai’s kitchen is about the size of a large food truck. There’s room for 3-4 chefs (cooks are called chefs here) plus a kitchen porter (dishwasher). Because it’s so small, communication is key and there aren’t designated stations like there are in other kitchens. One person may be able to work the grill and saute area, but they’ll pass the cooked fish/meat to someone else to finish plating. I’ve been making two of the starters (a fresh burrata dish with heirloom tomatoes and lovage oil, and a parma ham salad with nectarines and Irish cheeses) as well as all the desserts. But in between starters and desserts I also plate a couple of the main dishes.
The gang is a fun crew. It’s a mix of people from Ireland, England, Spain, France, Canada, Romania, and even a couple from the US (Minnesota and New York). They’re all very welcoming, and it’s been interesting hearing about how each of them ended up in Ireland/Kai and what they’re long-term interests are. Some are here on working holiday visas to simply travel, others wanted to learn English, and others love being able to work closely with farmers. After our shift Sunday a few of us went out for pints (where I had my first Guinness!) and were able to chat in a more relaxed atmosphere than the craziness of the restaurant. I’m looking forward to getting to know them more over the weeks.
Aside from work, I’m just trying to get used to some of the differences here in Ireland.
They drive on the left side of the road.
Basil is pronounced “bah-sil” and cilantro is called coriander.
It’s “take-away,” not “to-go.”
The sun sets 2 hours after my normal bedtime in California.
And the gender-inclusive plural pronoun of choice here is “lads.” Why do I still say “yall”??? I confused a lot of people when Jess introduced me to the kitchen crew and I said “Nice to meet yall.” I’m from the United States, live in California, look Asian, but say yall? I had to do some explaining there.
Now that I have a few days off work, I’m trying to find ways to meet more people around town. Meetup.com is a great resource and tonight I’m actually heading out to play some dodgeball with some “lads.”*** At the end of August I signed up to do a hike through Ireland’s only fjord, and I’m hoping to play some soccer while I’m here too. Galway is a great town for running, but my main priority right now is finding something social to do. Galway is also a big college town, so when the students arrive in early September I’m hoping I’ll be able to meet some people then too.
That’s all I got for now.
Peace out cub scouts,
***UPDATE: Dodgeball was SO MUCH FUN!!!! My arm is going to be in so much pain tomorrow, but I can’t wait to throw and dodge miniature volleyballs again next week