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Dan Cruickshank

International

Independents by Sodexo’s Dan Cruickshank experienced fairy tales and hurricanes as he took a collection of Irish recipes on a tour of America’s Deep South.

The head chef at St Andrew’s College in County Dublin was selected for Sodexo’s Global Chef Programme where Sodexo’s top chefs get the chance to work with colleagues in another part of the world.

The three-and-a-half week tour included visits to universities and colleges across American states such as Texas, Louisiana and Georgia, and culminated in catering for the cast and crew at Disney World in Florida. However, a planned trip to Jacksonville – where Dan was scheduled to cater at the Baptist Medical Centre was thwarted by Hurricane Andrew.

“The whole place was in a state of emergency’” said Dan. “I think it was one of the biggest mass evacuations in their history. There were sirens going off, tornado warnings, everything.”

Dan’s visit to Jacksonville was a stark contrast to his fantastical experience at Disney World, where he introduced his menu of traditional Irish Cuisine to some of the most famous and infamous characters from the silver screen.

“I was feeding the cast and the crew of the Star Wars Experience,” said Dan, who worked behind the scenes in a network of secretive tunnels and kitchens. “I’m the biggest Star Wars fan and was literally cooking for stormtroopers.  I got to see a side of Disney World I’d never seen before.”

Cast, crew and other Disney staff enjoyed traditional Irish soda bread, Shepherd’s pie, beef and Guinness stew and Dublin Coddle – an Irish stew consisting of fried sausages, bacon rashers, onions, potato and parsley.  Dessert included carrot cake, oatmeal and chocolate cookies, Bailey’s chocolate brownies and a rocky road with Guinness infused cherries.

”People were intrigued to try Irish cuisine.  They were surprised by the use of lamb in some recipes and also the vegetables threw them off a little bit, but they were willing to try it and they enjoyed it.”

A visit to Dillard University in New Orleans introduced Dan to local favourites such as fried catfish, seafood gumbo and corn bread muffins.  This was followed by a trip up the Appalachian mountains to the Young Harris College in Georgia, famed for its fried chicken, potato salads and corn breads.

Though Sodexo independent’s commitment to fresh and healthy food meant that some of America’s dining style is off limits for Dan, he still found plenty to inspire him from the trip.