David Hoyne, owner of Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub
Native of Thomastown, Kilkenny, Ireland
On Irish food
At Kitty Hoynes, we try to run a mix of Irish and American food. A lot of our business is the food component, as Kitty Hoynes has a good name for food in Armory Square and in Syracuse. Irish food is not fondly thought of as a cuisine, but that’s partly a myth, in the same way that people think Guinness is supposed to be served warm. In the past 20 years, Irish chefs have gone to Europe to learn culinary techniques and have returned to Ireland to incorporate those techniques into Irish cuisine and use what’s around them in Ireland to create Irish dishes.
Some dishes that are thought of to be traditional Irish dishes, like corned beef, are really more of an Irish American tradition. When Irish people moved here to America, they could only afford beef that they could corn themselves and so the tradition began. Ireland is a small island about the size of Maine and has a lot of coastline. It’s easy to get fresh seafood and there are a lot of rivers, so trout and salmon are popular. Ireland is very agricultural and organic foods are huge, as is keeping things local. They used to be one of the worst abusers of the environment, but now are one of the most environmentally-friendly countries. Some Irish ingredients we get directly from Ireland, such as smoked salmon, Irish sausages, Bewley’s teas, club orange soft drink, Irish beers, whiskeys, Irish creams, mustards and rashers. We also try to use as many local products as possible, such as Lively Run Cheese products, Keeley’s Cheese Company from Cayuga Lake, which is a semi soft cheese from ” across the pond” and vegetables from local farms when in season. To stay updated on Irish culinary trends, we read the newspaper daily from Ireland and also have a cookbook library that we pull ideas from. My mother, Catherine (Kitty); my wife, Cindy and her Mom, Marylou are all great cooks and serve as inspiration for our cuisine. Damien Brownlow is the chef here and has been with us since about eight or nine months after we opened in 1999. He had cooked in Boston for a while and once he came to Kitty Hoynes, we got him into the swing of things around here, where he cooks almost everything from scratch and has being a huge help and asset in developing our menus.
On hospitality at Kitty Hoynes
We like to make connections with our guests and might make an adjustment based on what feedback we get. We try to put as many items on Facebook as possible to get feedback that way and also have an online survey people can take on our website. Customer input helps whether its selecting a cocktail or a menu item. We also have a few closed-door events a year that require tickets and we get a lot of feedback from the menus we offer at those events. We were the first restaurant in the country to receive a certificate identifying us as a ‘Place of Hospitality.’ I happened to attend a seminar a few years ago that Bill Marvin, the person who started the program, was at and I listened to what he said at the conference and studied it later.
Making Kitty Hoynes a place of hospitality is a program we try and live by at every shift here. Lots of opportunities are given to us by guests coming in and we need to make a better connection between the server and guest. We can’t just look at customers as being another table and every day have to be striving bring our service to the next level. Once, we had someone come in and order an espresso. We actually don’t serve espresso at Kitty Hoynes, but we wanted to fulfill that customer’s request, so we sent one of our servers out to get espresso for that person. Making our restaurant a hospitable place is always a work in progress. You can’t just be hospitable when you’re working in the restaurant, it has to be something that carries over that you do in your everyday life. We all say we’re in the hospitality business, but what does that really mean? We want people to smile while they’re at Kitty Hoynes and return again. We don’t always succeed every single time, however we will correct where we fall down, get ourselves back up and try harder the next time.
On how Kitty Hoynes prepares for Dining Week
We are heading to Ireland tomorrow on a fact-finding mission to get ideas for our Dining Week menu. The visit will be a refresher.
We like to offer something for everyone and we do that with our Dining Week menu. We like to provide value to diners who come in for Dining Week and show them what Kitty Hoynes is about. Based on customer feedback, last year’s Dining Week menu was successful, so we will take that feedback into consideration for this year. We change our menu two to three times a year based on what seasonal products are available. We have almost a year to work on seasonal items so we spend a lot of time thinking up new menu items based on what the trends are, what is being produced that year. This year’s menu will certainly have an Irish influence to it and all of our staff are looking forward to Dining Week 2012, greeting and serving our great guests in the best Irish hospitable way we know.
Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub is one of the 25 restaurants participating in the 2012 edition of AmeriCU Dining Week(s). Visit the restaurant at 301 West Fayette Street, call 424-1974 for information or reservations or visit www.kittyhoynes.com.