seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Thornton’s Awarded Jameson Restaurant of the Year

kevin-and-muriel-thorntonThornton’s in St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, is awarded the “Jameson Restaurant of the Year” on October 23, 2002. It is among the national award winners announced to coincide with the launch of Georgina Campbell’s Jameson Guide: Ireland 2003.

Originally located on Portobello Road since 1989, Thornton’s is opened in the Fitzwilliam Hotel on St. Stephen’s Green in 2002. A fine dining restaurant, it holds a one-star Michelin rating in the periods 1996-2000 and 2006-2015. In the period 2001-2005 it holds a two-star rating.

Head chef Kevin Thornton is the first Irish chef to achieve two Michelin stars and is named Food & Wine Magazine’s Chef of the Year for Ireland in 2007. Patrick Guilbaud receives his second star first but is born in France.

Thornton’s is embroiled in a controversy in 2007 surrounding Kevin Thornton’s alleged refusal to sell chips to his restaurant customers, sparking comparisons to British chef Gordon Ramsay. A customer requests the food but, upon receiving it, he changes his mind and sends them back to the kitchen. Thornton then allegedly emerges from the kitchen with the chips and slams them down on the man’s table, with the remark, “They were cooked specially for you, so you eat them, you dickhead.” He later is alleged to have called them “wankers” before removing them from his restaurant.

Asked about the incident by broadcaster Joe Duffy on his RTÉ Radio 1 Liveline programme, Thornton stresses that he had not so much been infuriated by the request of chips, as he supposedly provides them for younger customers on a regular basis, but that he had been aggravated by the attitude of this particular customer. The incident has since seen Thornton become associated with a dislike of chips and, as recently as 2009, has been crafted as a pun by the Irish media for any other outlet which does not serve the food. Thornton has also spoken out against serving food such as pizza in his restaurant.

Thornton’s permanently closes its doors on October 29, 2016. According to the Thontons the closure is due to the loss of the restaurant’s only Michelin star, which reduced the influx of international tourists, and high rent prices.

(Pictured: Kevin and Muriel Thornton, who win Jameson Restaurant of the Year 2003, with Chief Executive Officer of Irish Distillers Philippe Savinel)

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Explosion at Cronin’s Restaurant, Killarney

cronins-restaurantTwelve people are injured, none seriously, when gas tanks explode at the rear of Cronin’s Restaurant, in Killarney, County Kerry, on June 3, 2000.

At about 8:10 PM on a busy Saturday night, owner Pat Cronin smells gas in the restaurant and moves swiftly to evacuate all 30 guests. The people are moved out but, while standing on the pavement outside the restaurant, the restaurant explodes and twelve people are injured by flying debris and broken glass. They are transported to Tralee Hospital with four being detained overnight.

Gardaí and fire officers at the time believe that the explosion resulted from a domestic propane gas supply. The gas is piped from cylinders in a small, open backyard into the restaurant kitchen. The tank itself fails to explode and, had it done so, fire officers say that it would have taken out the whole building. The site is described by witnesses “for all the world like the aftermath of a bomb blast.”

Plates and cutlery remain undamaged on the tables in the aftermath of the explosion, while the downstairs glass and wood front of the building is blown onto the street. Locks are blown off the back doors of the adjoining Corcoran’s Tours shop and glass is shattered. A ceiling of an upstairs room in the nearby Fáilte Hotel partly collapses. The sides of two parked cars are damaged by the force of the explosion and by flying wood. Four ambulances and two units of the Killarney fire brigade are called to the scene. Nearby houses, hotels and pubs are evacuated for up to an hour and most of College Street is cordoned off for several hours.

Sergeant Ray Walsh, who attends the scene along with six gardaí, says, “They expected the worst themselves and, in fairness, they got the place evacuated.” Owner Pat Cronin receives deserved praise for showing the initiative and quick thinking in clearing the restaurant and saving people from serious injury or worse.


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Birth of Joe Gilmore, Head Barman

joe-gilmoreJoe Gilmore, one of the longest running Head Barmen at the Savoy Hotel‘s American Bar, is born in Belfast on May 19, 1922.

The Gilmores own a popular tobacconist shop at the top of the Limestone Road, which remains in business through the Troubles until the mid-1990s. But Gilmore has plans to go places so, at the age of sixteen, he sets out with a friend for London.

His first job is packing rolls of wallpaper at a Sanderson’s factory before moving to a Lyons Corner House as a dish washer with the prospect of getting some decent dinners. He begins training as a barman at London’s La Coquille and The Olde Bell at Hurley, where a chance encounter serving a stylish couple sets the scene for the remarkable life that follows.

At the age of eighteen, Gilmore starts as a trainee barman at The American Bar in 1940 and is appointed Head Barman in 1955, a position he holds until he retires in 1976. Over his years as Head Barman, Gilmore invents numerous cocktails to mark special events and important guests, a longstanding tradition at the American Bar.

Gilmore has invented cocktails in honor of a number of royalty, politicians, and celebrities including the Prince of Wales, Prince William, Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, Prince Andrew, Sir Winston Churchill, and American Presidents Harry S. Truman and Richard Nixon. He also invents cocktails to commemorate the first walk on the moon in 1969 by Neil Armstrong, and the American and Russian link-up in space in 1975.

In addition to serving five generations of royals at private receptions and parties, Gilmore has also served Errol Flynn, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Grace Kelly, George Bernard Shaw, Ernest Hemingway, Noël Coward, Agatha Christie, Alice Faye, Ingrid Bergman, Julie Andrews, Laurence Olivier, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra.

Gilmore never forgets his Irish roots or family, and never loses his soft Belfast accent. Joe Gilmore dies at the age of 93 on December 18, 2015. His funeral is arranged by A. France & Son, undertakers to Admiral Nelson and near-neighbours in Lamb Conduit Street for more than 50 years. The Savoy sends their senior management and bar staff in their smart white uniforms.