Raglan Road (In Ireland!): Master Chef Contest Winners Share Their Experiences

If you were following along during our #RaglanRoadTrip coverage, then you know that I recently returned from spending four days in Ireland with the winners of the Raglan Road Master Chef Contest as well as Chef Kevin Dundon.

Winners and Writers at Dunbrody House in Ireland (photo by Raglan Road photographer Ivan Cummins)

Winners and Writers at Dunbrody House in Ireland (photo by Raglan Road photographer Ivan Cummins)

The winners will all contribute a dish to the Raglan Road 10th Anniversary Celebration October! I wanted to get to know our winners a little better, so I asked each of them three simple questions:

What gave you a desire to work with Raglan Road?
What was your first experience with Raglan Road like?
As a home cook, what’s your biggest cooking takeaway from this experience?

Here’s what they had to share with me.


Aaron Von Swearingen had long been a fan of cooking — and Raglan Road. It’s been a favorite spot of his for nearly as long as it’s been around, and he and his family often choose to go there for special occasions.

Aaron Chats with John, Owner of Danescastle Fruit Farm

Aaron Chats with John Mernagh, Owner of Danescastle Fruit Farm

But recently, his passion had taken a different turn: recipe development. So when Aaron heard about the Master Chef contest, he thought the challenge to come up with a three-course meal would be a terrific way to test his new found interest.

And clearly, he rose to the occasion. Following his successful bid to become a Master Chef finalist, Aaron headed to — where else? — Raglan Road to celebrate!

Aaron Getting Tips from John Cook on Filleting Fish

Aaron Getting Tips from John Cook on Filleting Fish

His time in Ireland was, as with other members of the group, transformative. Aaron says that, more than anything, he’s leaving with a clear vision that a simple approach is the best one; focus on simple, great, pure ingredients, and be creative and thoughtful in your presentation. “To know those things, going home, is very freeing,” he summed up.


Like Aaron, Colleen Kerney has a young family and lives in Central Florida. But her motivation for entering the contest was a little different.

Colleen Receives Some Helpful Hints from Chef Julian

Colleen Receives Some Helpful Hints from Chef Julien

Colleen had been in the process of planning a family trip to Ireland, and had even considered leaving at the same time as the contest was planned for. But budgetary constraints led her to reconsider the timing, and she and her family began to earnestly save for a trip some time in the future.

One day recently, she was flipping through a local Central Florida publication when she came across this headline: “Kevin Dundon wants to send YOU to Ireland.” Well. That sounded pretty good to her. And we can say that the rest is history.

Interestingly enough, Colleen hadn’t ever actually dined at Raglan Road, although she was familiar with Chef Kevin because of his cooking show, which airs on PBS. However, she and her extended family celebrated her winning the contest by booking brunch at the Irish Pub.

Oyster Soup, Colleen's Dish

Oyster Soup, Colleen’s Dish

While she enjoyed her time in Ireland immensely and definitely plans to return for that promised family visit in the near future, she also had some fun takeaways from the experience. First and foremost? “Butter makes [Read more…]

News! Raglan Road Master Chef Contest Winners Announced

Word is in — the five winning finalists have been chosen in the Raglan Road Master Chef Contest, sponsored by Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant!

The home cooks were chosen from a very competitive field, according to Raglan Road Master Chef Kevin Dundon. “There were lots of entries, and it was difficult to choose just five winners,” Dundon said. “I was struck by the breadth of recipes that were so creatively demonstrated. I was also really impressed by the level of effort made by all the entrants. I’m looking forward to seeing our five winners at Dunbrody House.”

The five winners are:

  • Janice Epaillard of Mount Dora, Florida
  • Aaron Van Swearingen of Winter Park, Florida
  • Colleen Kerney of Orlando, Florida
  • Heather McBroom Walker of Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Linda Rohr of Darien, Connecticut

Finalists will fly from Orlando on May 21, arriving in Dublin on May 22. They’ll spend the first day of the visit in Ireland’s capital city — taking in sights and touring the Guinness Brewery, before enjoying dinner at the Michelin-Starred restaurant L’Ecrivain. The group will then journey to County Wexford, home of Ireland’s Hook Peninsula, where they’ll spend the rest of the trip at Dundon’s Dunbrody Country House Hotel.

Dunbrody Country House Hotel

Dunbrody Country House Hotel

The luxury hotel, located in an 1830s manor house, is also home to Chef Kevin’s Cookery School. There, the finalists will [Read more…]

Interview: Celebrity Chef Kevin Dundon of Raglan Road

Chef Kevin Dundon

Chef Kevin Dundon

Huge thanks to Chef Kevin Dundon, TV celebrity chef, restaurateur, and Master Chef of Downtown Disney’s Raglan Road, for taking the time to answer a few questions from the DisneyFoodBlog (especially the one about his 2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival appearance this October)!

Be sure to stick around post-interview for an information collage about Chef Dundon’s varied career (he’s a young guy, but he’s had some serious culinary adventures!) along with some fantastic recipes from Raglan Road and his award-winning hotel and restaurant, Dunbrody House.

DisneyFoodBlog: What was your culinary vision for Raglan Road (as an authentic Irish pub); has it changed over the 4 years of the restaurant’s existence?
Chef Dundon: I love Raglan Road, because I take Irish dishes and give them a face lift. I can be very creative there; the menu is always changing, which keeps us up-to-date with fresh and interesting new products and procedures.

Raglan Road

Raglan Road

DFB: What factors did you take into consideration when creating a menu for a theme park audience? How did this menu construction differ from those you’ve created for other restaurants and projects?
CD: I had to bear in mind that we would be catering for much larger numbers in Raglan Road. And also we, because of our location, get a large number of families. (Because of this, we have been voted in the top 50 in Open Table Family Dining.) Creating a meal experience for the entire family is our main goal, and the emphasis of our food is on fresh, additive-free food.

DFB: What do YOU order when you go to Raglan Road?
CD: I love the gourmet shepard’s pie; or I sometimes think you just can’t beat the fish and chips. Because everything is so good, it is very hard to select a favorite.

Wildforest Mushroom Chowder

Wildforest Mushroom Chowder

DFB: Raglan Road, Orlando, was your second US restaurant. Since then, you’ve launched a third (with more on the way?). What do you enjoy about working and spending time in the US culinary arena?
CD: Yes — we are hoping to open a new restaurant within the next year! I love spreading the word on great food that originates from Ireland and Dunbrody House. I like to educate people of the great fun and sense of enjoyment that can be achieved through food.

DFB: You’ll be the host chef AND celebrity chef for the Culinary Adventure in Signature Dining at Raglan Road at the 2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival this Fall. Any chance you could share a couple of the dishes the audience will get to taste at that event?
CD: Well, a lot of this is still under wraps at the minute, but I will give you a sneak preview by saying that we will be doing pan-seared Boston scallops and a suckling pig…can’t wait!

Battered Sausages with Mustard Mayonnaise

Battered Sausages with Mustard Mayonnaise

DFB: Is there a particular person or a memory that inspired your path in the “food business?”
CD: Yes. A chef called Dario Oterello. He was a Spanish chef, and he really gave me insight into flavoring food appropriately whilst letting the individual flavors stand for themselves.

DFB: Do you think your interest in architecture affects your recipe development and cooking?
CD: Yes; food is all about design, creativity, and putting the right “blocks” together.

DFB: Does your family like to spend time together in the kitchen?
CD: We would cook everyday together! I love to get my kids involved in cooking; it gives a very keen interest in food, which is my passion.

Dunbrody Kiss

Dunbrody Kiss

DFB: What’s next up in the queue for you? Any projects coming up that you’re particularly excited about?
CD: Yes, I’m always busy! At the moment, I’m finishing the final stages of preparation on the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival plans. I’m also starting work on my next (third) cookery book to follow on from “Great Family Food.” I’m also looking forward to beginning my own television show.

Chef Dundon’s Accomplishments Reel
Celebrity Chef Kevin Dundon has cooked for many well-known celebrities during his career, including Her Majesty, the Queen; President Bush; and Bono. He has spent time in kitchens all over the world, from Switzerland, to Canada, to the US, and back to Ireland, where he served as the Executive Head Chef of the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, widely recognized as one of the most prestigious Chef appointments in the country.

Dunbrody House

Dunbrody House

Today, Chef Dundon is the Chef/Proprietor of Dunbrody Country House Hotel & Restaurant, located in South East Ireland and established in 1997 by Chef Dundon and his wife Catherine. Considered one of Ireland’s Premier Hotels & Restaurants, it has earned many awards, including Andrew Harper’s Grand Award for best Hideaway in the World, Restaurant of the Year, and several Michelin Guide awards.

In addition to his work with Dunbrody House and other projects globally, Chef Dundon continues to film television appearances and documentaries for national and international networks (including The Food Network, ESPN, the Travel Channel, and NBC), write for several culinary magazines and newspaper columns, produce cookbooks (including Full On Irish: Creative Contemporary Cooking, and Great Family Food), and serve as Signature/Master Chef for two other US restaurants in addition to Disney World’s Raglan Road, The Nine Fine Irishmen in Las Vegas, and Raglan Road’s sister restaurant in Kansas City.

Dunbrody Cookery School

Dunbrody Cookery School

When he’s NOT working, Chef Dundon spends time with Catherine and their three kids. The family just put the finishing touches on a brand new home in Ireland (which Chef Dundon’s love of architecture and design keenly inspired).

For more information on how YOU can take master cooking classes with Chef Kevin Dundon, check out the Dunbrody Cookery School.

Also, don’t forget to book NOW (407-WDW-FEST) to attend Chef Dundon’s signature dining experience at the 2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival: October 13, 2009, 6:15 p.m., Raglan Road at Downtown Disney. Cost: $115

You can follow Chef Dundon on twitter at @ChefDundon.

Just to finish up, here are a few of Chef Dundon’s original recipes from Dunbrody House and Raglan Road! (You can see photos of these scattered throughout the post.)

Duncanon Seafood Chowder

Wild Mushroom Chowder (Eatin’ and Drinkin’)

Beer Battered Cocktail Sausages with Mustard Mayonnaise (Dalkey Duo)

Loin of Ham/Bacon with an Irish Mist Glaze (Kevin’s Heavenly Ham)

Dunbrody Kiss

Bread and Butter Pudding (Ger’s Bread and Butter Pudding)