When we go out to eat at a restaurant or a friend’s house, we often form our own ideas of what the meal will be like before the plate hits the table. The vision we’ve developed comes from countless past meals—good or bad—and impacts our thoughts (and hopes!) on the upcoming experience.

For longtime chefs, that experience is amplified. When chefs get the rare chance to step out for even a casual meal, they bring their long history in the restaurant business to the table. Chefs devour the menu and—understandably—start to ruminate on how they would present each dish.

Our executive chef, Stephanie Gray, explains, “After being in the business and cooking for so long, you build a dish in your head from what you see on the menu. You have a preconceived notion of how it will look, smell, taste and how it will be presented. Sometimes I envision the same dish, and sometimes I’m surprised. And that’s when exciting, new recipes can happen.”

Stephanie says, “The differences in execution and presentation can be endless, so going out to eat is fun for curious and engaged cooks. It’s a delicious way to find inspiration. And remember: All a chef wants is to be cooked for. We spend our entire lives cooking! There is a sense of relaxation in letting someone else create a meal for you.”

News flash: It isn’t always the entree that steals the show. Sometimes it’s what served along with the main that turns out to be the showstopper, because the accompaniments are where chefs can get extra creative and jazz things up. Stephanie explains, “I always order based on the side dish, which is something I started doing when I was attending the Culinary Institute of America because we did the most amazing things with potatoes and starches.”

At Kildare’s of West Chester, we’re particularly proud of our tomato jam and Guinness caramelized onions, all made fresh in-house (of course!). Served on select burgers to complement an array of flavors, these condiments are crafted to create a memorable experience of a seemingly ordinary dish. Other plates that are spiced up with our own creative flair are our blackened mahi mahi with grape and kiwi salsa and our pesto salmon served with Israeli couscous and a tri-pepper salsa.

“I have a huge repertoire of culinary memories, all of which can be used for inspiration in future dishes,” Stephanie explained. “It’s like a slideshow of food going through my head. It’s the weirdest thing in the world, seeing what slides come together to make the dish. You go through your inventory until a dish pops together—and it always does.”

We invite you to stop in, pull up a chair and be inspired by one of our meals. Don’t forget to check out the side dish first!

Kildare’s in West Chester is a destination: an authentic Irish pub that has something for everyone. We’re a place to bring the family for weekend brunch; cheer your favorite soccer (or American football) team; enjoy next-level fare at a business lunch, dinner with friends or special event; spend happy hour (questionable dance moves and all); and, of course, imbibe great beer, whiskey and other adult libations. Join us and find out why we’re not your average Irish pub.

Jay Breslin