Chef McKenna gets fired up for opening of new cookery school

Chef Niall McKenna at his new Waterman House Cookery School

JAMES Street restaurant owner and award-winning chef Niall McKenna will open his new-look Waterman House Cookery School in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter on Wednesday May 26, creating three new jobs.

The restaurateur and entrepreneur purchased the Grade B listed Waterman House building at 5-23 Hill Street in 2018 as part an investment of more than £1 million to redevelop the former James Street South Cookery School, previously housed within the popular James Street restaurant.

Occupying the ground floor space of the old Bushmills bonded warehouse, the expansive new cookery school ( will accommodate groups of up to 18 with state-of-the art work stations and the latest kitchen equipment.

A reception and first floor areas are being earmarked for use as a brand new events and cultural space, providing a new creative hub for the vibrant area.

Niall said: “Having served Belfast city centre since 2003 with our James Street restaurant, we’re delighted to expand our presence and offer food enthusiasts the best environment to enjoy an exciting learning experience using the finest local ingredients.

“Waterman House is a truly iconic building and we’re excited to reinvigorate one of the city’s finest architectural locations and contribute to the regeneration of this important area.

“Belfast’s tourism growth has been remarkable, but the challenges of the last 15 months have taken their toll on the city.

“As we move towards recovery, we’re looking forward to playing our part in contributing to the city’s status as an award-winning destination for local, national and international visitors with this exciting new culinary experience.”

He added: “Budding and experienced chefs can look forward to the same fantastic cookery school experience but in a bigger, better setting with the newest equipment and safety measures in place.

“Our class schedule is jam packed and includes culinary classics, customer favourites and some exciting new cooking challenges incorporating our newly installed wood burning oven.”

Along with the new cookery school opening, Niall and his team will launch a brand new street food offering called Le Four, which will serve up fresh, made-to-order stone-baked pizzas from a converted Land Rover Defender and will incorporate an outdoor dining space in the building’s courtyard located between the Harp Bar and Waterman House.

“With many businesses adapting their offer to accommodate outdoor dining, we’ve seen a real surge in demand for fresh, authentic street food which can be enjoyed in a more casual setting.

“Le Four is the perfect addition to the Cathedral Quarter food experience and allows diners to get a taste of Waterman House Cookery School whilst enjoying this untapped location.

“With both the cookery school and Le Four due to open later this month, we’re excited to breathe new life into this area and we can’t wait to welcome both old and new customers alike”, said Niall.

The James Street group currently employs a team of 57 full and part-time staff across its James St and Hadskis restaurants, Waterman House Cookery School and Le Four, and will launch a recruitment drive in the coming weeks to recruit new talent.

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