Chef Interview: Corky Sullivan of Shamrock, Rose & Thistle
But you don’t have to wait a century for a chance to enjoy Shamrock, Rose & Thistle. You just have to pull into the parking lot of the Holiday building on Old Shell then drive all the way to the back. There you will find what looks like a quiet little village with it’s centerpiece being the inviting wraparound porch and wafting scent of fresh baked scones of the Tea Room.
The decor is Old Mobile with a touch of merry old England. This one-time household has transformed into a cozy eatery cloaked with elegance and charm. But good looks will only take you so far. Luckily, the menu is a reflection of the innovative mind of a young, creative chef Ron Sullivan. He is known to his friends as Corky and the frivolity of his nickname is a hint at the fun approach he takes to plying his craft.
Before commanding the kitchen at Shamrock, Rose & Thistle, Corky spent a few years honing his skills. Though a Mobile native, he began his career in Orange Beach cooking at Zeke’s Landing. He is a graduate of the Gulf Coast Culinary Institute at Faulkner State but he has also packed a lot of diverse experience into his brief career. Sullivan was a sous chef at one of Mobile’s hottest restaurants NoJa owned by molecular gastronomy guru Chakli Diggs. He held a similar position at Tony Nicholas’ The Hungry Owl and worked the kitchen at McSharry’s Irish Pub in Fairhope. Chef Corky also ran the show at Mars Hill Cafe for while as well. Pretty impressive considering he is only 24.
I sat down with Corky recently while enjoying one of his outstanding Wagyu beef cheeseburgers, just two chefs chatting about food.
ME: Corky, has your early experience heading the kitchen at Mars Hill helped prepare you for taking over at Shamrock, Rose & Thistle?
CORKY: A lot actually. I was kind of learning then and I now have been able to take ideas and let them play out more in this kitchen. I’ve used the benefits of experience to benefit production. It’s great to have experience under belt to go into a situation.
ME: So tell me about working for Chakli Diggs at NoJa.
CORKY: I loved working at NoJa. He’s one of the more talented chefs becuase he’s always pushing himself, always trying to be ahead of the curve whether it be with his innovations in molecular gastronomy or his approach to making real Asian food as opposed to what most Americans think is Asian food. He spent time making sure his food was going to be the best.
ME: Burgers are a big part of being a gastro pub. Where have you looked for inspiration for burgers.
CORKY: When I was out in Chicago I went to a place that did grass fed beef, attention to detail. It was fun to be around. I worked with Tony Nicholas for a while which was a great experience. He’s a talented Creole-style Southern chef. He was that one chef who was always going to run a tight shift. He is the burger king of Mobile there’s no doubt. The Stuffed Tony Burger, you gotta try it.
ME: So let’s talk about what you’re doing here at the Shamrock, Rose & Thistle. What’s your approach?
CORKY: The first thing I’m trying to do is expand the menu to the gastro pub theme. We want to do incredible food that’s welcoming. So anybody can come and eat; it’s casual but you can still get incredible food. We’ve tried to be authentic to the focus of the restaurant. We try to do English food, Irish food, Scottish food. We’re actually playing around with some haggis right now. I’m really liking where the restaurant is heading right now. We’re making a lot of cleaner approaches is the way I like to say it. Paying better attention to the way flavors are being paired and layered. Just paying more attention to detail is something I try to push. I’m blessed with a really talented crew. My sous chef Johnathon and brunch cook Michael, they’re eager to see what ideas we’re putting forth. They take ownership of them which is really helpful.
ME: What’s your philosophy on sourcing?
CORKY: Every chef is directed to be as local as possible, every good chef, in my opinion, anyway. We try to locally source as much as we can. We try to be as local as we can.
The Shamrock, Rose & Thistle is located at 4513 Old Shell Rd Ste. D in the Holiday Place Village. They are open for lunch daily Tuesday through Sunday (brunch) from 11-2 with dinner service available Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5-9. Afternoon tea is also offered each day until 3PM. For reservations call 251-343-4669.