Q&A with Peter Killen

Source: Kathie Jenkins, Pioneer Press

Wednesday, 24th Aug, 2011

[Peter Killen, 41, is the CEO of Cara Irish Pubs – The Liffey, St. Paul; Cooper, St. Louis Park; and Kieran’s and The Local, Minneapolis]

Kathie: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Peter: I wanted to be a chef. When I went to school in Ireland, guys were forced to take woodworking and girls did home economics. I was the first guy in my school to go to the principal and ask to do cooking. I broke the mold, which is kind of weird when you’re 13. But I wanted to learn how to make an apple pie instead of a miter joint.

Peter Killen says, "I have never had a good idea over a cup of coffee." (Pioneer Press: Ginger Pinson)

Kathie: What was your first job in food?

Peter: When I was 16, I went to the Channel Islands (in the English Channel) and got a job waiting tables at an Italian restaurant in Guernsey. I thought it was great – good tips and I lived above the restaurant.

Kathie: How did you wind up in the restaurant business?

Peter: I went to school in Belfast for hotel management. It was a four-year degree. One of the years was an internship at a hotel. It was supposed to include equal time in housekeeping, the front desk and the kitchen. I started in the kitchen, and after three months, I asked to stay. I ended up doing the whole year in the kitchen. Later, I worked for Hilton Hotels in London, and they transferred me to the Marquette Hotel in Minneapolis, which was a Hilton property at the time. Kieran’s was the only Irish pub in town, and that’s where I met owner Kieran Folliard, and we became friends. Eventually, I started working for him at The Local and saving my money to open a small pub in Ireland. But I got some of the ownership in the company, and now, 12 years later, I own the company.

Kathie: Any advice for getting ahead?

Peter: I’ve never had a good idea over a cup of coffee.

Kathie: What’s your favorite brand of beer?

Peter: I go seasonal, so it all depends on the month and the year. But I haven’t found one I didn’t like, much to the dismay of my wife. But if it were the last beer I could ever have, it would be a Guinness.

Kathie: What’s something few people know about you?

Peter: I’m a huge Formula 1 fan and try to get to a race every year. This year, I’m going to Italy to watch the Grand Prix. It’s a fun sport, and I love the strategy.

Kathie: What culinary trend do you wish would die?

Peter: Food trucks – it’s all food trucks, food trucks, food trucks.

Kathie: What’s something in your career that you wish you had done differently?

Peter: When I was younger, I would have loved to have worked on some of the cruise liners, just because it’s a good way to travel and to say I’ve done it.

Kathie: What’s your favorite restaurant?

Peter: It all depends on the company and the environment. Recently, I went to a beautiful restaurant called Botega in Yountville, Calif. It was run by one of those celebrity-chef guys, and it was very classical French cooking. In Minneapolis, I like Vincent.

Kathie: If someone were to play you in a movie, who should it be?

Peter: Charlie Sheen. He’s a fun, good-looking guy, and he loves to party. He has been through a rough patch, but don’t write him off.

Kathie: What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?

Peter: When I worked in Scotland, I used to eat a lot of haggis (sheep stomach stuffed with offal and spices). It’s kind of strange, but it’s OK.

Kathie: What’s next?

Peter: We are in a holding pattern. All four pubs were recently renovated, and we’re just going to work them as hard as we can.

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