'Opportunity to work with great people anywhere in the world'
1. Please give a brief overview of your career history – where you started, how you progressed, the companies you have worked for etc
Originally started my catering career with Wine Inns Ltd in August 88 as Commis Chef, after approx 20 months I left to gain more knowledge of my career in Guernsey, were I stayed for 1 year working for a company called Romana hotels.
Within this role I got to work in several hotels and in different departments such as front of house, bar and floor work and I also achieved the status of a single handed chef in a small hotel of 50 residents providing breakfast and evening meal on a daily basis.
I left Guernsey to come home with the intention of travelling to France after a short break, but fell straight back to work on my return home in a small fine dining restaurant in Lisburn called the Wallace.
Whilst working there I was approached by my former Head Chef from Wine Inns Ltd, with a job offer and decided to return. Since, I have stayed with the company, working and teaming with many chefs to gain knowledge. I also attended college to further my education not only in catering but also in management and training skills and progressed through the ranks to achieve the role of Head Chef
My first post being the Down Royal Grill Bar at which I stayed approx 13 years. I then moved to Robinson Bistro in Belfast city centre within the same company and am still enjoying the experience today.
2. Have you always wanted to work within hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism and
why? If not, how did you end up where you are now?
I had always fancied the catering industry through secondary school, but still had not committed myself by the year of leaving. I was still unsure of my path because I was working with my father who was a self employed electrician, and I just wasn’t given any time to weigh up my options.
But fate I guess was closing in, as it was only by leaving school at the end of June when I was approached by a friend who worked in the industry with a helping hand, to which of course I said yes and commenced employment on the 2nd of August 1988.
3. What sort of qualifications and training have you had and what else would you like
Currently I have Basic & Intermediate Health and Hygiene Certificates, First Aid certificates constantly renewed, 706/1 part 706/2 (old school before NVQ).
HCIMA DIP parts being; food and beverage management, accounts, group training techniques, benchmarking projects and human resources.
4. What are the top 5 activities you would typically carry out on a daily basis?
Providing a safe and hygienic work environment, motivating the teams, maintaining budgets, targets and profit margins, maintaining consistency and morale, the creation and presentation of old and new dishes and encouraging the teams to participate in all the above.
5. What do you most enjoy about your job?
Apart from being paid to do something that I enjoy and spending time with my team, who don’t just show up for the money, I guess it would be creating and achieving the perfect days service, flawlessly, which is no
6. What would you say is the biggest challenge you face on a daily basis?
Without the risk of sounding repetitive it’s creating and achieving the perfect day’s service with speed and consistency and maintaining a happy and productive work force.
7. What would you say is your biggest achievement to date?
Without even a thought, it’s undoubtedly the teams of chefs I’ve been given the opportunity to build throughout my career. With kids straight from school, the moulding of personalities, attitudes and relationships built within and brought through the ranks. This even includes the team I work within today, some of their terms of service being in excess of 10 years and hopefully many more, but not just as work colleagues, but as some of my closest friends.
8. Who has been the greatest influence/role model in your career and why?
Again, its the people I’ve just spoken about who influence me and are the role models that give me the motivation to carry on in this industry with the loyalty, friendship and hard work they give back.
9. Do you have a favourite tale or most memorable moment from your career? If so, please tell us about it!
There are so many to mention, it’s hard to think of one that’s appropriate for this, but one comes to mind that occurred many years ago in my first role as Head Chef at the age of 22 whilst working for one of the best managers in the industry today. Let’s just say it was a big lesson in confidence and a character builder as we like to call it in the trade, which helps keep me grounded and organised to this day.
Like I said it was my first year as the boss and we were just kicking into Christmas, set menus and pre-orders galore in the function room, and we still had the busy turnover in the lounge of day to day trade to contend with.
So its all kicking off, in the thick of it, 8pm-ish with all the orders coming in thick and fast, the ovens got so full that I just couldn’t put anymore food on until the service staff cleared some starters so we could get some mains out to create the space for more to go in. I mean we were doing great here but my boss keeps applying the pressure. Without getting too technical I was allowing 20 minutes for the regen of a main which is approx the same amount of time to serve, eat and clear a starter, so it’s like clockwork, well so you would think….
…Until the boss forces a large table of starters out and you know you've no room left to get their mains on the go…it gets worse!
Eventually anyway we get the space sorted but 10 minutes have passed, you cant just make that
sort of time up, so it creates a knock on effect and low and behold he then clears the starters of the table that I know just aren’t ready yet, so its divert attention time and stall with any means possible!
Its not like the customers wouldn’t appreciate a wee 5 min break between starters and mains but you try telling that to a guy who wanted them yesterday and whose veins are about to explode on the sides of his head! No, neither would I back then, so he got what he asked for due to my inexperience, oops.
So I carried on and had got my 10 minutes back, but now lacking in confidence just hoping to get away with it, aye right, no chance, so there’s a member of service staff who walks back into the kitchen with a plate in each hand, yes 2 plates not bad…but not great either when they are being followed by another 4 members of staff! Well I got away with half the table but everyone on that one party sent the roast beef back, the rest must have liked their cold turkey! So not only had I lost the 10 minutes again but try adding another 10 to that, yip, not a good place to be.
But the thing about our industry is, if you keep at it and keep the head down you'll always get there in the end, which after a struggle of course we did, but with a valuable lesson learned! Yes, never listen to the management! No that’s not it!(joke)
The customer won’t mind waiting 5 minutes if you make it worth waiting for! I can honestly say I’ve never been under that much pressure ever again since, but I’ll never forget that day as long as I live but I’ll also never regret the lesson I learned. Now that’s a character builder.
10. What piece of advice would you offer someone who wants to work within our industries?
Don’t ever send out cold roast beef!
11. Why would you encourage someone to work in our industry?
Besides it being a great career and an opportunity to work with great people anywhere in the world, we also constantly need new blood for the industry with new and fresh ideas in order to move the industry forward and to be able to stay with the times and trends.