What is your current role and what does it entail?
I work for BaxterStorey Ireland at a leading investment bank. I manage all aspects of catering within the building, which has 800 associates in it. This includes the day-to-day staff dining food offer, client hospitality and vending. My role includes keeping up with food trends on the high street, marketing, upskilling and developing my team, financial accountability, client management, administration and customer services.
Why did you want to work in foodservice?
Catering was not my original career of choice. At 16 I started working part time in the catering industry while I was still at school. At 18 I began college to study sociology and psychology, which I did for two years. Over that period, I continued to work in catering and, as my passion for the industry developed, it became that this was the path I needed to follow. I soon started college as a commis chef at age 20 and my wonderful journey within foodservice began with BaxterStorey.
What education, training, competitions and so on have you undertaken so far in your career?
I have been involved in a number of training programmes and competitions that have allowed me to improve and progress. These have included a higher certificate in culinary art, two bronze medals in the Chef Ireland competitions, a diploma in health and nutrition, and barista training.
I was also the winner of BaxterStorey’s 2017 Rising Star Award and am currently enrolled in the BaxterStorey Advanced Management Programme, which I will complete in 2018. The Programme works to help current managers work towards senior roles, implementing projects across the business.
What do you enjoy about your role/the industry?
I really enjoy the fact that every day is so different, bringing new challenges, and because of this I am constantly evolving and learning within my role. Due to my 10 years’ experience across our business I am lucky that I get to be really hands on on a day-to-day basis – from the kitchen to the office, front of house, hospitality and on-site training. Working in a dynamic environment with a diverse workforce makes every day so interesting. I get to work with current trends, be as innovative as I want, and have the pleasure of freshly sourced local produce dropped to our door every day.
How do you think the industry could improve in order to support its future growth?
I think recruitment of young catering graduates is a real challenge. The foodservice industry is not as well known to people outside of it, which doesn’t make it as tempting for a career. We need to be more proactive in attracting more entrants to the industry.
BaxterStorey launched an Apprentice Academy last year in order to champion 16 to 19 year olds embarking on a career in the industry. This apprentice-style training is essential to ensure the workforce is available and to tackle the current talent shortage. Engaging in social media and new technologies for this is a must in this day and age. Innovation is also key for future growth and, let’s face it, who isn’t talking about innovation these days? Change, transformation and modernisation are the way forward for our industry.
What are your favourite/least favourite foods?
My love for Thai food started when I had the opportunity to go travelling in Thailand a few years ago, and I’ve since returned twice. While there I even had cooking lessons. Thai food is simple, easy to make and bursting with flavour and freshness. I don’t really have a food that I dislike, which is kind of strange. I do, however, try and avoid anything overly processed like meats or frozen food.
How do you like to unwind away from work?
All of my time away from work usually gets spent with my three-year-old son Charlie. He keeps me busy so I can’t say I completely unwind. I am pretty fortunate that Europe’s largest park is on my doorstep, so we are normally found there doing all sorts, from cycling to football, long walks and even feeding the reindeer. I am a huge DIY fanatic, so I am constantly painting or building something from old wooden boxes to empty tin cans. I am definitely a bit of a shopaholic, so any other free time I have to unwind is done through retail therapy.
What is your biggest ambition or aspiration for the future?
I don’t think my career path will ever end in the food industry – there is so much to do. I have already progressed from a commis chef right the way through to a chef manager and now a catering manager. My next ambition would be to further progress and develop the teams around me. If this then leads me into a more senior role within our business in then that would be great. I would also like to further my diploma in nutrition to an honours degree in human nutrition and dietetics in the coming years.