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Most recently I have been a kitchen team member at the Chase Hotel in Nuneaton
My duties involve making full English breakfast for the guests, and preparing starters and main courses in the evenings. This must be done to exact specifications at all times. I follow strict food safety and cleanliness legislation throughout my working day.
Intermittently I work in a variety of warehouse and agency bar staff roles throughout the UK.
For over a year and a half I worked for Beefeater, primarily the Ock Mill, Abingdon. Here I picked up my career after the blow of the recession. I started as a night-porter, which, although dull, takes tremendous responsibility
After several months I was promoted to day-time duty supervisor. Now I was responsible for the smooth service in a 80 + cover restaurant, and a bar. I also took care of wine service and real ale care. I encouraged the staff to up-sell starters and desserts wherever possible.
My new role was Assistant Food and Beverage Manager for the prestigious Oxfordshire Golf Club. I found myself in control of two bars and six conference rooms. The largest held 180 people.
Here I presided over conferences, functions and banquets for up to 200 people. Our main task would be weddings and private club functions. The food was always A la Carte and mostly silver service. Through the week, conferences and seminars were the order of the day. Our task then would be to set up the room to the client’s exact specifications. This would include chairs, desks, audio visual equipment, and lunch arrangements.
Unfortunately after a year the recession prompted my sudden redundancy, and I had to find a new role elsewhere.
For a short period I held the role of duty supervisor at HaHa! Bar in Oxford City Centre. Their main selling points were freshly cooked food and amazing cocktails. Needless to say, I was in my element. My role was to make sure that every plate and drink went out to spec and on time. I also had to make sure that our guests were happy and enjoying their time.
After a few weeks a more responsible role came up with the Oxfordshire Golf Club.
I returned to the UK with the plan of managing a pub with my partner, Claire. Initially we started from scratch as bar staff at the Trading Post in Castleford. Soon we became trainee managers, From there we were posted to a larger pub to continue our training. By now we were officially Assistant Managers. We qualified as licencees and managers the same year, and spent months on the holiday cover circuit, which was both an adventure and a challenge.
Finally in May 2006 our hard work paid off and we were handed the keys to the Nags Head on the Thames. This picturesque riverside pub became our 24/7 obsession for over a year. We managed the whole thing, from sales and accounts, to security, hygiene, service and promotions. Furthermore we innovated new online marketing concepts long before Facebook came along.
Our theme party nights became legend, our cocktails, spectacular, our sales improved. But a new company takeover led to disagreements on the future of the Nags and we decided it was time to take a bow. Sadly, it is now shut.
In 2000 I decided to up sticks and move to the Emerald Isle. It was something of a pilgrimage to see how bartending was really done. The first summer was spent in the Cashel Palace hotel down in county Tipperary.
It transpired that this old building was in fact the home of Guinness, and pouring a pint of the black stuff here was considered something of an art form. I soon learned that nobody parties like the Irish. I would often find myself making Irish coffees when most people would be making their first cup of tea of the day.
In fairness I hardly needed to up-sell the drinks, I just had to keep up with the sheer volume. (Where is Tom Cruise when you need him?)
After six months I was accepted as a barman for the Conrad International Hotel. This was back in the heady days of the Celtic Tiger and my nights were reminiscent of London at the height of the 1980s. After a year of lobbying I convinced the Conrad to introduce a cocktail list. But first I needed to seek out some expert advice. The BAI are the Jedi knights of the bar trade and they took some tracking down. But this cabal of serious bartenders had some serious talent.
With their advice I set about creating a very professional cocktail list, and photographed the whole thing. I then trained the staff in how it all works. To promote it I entered my first cocktail competition, which proved a very nervy affair. Luckily I managed not to spill it and gained a credible score.
The Conrad hotel is located opposite the national concert hall and business came in huge surges before and after. This required intense preparation and streamlining of service. And you had to be fast on your feet as the kitchen where our bar snacks were prepared, was located up two flights of stairs.
I was also responsible for cleaning beer-pipes, cashing up tills and stock control. After four years in Ireland I decided to return to the UK and settle down with my new partner, Claire. We decided that, as a joint project, we would be pub managers.
My career really started in late 1995 as a modern apprentice for Oulton Hall near Leeds. This hotel was very new and had recently been awarded five stars and two AA rosettes. So naturally, they expected a lot from a complete newcomer.
I began as a restaurant commis waiter, fetching and carrying. I learned all about silver service, wine service and how to give the guests the service they deserved. Later I spent time on placements in the kitchen, housekeeping, reception and concierge, and the leisure club. While working full-time I also studied and passed a GNVQ in hospitality and Catering. I settled down as a barman and waiter for several years serving the good and the great of Leeds. Oh, and Manchester United.
In the summer of 98 I took a sabbatical and set out to explore the Greek Islands. I secured employment in Malia for four months. Nothing could have prepared me for the now-infamous resort. I worked hard, made amazing drinks, innovated new marketing approaches, and gained great confidence in my abilities. I was even offered my own bar out there but I had already arranged to return home. It remains the great ‘what if’ of my life. Several of the people I met out there are still friends today, and I do a lot of freelance marketing for the resort.