Balloo House / Balloo Inns Limited
Named Best Chef in Ireland 2010. Has starred on Great British Menu and other shows
What does your job entail?
My role in the company is to oversee the food offering in our two dining pubs, Balloo House in Killinchy and The Parson's Nose in Hillsborough. Cooking, creating the menus, sourcing the best local produce and also training and recruiting chefs.
Did you always want to be a chef?
From an early age I loved cooking. I think I was inspired initially by Mrs Walls who did cookery with us at school. I always enjoyed the feeling of taking something I'd baked in school home to the family; even just a bit of shortbread or a couple of German biscuits. I remember Mrs Walls also had great legs, which may have helped to keep my attention!
What do you like most about your job?
Without a doubt it is about making people happy when they enjoy food you have cooked. To see happy faces in the restaurant is what makes my job really great. Having a happy and positive workforce is also crucial to the success of the business and I'd like to think that we create a good working environment for our staff. Working in a kitchen can be physically hard work but when you are passionate about cooking and the team spirit is good it can be a very enjoyable place to work.
What is a typical day for you?
Well the best thing is that there is probably is no such thing as a typical day. Some days we start with management meetings to look at feedback and any issues from the previous week. Other days can be taken up with menu design and food-costing. Most of my cooking is still done at Balloo House and early evening is when the very busy food service starts and there is always a buzz in a busy kitchen. I try to get out of the kitchen every so often to chat to diners to see how they have enjoyed their meal. Feedback is crucial to us and we always encourage diners to tell us what they think.
What qualities do you need to succeed as a chef?
Passion and patience. You need to be passionate about good food and take pride in your work. Ambition is also good and I would like to think that some of our chefs will rise to the top of the industry.
Would you encourage young people to become a chef?
Absolutely. The industry needs to attract young people and we need to tell them that cooking can be a great career. With the growth in Northern Ireland as a tourist destination it is predicted that we will need a further 1,000 chefs by 2017.
There is hard work ahead for anyone who wants to train, and the hours are unsociable at the start, but the benefits are great. If a young person studies and trains under a good chef, he or she will have a lifelong skill that can take them anywhere in the world. When I was younger I worked in Germany for four years and one of our chefs has just left us for a year to work her way around New Zealand and Australia.
What qualifications can you take?
The main industry qualification is the Professional Cookery Diploma for 16-year-olds and over which is available at all the regional colleges. It is backed by professional chefs in the industry who have worked with People 1st, the sector skills council for hospitality, leisure, travel and tourism to develop this very practical qualification. It's a full-time course and you can study for it alongside working in the industry. The progression routes for a career as a chef are outlined further on the dedicated careers website www.uksp.co.uk.
How can you get started?
You can join the industry as an apprentice and we will soon be launching our own apprenticeship scheme in conjunction with local colleges and would encourage anyone who is interested in a career with Balloo Inns to get in touch with me -- firstname.lastname@example.org
For a taster of what the industry is like young people aged 12 to 16 can take part in the Junior Chefs' Academy on a Saturday morning at the regional colleges.
I recently worked alongside the last bunch of graduates at a super competition held at Greenmount College. It was just great to see the enthusiasm these young people have for cooking as a profession.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spending time with the family and walking the dogs. Eating out is, of course, one of my hobbies.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
Well I have just moved house and I am planning on a couple of additions to the family ... pigs and chickens to start with so that I can make my own bacon and eggs.