Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Explorin' a city on your split

Cambridge is a city which is bursting with history, unsurprisingly as I have found out. Alongside the history is a wide range of modern art, ancient museums, chapels and some of the biggest universities in the world. I have found a large number of fellow Irish over here working in the industry too.
Everyday we start work at 7.30am and work through our lunch to about 4.30 and split to 5.30 then work the dinner service till 9 and leave for 11.30. Its a long 15/16 hour days that would take the toll on you if you didn't get out of the kitchen and explore.
Great St. Mary's chapel -
The tallest point in Cambridge

Apricot sourdough baked daily in the pastry section
A typical day for me starts with getting the bread mixed and into the proofing oven before getting ready to knock out the MEP for the day. Our mise en place is always a very fun list because all sections will work together to help get everybody finished on time for service. What I like most about working in Alimentum is the fact that we get whole animals, fish, vegetables etc in, there is no pre-preparation of produce before it comes in. This allows everybody in the kitchen to constantly learn from Chef Mark.

Each lunch service is at 12:00 and from 11:30 to 11:45 we have a briefing which will bring all staff together before service, run through the lunch bookings, new dishes, whats running low, a wine tasting and finally finish with a coffee. When it comes to service everybody runs their own section, so far i have spent the majority of my time on pastry while still spending time on garnish and larder.
Pear, Toffee, Hazelnut
A trial dish

After lunch we clean down, scrub the floors, take 5 mins and then begin to prep once again. Nailing down essential dinner place, as well as prepping each section prepares one item of staff food for the 5 o clock dinner. recently we have put so much effort into our staff food as we believe it reflects in your performance at dinner service.

Cleaning these beauties before dinner
We go through the evening briefing at 5:30 - 5:45 with the same schedule as morning the have service from 6-9.30, then have the same routine as after lunch, take 5, wash down, scrub the floors and then clear our fridges and freezers. so they're empty for the following morning. We finish at 11/12 and go home back in to start the grind again the following morning.

By Luke McLeod
@Restaurant Alimentum
Cambridge, UK

Friday, 6 October 2017

Finally settling down in Scotland

For my 3rd year international placement, I had many different ideas in my head as to where I wanted to go and in what type of establishment I fancied working in. Over the course of the 2 years before leaving, my mind changed over and over. It went from California to Florida to Canada and eventually ended up finally deciding on moving to Edinburgh, Scotland, I know what a change!! Finding work in the  places mentioned was tough and did turn me off moving halfway across the world. Without the guarantee of a permanent job, it seemed too risky. However, I began to use TripAdvisor to find the best restaurants in Edinburgh that fit into the category of establishment I was looking to work in. I emailed so many restaurants and eventually, I was delighted to get a response from a Restaurant called 'Dine' in Edinburgh. I had my research done and knew this particular establishment was run by Stuart Muir, a Michelin star chef. Stuart ran a Michelin restaurant for many years before branching out and opening up his own restaurant which has since won the Brasserie award here in Scotland. it is a fine dining, Brasserie styled restaurant which is exactly what I wanted to help further my experience as a chef. So after talking with both Stuart and Martyn (sous chef), I got the job and they were eager for me to start immediately. That meant a job was now ticked off the long list of things I needed to do to move over. Next up was accommodation, this was so tiring. I'm convinced I rang every letting agency in Edinburgh looking for accommodation for 5 months, but seeing as college students were also back at a similar time I was looking to move out it was hard to find somewhere for such a short letting period. Not to worry I knew something would show up, so I flew out a week early before starting work and stayed in the Travel lodge, once again hounding down every letting agency in sight! I was finally sorted, I found a lovely 2-bed apartment, 20-minute walk from work and super close to all the shops and the city center! It was ideal. So another student and I moved in together, it was also really close to where she worked so we were both pleased. The following Monday I started work, the nerves were riling up as i walked into the building, but the minute I walked into the kitchen met all the other chefs I knew I would fit in. Everyone from the front of house to the bar staff, the kitchen staff and owners were so friendly and welcoming, I knew I would enjoy it. So far I'm 5 weeks in and couldn't be happier! I am trying out all sections in the kitchen, learning new methods of cooking and learning some new skills. Besides working I also get to explore Edinburgh on my days off. I typically have 2-3 days off a week and work a split shift for the other days. Edinburgh is a gorgeous city and leaving here in January for college placement will be tough but moving out to Miami will make it a little easier. As I stated earlier I had a long list of jobs still to finish. They included opening a bank account, getting a National Insurance Number (similar to a PPS number in Ireland) and of course settling into the new home. All of this was a lot easier having a friend in the same situation as you and both of you pulling each other along.
  Image may contain: food

I have attached a link to the restaurant's page if anyone would like to check it out, we're currently changing our menus. They tend to change 5 times over the course of the year, updating new ingredients all in-season produce and also what is in the market. Being a part of this menu change is so much fun and getting to add your own ideas to the menu and help with the plating aspect is so cool. 
Overall, I am delighted to be in Edinburgh, working in the establishment I am in and to have other students living in Edinburgh with me is great as you always have someone close by.
Emma O'Neill

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Eager to start in Canada

So as part of my course which is a BA (Hons) in Culinary Arts, in our 3rd year we are required to do placement outside the region of Ireland. I have been so excited for this year ever since I filled out my CAO application in 6th year of secondary school. I knew I'd want to head to Canada or America and take advantage of this amazing opportunity. Luckily I'm heading to The Fairmont Banff Springs in Canada hopefully any day now! It has been a long and stressful process. Between applying, over the phone interviews and Visas. My only regret is staying home for the summer. I didn't think it would be this complicated. I thought I'd hop on a plane at the start of September and that would be it, but no 5th of October and I'm still stuck in Waterford. So my advice to the current 2nd years would be plan to even leave at the start of July or earlier if desired (I highly  recommend). As you cannot apply for your work permit and ETA (used to enter the country) until you have an offer of employment. Even though I was on the hunt all summer for work I wasn't fortunate enough to get anywhere. Luckily Sherry Haines offered me a position in The Fairmont Banff Springs in mid September. I still had a long way to go though. Things started to get really serious and I needed to apply for what I thought was a visa but if your not studying in Canada it is not a Visa you need. You need an ETA to enter the country and a Work Permit that gives you permission to work in Canada. You also need letters from the college, the garda , your employer, excetera excetera.  Now the reason I am going into so much detail is I hope the current second years are reading this in case any of them are thinking about heading to the States or Canada, as I wish I had the heads up! Apply to go away as early as you can as the process can take up to 4-6 weeks!! I am studying  in Johnston and Wales University in Providence but I need to head to Dublin to sort out my study Visa before I can head over there. So I am now taking the advantage of still being here and am planning a trip to Dublin to start the process for February. I have kept in touch with Sherry Haines and Angela Summerfeld who both work in Fairmont about my current situation and they have been the most kind and helpful people during all of this. I was originally supposed to start on October 3rd, but as my work permit is still not here they are now looking at the 17th of October. I am allowed move in to my staff housing the Friday before I start to settle in. It will work out (in euros) as 10 euro a day which I am delighted with. I had the option to stay in single housing which was slightly dearer or shared housing. I opted for the shared housing as in the single housing there was no kitchen, only a mini fridge  and as a chef a kitchen is a bare necessity!! Also it will give me the oppurtunity to meet new people on my great adventure. I have been researching Fairmont and Alberta which is in Calgary and the excitement is unbearable. I wish this work permit would hurry up! Get me out of Ireland before I pull my hair out!!!! By Beth Murphy

Monday, 2 October 2017

The incredible highs and very low lows of Michelin

I had always wanted to work in Michelin starred kitchens from when I first got Job as a commis at 16, Having my first taste in Eleven Maddison park in New York seeing how the best kitchen in the world works behind the pass. To another stage in The Greenhouse with Mikael Viljanen, which was not all I wished for. This is when I entered Alimentum, Cambridge. Working under Chef Mark Poynton, I have learned at an exponential rate, from larder, to pastry to garnish I have been shown the ropes around the kitchen.

On Monday 2nd of October, Michelin guide had a ceremony to award the new stars of 2018, with all Irish star holders being invited over adding to speculation of a new Irish two or three star. This alas was not to be, with only one new entry in Ireland. The Wild Honey inn, Clare, took its place in the Michelin guide. Alimentum, Cambridge, lost theirs. I will never forget the feeling of Will, Micky, Ash and I standing on the pass watching the ceremony streamed off ash’s phone and nearly erupting into tears while Araki received its coveted third star, showing what food and Michelin means to chefs.

When the ceremony ended, we searched through the list of retentions for 2018 and could not see Alimentum. We nervously scrolled through the list huddled into the phone we checked the ‘deletions’ section and there we were. Followed by a text from chef Mark “sorry to say we lost the star”. After having our sous chef walk out on Friday and losing our star on Monday, words cannot describe the mood in the kitchen as we try to get through lunch and the majority of this week.

By Luke McLeod
@Restaurant Alimentum
Cambridge, UK

Discovering the north of Ireland

I have now been living and working  in Enniskillen a couple of weeks now and I’m starting to know my way around  and I am enjoying every minute of it, it is a small busy little town, I am getting on very well in the hotel and I have settled in really well and have got to know most of the staff in my department, the kitchen that I am working in offers a great work life balance and the hours that are not half as bad as previous kitchens that I have worked in, this meant that I had a lot more time on my hands than I usually had and me being an active outdoor person I looked in to some of the activities that Enniskillen had to offer, Enniskillen is Irelands only “island town” and there are tons of lakes, ponds and rivers located in and around the town and me being a passionate  fisherman wanted to take advantage of this, so I brought up my bicycle and fishing rod up with me and went out most mornings before work and then on my first two days off I spent most of them fishing and hoping that I could hook something nice for my dinner!

Everywhere in the north of Ireland is under an hour and a half from Enniskillen so rather than traveling home to carlow on all my days off I taught I should go discover a bit more of the north of Ireland while I’m living up here and make the most of it! The first place that came into my mind was Belfast, I had never been there before and it seemed like a small vibrant, interesting little city with a lot of history so I booked a cheap apartment on the internet and I was really looking forward to going there. On my next few days off I headed for Belfast and then checked in to my apartment which I couldn’t get over how nice it was and that I had really got a bargain! After a stroll around the city and after a little bit of shopping we headed to get some food, me being a chef had done my research on the best places to go to and me being me wanted get value for money too which was going to be a challenge! We went for dinner in Holohans at the barge, which was a fine dining restaurant with 3 courses and a glass of wine for £30 which was an absolute steal, highlight of my meal was the gin and beetroot cured salmon.
We then heading into the cathedral quarter for a few pints, some live music and most of all a bit of crack, out of all the pub, bars and night clubs I was in that night my top 3 where the Harp bar, The Spaniard and the Dirty Onion. 
The next day I had booked us a table in the 1 Michelin stared OX restaurant which is one of the top restaurants in the north of Ireland and although there a la carte menu was a small bit out of my price range, there lunch menu was very reasonably priced at 3 courses for £25 I was most impressed with the service and their intention to detail and the level of professionalism of there waiting staff but the meal its concluded a great trip to Belfast. 
By conor nolan.

First impressions

As part of my course, BA honors  degree in culinary arts  I was required to take part in an international work placement in the first semester of 3rd year, when I first found out that we had to go outside of the republic of Ireland I wanted to travel as far away as possible  because I knew that I would not get an opportunity like this again and that I should make the most of it while I’m still young but then as I began to search for hotels and restaurants to work in, it turned out to be a lot more difficult  that I had expected, from trying to sort out visas and other things like getting paid placement and getting accommodation, while all of this was going on I kind of taught to myself why would I leave Ireland to gain experience when Irish food is the best that it has ever been and it also produces some of the best products in the world, that’s when I began to look at hotels in northern Ireland and I wanted to work in one of the best hotels but I also didn’t want live in the city so that’s when I started to look at Lough Erne resort in Enniskillen, it ticked all the boxes for me, as it was one of the top hotels in Ireland and it had an award winning restaurant which had 3 AA rosettes.
I knew that I would have to move to EnnisKillen but I would still be only a 3 hour drive from my house that I could come home on some of my days off which would suit me prefect.
When it came to moving up north I was not really too nervous about it but I was looking forward to something different and a new challenge in my career but when I did move up  to Enniskillen I really had no idea about the area and what it was like or even about finding accommodation while I was on work placement, thankfully the HR manger from the hotel was one of a kind, I could not thank her enough, she found me a small reasonable priced flat in the Centre of enniskillen which was exactly what I was looking and suited me right down to the ground, she also gave me such a warm welcome to the hotel when I first started working  I was overwhelmed by how nice and friendly all of the staff were, I kept thinking in the back of my head “why is everybody so nice, there must be some sort of catch” but I was every wrong they were just very nice people, When I first arrived at the hotel I could not get over how beautiful it was, from the views of the lake from the golf course to the amazing interior and d├ęcor of the reception, restaurant and function room it really was 5 star quality.

By Conor nolan.