Saturday, 29 September 2018

My Working Life in the Culloden Estate and Spa

   My name is Michaela Quigley. For the first semester I have decided to do work experience in the Culloden Estate and Spa in Belfast. The hotel has two different restaurants which have two different styles of food. The main restaurant located in the hotel serves fine dining, deals with all spa orders , afternoon tea, room service and lounge food. The Cultra Inn is a smaller venue located away from the hotel itself and serves a more rustic style of food. I chose to work in the main kitchen as i have not had any experience with fine dining and thought it would benefit me more. I am so happy i did chose the restaurant. The chefs have been patient and understanding towards me and have given me a book full of excellent and reliable recipes. The kitchen has a total of seven chefs excluding me. I am the only women in this all male kitchen. I have been working here a little over three months now and in that time we have lost three chefs and are yet to lose another. I find the more chefs we lose, the more pressure there is to be flexible and be able to be on more than one section. Currently I work on the dessert and starter section while some days I prep and serve lounge orders i.e. sandwiches, salads and seafood platters, spa orders and afternoon tea.


The staff accommodation here is great. It costs £20 a week and is automatically deducted from my weekly wage. Each room usually has two people but since i came here alone I get the room to myself. It has a an en suite bathroom and down the hall is a kitchen with all basic facilities. The entrance to the kitchen is literally just down five sets of steps and can be accessed all day round to make food or get a coffee. Lunch for all staff is served at 12 pm and dinner is served at 6 pm. The actual quality of the food depends on which chef is cooking. Some serve chips and sausages and others serve decent meals like Thai green curry. 

Work Hours:

Currently I am working between twelve and fourteen hours a day five days a week. The most I have ever worked here is fifty plus hours but that was an exceptionally busy week. Breaks do not really exist you just adapt to picking up a coffee or eating something and working as you eat. More like a break on the go! I prefer this to having to sit down for 30 minutes every day. Gives me more time to prep and get myself ahead for lunch and dinner service especially when afternoon teas have to be done. Currently I do service and prep for starters and desserts and after 4 pm i do lounge orders so there is not really time for me to take a thirty minute break. But I do not mind time flies when I'm busy in work so it is not all bad. 

Achievements :

Over the course of being here i have decided to create a portfolio of all the dishes I have made. I decided it would be a good idea to have something to show future employers of what I am capable of producing. Recently, a picture of one of the desserts I serve has been posted on the official Culloden Instagram page. This is a great achievement for me. It makes me feel that everyone here appreciate the dishes I'm making.

No kitchen is perfect. But i really think this kitchen is unique to any other. It seems to be a chronic communication problem between reception and the kitchen. They are constantly forgetting to write down bookings for afternoon tea and dinner onto our daily sheet. Which can cause disruption in the day to day service. But overall i am having a wonderful experience working here and enjoying every minute of it!

The beginning of a new adventure

My name is Áine Brennan, I am a third year BA Culinary Arts student who has just begun my time at placement. Compulsory to my time away from WIT I have to write several blog posts which I must admit I’m not looking forward to. Don’t get me wrong I love writing but having people read my writing is a different story.

Writing this blog so soon after arriving seems a little rushed as I’ve only been here for one academic week and I’m honestly still settling in. I suppose before I go any further I should tell you where I am… For me I chose to do my academic study first, so currently I am on the Coleraine campus of Ulster University studying Consumer Management and Food Innovation. Some people think I’m mad because I’ve only gone “up North” but I’ve got my reasons and well, getting home isn’t as easily accessible as one might think when you’re a full time university student who doesn’t drive.

Before I began my semester of study I took a couple of days to become familiar with the area and do some sightseeing. Coleraine and the surrounding areas are full of natural beauty at every turn. It wasn’t long before I realised that this area is heaven for a Game of Thrones fan like myself! My first trip took me to The Dark Hedges, fans like myself will know this is the beautiful wooded area known as ‘The Kings Road’. Next it was on to Ballintoy Beach and Harbour where scenes from ‘The Iron Islands’ were filmed. With such natural beauty throughout, these areas are must see for any Game of Thrones fan, or even those who enjoy a nice walk through a scenic backdrop.

The time came for my first day of classes and let’s just say I was nervous. I had been given a tour of the campus during induction and I’d briefly met my new classmates, but with so much happening so quickly I wasn’t able to take it all in. That morning I wasn’t sure where I was going or who I’d be meeting when I walked into that classroom but I knew that I’d get there. The module inductions weren’t too overpowering and it was really just an overview of the weeks ahead. It really helped to put my mind at ease and to set goals for the coming semester.

I’ve learned three key things during my short time here in Coleraine. Firstly, the people are so welcoming. Honestly, every corner you turn there’s somebody there to greet you with a smile or somebody who is ready to answer any questions you may have. Secondly, parking on campus is not an issue! There’s parking everywhere and there’s certainly no arguing over parking spaces. Lastly, this campus is beautiful! I’ve taken the time to get to know the campus and its surroundings during my short time here so far. I must say I’ve been amazed. It’s a modern campus with great buildings and resources but they really know how to find the balance with nature, it has been achieved brilliantly here. Walking around the campus you can really sense that the needs and safety of wildlife have been taken into account. I think this is a campus that many other could learn from…

So yes, this might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it was my first choice and it’s a choice I put great thought into. It’s a cup of tea I hope to thoroughly enjoy during my time here. Yes, I’m nervous about the months ahead but I’m hoping to make the most of my time up here, be it making new friends or visiting new places. One thing I’m sure of is that I’m ready to face the challenges that are ahead of me.

That’s it for now guys. Stay tuned for my next blog post.
Áine B.

La Vie et Le Travail à Narbonne

My name is Ciara Power and I am a 3rd Year BA (Hons) Culinary Arts student in WIT. The requirement for this year is to complete 12 weeks of both international study and work.  This unique prospect was what convinced me to apply for the course in the first place, so I was hugely excited for it to begin.

A year of travel ahead

 I will admit to completely falling out of love with kitchen work well before this year commenced, and while I do intend on working in the food industry in the future, it won’t be as a chef. Though I had no exact destination in my mind as to where I wanted to work, I promised myself I would make the most of whatever was about to come my way. So, when an opportunity to work in a hotel kitchen in the south of France arose, I couldn’t say no. As scary as the idea was, I thought of it as the last hurrah, one last kitchen job and what better place to do it!

Not too far from home but in a different world

 I found the job through our helpful placement officer Don, who had contacts working in the hotel. One translated CV, multiple e-mails, and a Ryanair flight later, I was on the way to Chateau L’Hospitalet Narbonne, with nothing but pretty basic French and a suitcase full of chef whites.

The hotel front

 Chateau L’Hospitalet is located on the Gérard Bertrand wine estate beside the Mediterranean Sea. It is a small but beautiful hotel. Guests come to explore the vineyard and biodynamic winery. L’Art de Vivre is the name of the restaurant which is a fine dining restaurant. The head chef hopes to earn a Michelin star in the next guide.  

Outside my room, new casks being filled with estate wine.

A walk to the laundry room

 I flew to Carcassonne, got a bus to the train station, a train to Narbonne and then a taxi to the hotel. It was a long day of travel but was relatively straightforward all the same. I was going alone, which to be honest I was dreading a little bit but I had experience in moving abroad after spending two summers in NY. When I arrived, I was shown to my room and then had lunch with the rest of the staff. After, I met the head chef, who informed me I would be starting work in no less than an hour after. Très bien! Though this came as a bit of a surprise, it was actually the best thing that could have happened because I was able to familiarise myself and be at ease in the kitchen immediately.

 Before I even got to France I had the kitchen built up to be a really intense, scary environment. However, for the most part, it is calm and enjoyable. I had requested to work in the pastry section, which ended up being the best thing I could have ever done. It was a completely daunting idea to work in the home of patisserie but if I was to go to France I wanted to learn as much as I could. Thankfully, the pastry chef, Seb, simply could not be more encouraging or lovely. He also is very understanding that I have limited French, and just laughs when I bring back a whisk after actually being told to get a box of pears... though I’m slowly improving with time. 
 While it is a hotel, the kitchen isn’t your stereotypical hotel setup. While there are some events, they’re not ever huge or frequent. So far, I have worked for a barbeque, a harvest festival and for some jazz nights. The standard of food remains fine dining despite the larger amount of covers. And of course, it's only the best of equipment and ingredients so the finished product is always amazing.

 I am technically doing a stage. This means I am not getting paid by hour but will get a sum of around €500 a month. Though this may seem a bit unfitting for the 13-16 hour days, I knew what I was signing up for. I do however get free accommodation, which is reasonably big. I share with 2 others and we all have a double bed and plenty of space. There is also a little corner with a fridge, microwave, and kettle (essential for those all-too-important emergency cups of Lyon’s tea). The staff food here is also free. Two meals a day and it’s not bad. With all this in mind, the small amount of pay can be justified. The hotel is 30 minutes away from the closet shop or restaurant so any spending really is discretionary, and remember, there’s always the Erasmus grant.

Perks of working on a wine estate...

 So that brings me to the end of my first blog. I’m only here just close to two weeks so haven’t had too much time to explore the nearest towns or cities so I shall check back in when I’ve found out more.

À bientôt!


Thursday, 27 September 2018

Toronto.. Month 1 of a 4 month adventure!

            As some of you may not know me, my name is Shannon. For the first semester of my year abroad I chose to travel and study in Humber University in Toronto, Canada. I chose Humber as I thought it would be such a great opportunity to see more of the world but to also see how colleges work in other countries in comparison to Ireland. I arrived in Toronto on the 24th of August, frantically trying to find one of my classmate, Sinead, in the airport with no service from my Irish network and WiFi that barely worked. About 5 Snapchat/Facebook calls and a quick train ride, we found each other. The thought of coming to Canada was a small bit daunting but knowing I would be meeting Sinead over here made it that bit easier as there would be a friendly face on this journey with me. 
The first month here has been incredible! Words cannot even describe what an amazing journey it has been so far. I'm not going to lie, having weekends off work and time to myself has made this journey so much more enjoyable as there is so much to see in Toronto and the surrounding areas. From the Toronto Islands to the CN Tower to Graffiti Alley plus much much more. We have only begun to see what this city has to offer. 

The First few days
The first week here we had a few days to ourselves to unpack and get settled into the campus residence before orientation week began. A trip to Walmart was a must to grab bedsheets, duvets, pillows, etc. Orientation for the course, provided not only information about our classes but a chance to meet our classmates for the first time. The International Exchange orientation and the welcome to residence meeting gave us the opportunity to meet many of the other students who also decided to study at Humber for their semester abroad. Since that first week, I have met so many amazing people from all over the world, Denmark, Germany, Latvia, Finland, Iceland, etc. 

There is such a wide range of people from so many different countries it’s amazing to hear about all the different cultures from around the world! The first two weeks is the time you will make the friends that will go on all the adventures around Toronto with. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to come here and to meet all these wonderful people. 

The first week of college was all about orientations, getting to know our classmates and lecturers and find out what would be involved for each module. Sinead and I are taking 4 classes which involve, 1 theory and 3 practical’s. These are Menu planning and design, a la carte for the Humber room restaurant, Gardemanger & Charcuterie and Baking and Pastry Arts. The Humber room module is by far the most challenging as, just like in WIT, it involves service for the restaurant.
This keeps us on our toes in class, the past three weeks 
Sinead and I have been “chefs of the day” ie, head chefs this made
 it more challenging for us as we had to make sure everyone in the class had all the components to every dish complete on time for service.

Tourist Sights
The University arrange a few trips for the exchange students, one of which was a trip to Niagara Falls, which was definitely worth the trip, but majority we have gone to see in our spare time with the other exchange students. We have had a very busy few weeks as we are all so eager to explore Toronto. 

The Canadian National Exhibition is a must see, if you are in Toronto in September and if you are also a foodie, like myself. Along with these trips we have gone to the Toronto Islands, a Blue Jays baseball game and a Toronto Wolfpack rugby game.


The Toronto islands is a full day trip, we spent the day walking around the island and watched the sunset over the Toronto skyline, it was amazing!

This past month has been jammed packed with adventures alongside all my new friends and I can’t wait to see what the next three months bring!

The 416, Toronto


My name is Sinéad O’Sullivan and I am currently in my third year studying a BA(Hons) in Culinary Arts in Waterford Institute of Technology. As part of our third year it is mandatory to study for one semester abroad and work for another semester. I chose to study in Humber College, Toronto from September to December. 

Moving and getting settled in Toronto

The transition of moving from home to Toronto was rather a easy one for me due to the fact I had experienced living away from home before. I spent the this summer and last summer working in a beach club in Long Island, New York so I had become well adjusted to life away from Ireland. I chose to move straight from a New York to Toronto which meant a lot of advanced planning, but knowing I would see my classmate Shannon helped hugely with the transition.

Once arrived in Toronto, and my new home for the next four months myself and Shannon made a quick trip to Walmart to buy all the necessities for our rooms such as a duvets, pillows, bedclothes etc. It is important to remember that you must buy all of this as it is an extra cost that you may not think of.


The first week of college basically consisted of orientations, meeting lectures and making new friends.

I have settled into college here very well, our new classmates are so helpful in showing us the ways of culinary life in Humber. All of the lecturers and our course co-ordinator have gone above and beyond to make us feel at home and welcome. As for our classes we take 3 practical classes and one theory class a week.

Our theory class which is Menu Planning. And our practical classes range from Baking and Pastry, Charcuterie and Gardemanger to A la Carte cooking for the Humber Room (the college restaurant). Shannon and myself were the head chefs for the Humber Room for the past 3 weeks. The Humber Room which is opened five days a week, allows both students and lectures to eat inside which results in a much busier lunch service in comparison to what we had experienced in Waterford. Above is a picture of Shannon and myself, after getting feedback from guests about their meal in the Humber Room.


Although one month has just passed, every weekend my new group of friends from all over the world go and explore something new in Toronto. There is so much to do and even more culture to experience.

We have visited the famous Niagara Falls, a trip organised specifically for international students by the college. Along with visiting Toronto Islands, the Canadian National Exhibition, some sports games and many nights out in-between. It has been a jampacked first month hear in Toronto and I cant wait to see what new experiences the next 3 months will bring.

I will check back in when the temperatures finally decreases to the cold Canada I was expecting, Sinéad!
* Fun Fact; The 416, is a nickname used for Toronto as it was the original telephone area code used in the city

Monday, 24 September 2018

My first six weeks at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa and how I got here.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am Saoirse Mooney. I had never intended on doing my work placement in Northern Ireland and to be honest I made of mockery of it. I first moved to Berlin with all the penny’s that I had saved and a suitcase full of dreams. Unfortunately, those dreams were crushed by a male-dominated culinary industry but hey at least they were replaced by some cool clothes.  I still believe that Berlin would be a fantastic place to live as it is so full of culture and history. I lasted 5 weeks hostel hopping as I searched high and low for a job but unfortunately I just couldn’t get my foot in the door as I only had basic German and any well-respected establishments were all full of (handsome) men in their 30’s +. I feel I would have been a lot more successful had I not had to comply with certain standards however this semester abroad is to lean and not to work in a kebab house. I had some contacts in Berlin and had been offered a job doing catering for Rolling Stones magazine however it was only part-time and insecure so it would not comply with my mandatory hours needed. I immersed myself in the Berlin culture whilst I was there, drinking beers at lakes, returning my bottles for that tasty 25 cents deposit and really learning the history of Berlin. However, that had to come to an end and plan B had to come to play.

So began my journey to the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa. As some of you may know two of my classmates, Aine and Robert were already working at the hotel so getting a job here was very easy. A simple email to the HR manager and I had secured a job starting on the 26th of July, this being insanely different to my various rejections in Berlin. I moved into a room with my fellow classmate and friend Aine Lyng. We are cohabitating extremely well for any of ye that would like to know. The head chef Hazel Magill is an inspiration, kind but takes no shit, well organized and extremely helpful. As being a late entry to the game I have been trained into all areas of the restaurant, functions, starters, mains and even pastry (which I dreaded but now I kinda love it). I also do shifts in the smaller tapas restaurant, the Lighthouse. In this kitchen, you work alone so when its busy its really busy which I love but when its quiet it is crazy boring, so this is when I wonder up to the Oak kitchen and give them a helping hand. I have enjoyed learning the function work. The organisations that go into delivering food for weddings of 200+ guests is insane and is a skill that I hope to use in all my future jobs. We also get to work with some great local produce and I’m really learning the importance of sustainability and striving to have little to no waste. Working in a hotel can be stressful and tedious however and as Tom stated in his blog I too feel that I would never choose to work in a hotel again.

Now on to the interesting part, life in Newcastle NI and not upon Tyne.  Newcastle is a small seaside village with some nice restaurants and pubs. The public house we most frequent is Quinn’s Spirit Grocer which is always a fun spot and sometimes we even venture down to the Anchor. Other than that Newcastle is a little boring so I am delighted to be sharing this experience with Aine and Robert as they have made it so much more enjoyable even if it’s just all of us hanging out in bed with face masks on. I tend to spend most of my days off traveling to Belfast which is only an hour’s bus ride away. Belfast has a lot to offer from shops to markets.

That’s all, for now, Thanks for reading my rambles and ill check in again soon.

P.S. I got here on a bus.

Life in Eastern European Paris...BUDAPEST!

Great Market Hall, Food market. 

Where To start,

For those of you who are unfamiliar with me, my name is Hanna Mathe, I am 20 years old and am a student of the Ba Hons in Culinary Arts course , currently enrolled in third year. As of this moment I am working as a pastry chef in a Michelin star restaurant in Budapest called Costes.
The intro was the easiest to write, the rest is a  bit of a long story. J
I’ve been awaiting the international year of the BA Hons course since I first stepped foot on campus three years ago. I have always felt that travelling is in my blood and is a core part of who I am. The prospect of moving my life halfway across the world was therefore a highly anticipated moment for me.Since I have previously undergone the experience 11 years ago with the move from Hungary to Ireland, I didn’t find the idea overly daunting. What I did find terrifying on the other hand, was the shift from working in a fine dining restaurant in Waterford to a Michelin star in Eastern Europe. The gap seemed massive.
My original plan didn’t involve Michelin at all. The plan included me beginning my work placement towards the middle of June 2018, in a 5 star hotel up North. But when my previous head chef in Waterford presented me with this opportunity I decided that it was a once in a lifetime offer and when the restaurant accepted me, I couldn’t refuse.

The move:
From the moment I accepted the offer I had a 3-4 week period to organise flights, begin to organise paperwork for insurance, PPS and tax numbers for Hungary, and the most difficult part of all: last minute accommodation in the Hungarian capital. Budapest is a melting pot of all nationalities, ages and genders. I made the move on June 24th 2018 and began working three days later. It was a very stressful month and in hindsight, I wish I was more rested for what was to become my life for the next six months.

Traditional Hungarian "Langos", deep fried dough, sour cream, garlic, cheese. 

As for the job:
Let’s say I was dropped into deep seawater. My firs day did not involve being shown the ropes or allowed to ease myself into the hang of things. It involved me beginning prep and later doing service just as all other chefs. The restaurant is on the small side, with the pastry and cold starter sections kitchen being in the very back, pretty much on top of each other. The chef’s office is right beside the two.
If I am being honest- picture your stereotypical Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen Michelin restaurant: that is where I work. Head chef Eszter Palagyi was named among the top 3 best chefs in Hungary several times , she is therefore under immense pressure. This results in nerves snapping and plates crashing against the wall because the stalk of one parsley leaf is 1mm longer than the other.  The base number of customers is an average of 30 per night, as 40 means a full house. It may not sound like much, but in the Michelin world, having 10 guests a night almost equals to the same amount of prep as if there was a full house. Working in a restaurant of this calibre teaches you an immense amount of discipline, dedication, willpower and self-control. 
Hungarian "Somloi Galuska", the modern take. 
One of our most popular desserts, "Honey". 

There is immense concentration , no conversation, and a minimum of 12-14  hours worked each day. As for breaks, we are not really sure what that word means. But the food is immaculate, delicious and beautiful. Needless to say, chef deserves the title. 

Life in The city:
Allow me to just say this: if you have never been to Budapest before, come. Just come. It is undoubtedly breathtakingly beautiful . It is speckled with food markets surrounding the Danube river.  With 10+ markets up and running around the city on a daily basis, there is no shortage of fresh, quality produce. From bungee jumping opportunities to patisseries dedicated to one single dessert, the national “chimney cake”, you can find it all here. There is never a dull moment and the walkway along the Danube riviere is like nothing I’ve seen before.
Danube riviere at night. 

As for local prices, living in Hungary means you’re dealing with some of the most reasonable prices in Europe, that is if you are NOT in the capital. Like I mentioned before, food markets are fantastic and in most cases considerably cheaper, but most other costs are almost equal to those of Ireland. I am currently living in a flat with 2 roommates in an en suite room (the apartment has 3 rooms in total), the price being  350 euros/month. This is roughly 120,000 HUF, which is almost half of the local wages. It must be said that you do not come to work in Eastern Europe for the money, you come for the experience . We have no lack of shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs, bistros, buffets, libraries, museums, artisanal food and coffee shops, need I go on? A week’s worth of shopping can range anywhere between 5,000-10,000 forints (15-30 euros). But you must know where to shop. Always in chain supermarkets, forget spar and penny or coop(the local equivalents of Centra). I would suggest Aldi, Lidl or tesco for maximum budgeting purposes.
Danube riviere at night. 
The cost of eating out on average can range from between 2,000 to 5,000 forints. Almost half the cost of a week’s worth of food.

Beginner’s Advice:
As stated in many previous blogs I’m sure, my number one tip would be to be ORGANISED to the max (p.s. it also helps if you don’t change your mind a month before departure. :P ).
Buy flights as well in advance as possible, begin researching accommodation the minute you have received your contract. If possible, look into the paperwork that will need to be done prior to going and take 2-3 days before you begin working to sort it all out.
In relation to spending and finances, food is always cheaper when it is seasonal and in bulk. Watch your bank account, get regular statements. It is normal to be paid monthly in Europe which proves to be a challenge for many. Budget. Ensure you’re not left with beans on toast for the week prior to the pay check.  The first thing I do when the wages come in is reserve an amount for rent and savings.  You then budget from the rest. MEAL PREP. This has played a huge role in ensuring I always have a quick bite right before work and my lunch ready to grab as I head out the door. Give it a month or two and you’ll be a pro in no time.

Righty..that is enough to get us started. J
See you soon with more news on life in Eastern European Paris.
Sziget Festival, 2018. 
Hanna Mathe xx

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Fairmont Banff Springs June 2018

For those of you that are following this blog but don’t know me I am Tom.  For the first part of my international year I choose the Fairmont Banff Springs Banff, Alberta, Canada. Like my colleague Derek I am also working as a pastry chef at this property. Banff is a town located in the heart of the Rockies in Banff National Park.
In order to get the job with the Fairmont there was quite a rigorous application process. We first met the talent acquisition manager in college where an informal interview was held to get a feel for what was on offer and what we were interested in. The second step was an online application, this was quite tedious. This was a general Fairmont application which asked questions based on strengths and weaknesses. The “results” of this let you know if you were eligible to work for the group or not. After this I had two further interviews, each one lasted approximately 45 minutes. Every aspect of my culinary and professional experience was looked at and lots of questions were asked looking forward into my career. Once I “passed” these interviews I received a job offer which I then accepted. This offer came the 20th of December. I then undertook the visa application. Fairmont give you a list of documents required in the application process. Ensure that you have these before starting the process as the time to submit documents is extremely short.  The possibility of a lot of change for new applicants next year is quite high as the Fairmont group is now part of Accor Hotels. Since we have arrived the Accor brand, mottos and polices have being introduced into the property.
Once my visa went through the final paperwork for Fairmont was filled out. This included the staff accommodation form. There are two types of accommodation offered to new colleagues. The first is a single room, shared bathroom, but no kitchen facilities. The second is a shared open plan room. In these there is either two or three people a bathroom and a kitchen/living room. I choose the single room because I like to have a bit of privacy. This turned out to be a good decision. There is a canteen that is open 24 hours and is actually the busiest outlet in terms off food production. There is a salad bar, soups, cereals for free. For dinners or fruit, you use your Fairmont card this is topped up by $4.00 every day. these four dollars is a Fairmont cost. The price of a dinner is $2.50 so you can get something else if you want. In January the staff canteen is going under a major renovation. The result of this renovation is going to be a saving of $1,000,000 per year. This could mean that the variety of food I have got could be signifyingly more than new colleagues next year.
For most hotels you say the kitchen, for the Banff springs it’s the kitchens. There are ten dining options in the hotel these are serviced by 8 kitchens. These range in variety from fine dining, French, German, Italian, Mexican, and casual. There are two banquet kitchens, a butcher shop, Garde manger (which is a cold prep kitchen) saucier and then the pastry shop. The pastry shop is the only 24-hour outlet with the exception of the in-room dining kitchen. There are many different shifts within the pastry shop which focus on the different areas. These include the overnight bakeshop, afternoon tea shift, outlets production, banquets production, amenity’s and functions and banquet plate up. I have already worked in all these sections.  Each shift in the hotel is scheduled for 8 hours 30 minutes. The 30 minutes is unpaid as its your break. If over time is required you are paid time and a half.
So, with only working for a third of the day you are left with a lot of downtime. What is there to
Canoeing on the Bow River August 2018
do in Banff you might ask? It really depends on the weather. If you think weather in Ireland is changeable never complain again. The temperature can reach mid thirty’s in the summer and drop to minus 30 in the winter. We had our first snowfall Aug 31. Banff is located in the heart of the Rockies. This opens doors to many different extreme adventure sports. Including hiking, climbing horse trails and many water sports. Most of these things have to be done in groups as there is lots of wildlife including bears, cougars, and coyotes. Bear spray is essential. Animals have the right of way in the national park. One day a black bear arrived into town. The area of town that it was in was completely closed off until the bear left. I have done a couple of hikes, white water rafting (which was extremely fun), visited some of the lakes and utilised the canoe passes provided by Fairmont for the bow river. The beauty of the area is outstanding and breath-taking. As staff we get great discounts on the gym membership. I bought the 6 month one for $330. I go almost every day and it’s a great way to keep you occupied. Especially the outdoor heated pool. We also get a 30% food and beverage discount in all the food outlets. As the winter season is approaching the activities that are going to be available are completely different. Winter sports are something I have never done before and am very excited to give them a try. Would it be an activity list if nightlife was not mentioned.  Banff is a tourist town filled with hotels pubs and restaurants. It can be very expensive to drink and eating Banff, but not if you follow the daily special. For example, Wednesday is wine day as one pub does half price wine. Sunday is local’s night so drink in most places is considerably cheaper. AVOID EATING OR DRINKING OUT FRIDAY and SATURDAY as I call these days rip the tourist off. Food and drink can be double the price it is on other nights.
Summit Tunnel Mountain June 2018
Although Banff life is for the most part good I have encountered some low points and issues. Money does not go far in Banff. So, I decided to get a second job. I had got a job as a kitchen steward at the Banff Gondola restaurant which is located on top of one of the mountains. This restaurant was owned by another large company and came with good pay the most flexible hours ever and good benefits. I worked for two weeks there and then I checked with Janine (Talent and Culture manager) as to if it was ok to have a second job. As it turned out I wasn’t. There were numerous issues with my work permit. I applied for the same work permit as Derek but we both had completely different visas. Both had issues for example mine lasted for one year and Derek’s was a two year. Janine yet again could not have been more helpful and straight away got on to service Canada because we had breached our permit. Service Canada took responsibility for the confusion and supplied us with a letter in case of any problems entering the country in the future. Saving money for the international college semester became a lot harder. Fairmont Banff Springs sponsored the work permit, so they are the only place you can work for. The main low point so far was the forest fires. These affected me quite a lot. The fires start almost every year. It limited what you could do in terms of most outdoor activities were out. The smoke from this blocked the sun for over a month. It was like living in a smouldering fire. The smoke was everywhere. There were days when even walking the 1km into town was not advised due to the health risk. It affected my eyes quite a lot as I wear contact lens.
Overall the experience so far has being generally positive. I have enjoyed overcoming the obstacle of working in such a huge establishment. At the moment if I was asked would I work in a large hotel again I would probably say no. I feel in some ways quality is lost in exchange for quantity. I am enjoying the outdoors and the different kind of activities it is allowing me to do. Canadians are extremely friendly and once they find out you are Irish they can’t wait to tell you about their Irish ancestors….

Canada Day July 2018