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.
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.
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!