Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Another Day in the Culloden

Greetings from the Culloden once again. I am now nearly four months into working in Belfast. The improvements I have made since starting here are becoming very visible. I began working pastry and starters only. But now i can run the veg section whenever necessary and can cook some simple meats. The chefs here let me observe when they are cooking and plating mains and give me helpful tips.
I recently got a new roommate. She is on work experience like me and is from Barcelona. At first i as nervous and anxious. I never had a room mate so this was new to me. But she turned out to be very nice and easy to get along with, to my relief. She works in the restaurant as a waitress so our hours do not correspond. Most of the time we do not even see each other unless in work because our hours are so different.
The menus have changed one week ago. They have decided to change the lounge, spa and room service menu to salads, new sandwiches and took away seafood platters and most hot dishes. The change is hard. There is more pressure on the sections I work now but i think it is a great challenge for me. And it is great to do something different from what i already know. On the plus side the spa and lunge menu are now the same which means there is less to have to consider when doing prep work for the section.

The chefs give me alot of freedom to practice my cooking and baking in my spare time. A few weeks ago, the chefs let me use the facilities in the kitchen and the chocolate to make home made chocolates

.Thee was one particular moment in work this month where i truly felt great about this profession. A man and his family came into the restaurant. His family asked for a birthday slate for him and so i did the one seen to the right of the page. Once the meal was sent and the slate was given one of the waitresses cam and told me what the family had said about the meal. Apparently this man was diagnosed with terminal cancer. the meal and slate made him the happiest he has been in weeks since being diagnosed. This made me feel great that i could cook for someone and make them smile through such a hard time in their lives.
 It was great to be able to practice something different from what i do everyday in the kitchen.
I cannot believe it is October already. Only two months to go and I will enjoy ever day as it comes.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Time in Coleraine Surely Passes by Fast!

So one month has passed since my last blog post and its certainly been a busy one. It’s been a month of travelling, trips and events. The month began with a trip to the Giants Causeway, it’s such a picturesque area. We took some time to walk around and take pictures and of course take a seat in the ‘Wishing Chair’. Next on the calendar was a trip organised by the University for us to go and see the Belfast Giants play at home in the SSE Arena. This was my first time to see a hockey game in person and it was an amazing experience. The atmosphere at the game was unbelieve! It didn’t take long for us to learn some of the chants so by the end of the first period we fit right in with the home crowd! Every Monday we go to the iCafe which is a small café that welcomes International students to the area. Each week there is something different, there has been board games, scone making and even pumpkin carving for Halloween. At the end of the night there’s always tea and chats and the locals are very helpful, so if there’s anything you’re looking for in the area they’ll tell you where to find it! On Tuesday nights The Anchor is the place to be for all students! Every Tuesday is Karaoke Night and the best three acts on the night go through to a final before Christmas, let’s just say neither myself or my flatmates are holing out any hope of reaching the final!

Settling in to life on campus has been pretty easy, I’m only there two days a week! Having so little lecture time is very strange for me. I’m use to have 4/5 days of college every week. Having such little contact time with my lectures means that for once I’m ahead of the deadlines for all my modules, no cramming from week 10 this semester! The clubs and societies here are great, they’ve really got something for everyone here. Joining a team sport is really encouraged here, no matter how short a period you’ll be here for. This is a great way to spend the free time that I have.

           Living so close to the campus is great, most of my classes are within a 5-minute walk from my front door. My accommodation is pretty decent, has all the basics and is very warm and cosy. The kitchen however did leave a lot to be desired… After a week or two myself and the girls I live with decided a trip to IKEA was needed so we could gather a bit more equipment for dinner time. Flats here often take it in turns to cook for each other and were planning a big Thanksgiving dinner with some of the students from America. Making friends here has been very easy. We were all in the same situation when we arrived here, a new area where we don’t know anybody and trying to fit in to a class which may have been formed a year or two ago. We’ve all managed to make great friends, some would even call us a family. One thing I’m sure of is that I’ve made life long connects with people from across the globe!

            Halloween without a break from school/college is a strange feeling, I’m so use to being home for the Halloween break with family and friends. However, having college isn’t going to stop us from celebrating Halloween. The International Office here in Coleraine has organised a bus for all of us to go to Derry for the Halloween festival there. When talking to anybody in the area they’ll tell you that Derry is the place to be for all the spooks and horrors! So as I sit here writing this blog post I’m also trying to put the finishing touches to my Halloween costume, we’re all putting in a big effort because you’d never know what competitions we’ll enter once we get to Derry!

            So I’m half way through my time here in Coleraine and I’m loving it! Yes, there’s times it hasn’t been easy but making friends and having a smiling face greet you at every lecture has certainly made it easier. For any of the second years thinking about their term in college abroad, don’t look past Coleraine, it’s a wonderful place! I know I’ll certainly miss it when I move on…

            That's all I've got for now folks, I check back in soon!
               Áine B.

Monday, 29 October 2018

                            The kitchens of Calgary

                                                      An Update

Daily work
As you already know I work mostly in Buffo Ristorante. All of our dishes components are created in house and we place great importance on using traditional Italian ingredients and cooking techniques. We serve the traditional and basic Italian dishes (caprese salad, spaghetti Pomodoro, etc) but there's a true skill set and concentration needed to make sure every dish and its components are as flavourful as possible and to keep it consistent

Braised lamb stuffed tortellini 

As we come closer to the Christmas season days are getting busier and hours are getting longer. I work the usual 5 – 6 days work week, around 8 hours. I work a mix between morning shifts which are made up of 3 hours prep and 5 hours lunch service or night shift which is all dinner service. I work garde manger/pizza section which is where most of our appetisers, salads and stretched to order pizzas are made. There is a pretty good range of salads, bruschetta and antipasti for the table on the menu along with a range pizzas (my favourite has to be our pizza with a tomato béchamel base, confit duck garnished with apples, endive and rosemary honey).
Margarita pizza 

I also work grill/ entremetier section on night shifts where hot appetisers, steaks and fish are cooked and also aid pasta section (definitely the busiest section for every dinner service). I like being able to work all sections of the kitchen, as my Head Chef Michel says “I’m not trying to make a rock star out of you, I just want you to experience it all”.
We do about an average of 60-70 covers for lunch or dinner but every day is different. On the weekends we run a brunch menu which definitely draws a bigger crowd compared to some days during the week. 
"Melon and ham" from brunch menu

      Function work
Having the opportunity to work in restaurants that specifically caters a la carte to switching to a kitchen that solely caters for large functions allows for me to experience both types of operations. Hudson caters more large scale functions and the upcoming months are the busiest they experience all year round, I look forward to get to experience more of their large scale operations.
An average function night in Hudson, from my experience, begins with canapes which usually runs for about half an hour then is followed by first course. We move quickly and begin plating and garnishing salads dressing each one before they go out. 

Caprese Salads
 Once first courses are out we all move straight to the plating area. This is by far my favourite part of working functions. There is a strict set up for every function, we all have our stations along the conveyor belt and are all in charge of a specific component of the dishes (I usually work garnishes and sauces). It’s here where I learned how truly important communication is between front and back of house.  
Main plating area in Hudson

With not much time left here (I leave in just under two months) I am still learning while still having great craic! I look forward to my next semester abroad in the Netherlands, Venlo for college placement while still soaking up every day I have left here in Calgary.
All the friends I have made here so far are all industry so its nice to be able to talk to and spend time with people in the industry while still being able to enjoy work life.

Until next time!
 Danielle Kehoe

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Daily life of  a Hungarian..Budapest update! 

Budapest on a rainy day- church tops. 

Hello everyone! As you may remember from last time I am still in Budapest...taking in the breathtaking views and surviving chaotic work days!
Today's update will focus primarily on three things, two of which I feel are often ignored when blogging about the move to a foreign country; Solitude, Mental strength and of course my personal advancements at work. 

 Solitude: Dealing with the loneliness; 
     Chances are at some point during your time away there will be several rainy days when it doesn't feel like there is anyone around and you've got to pick yourself up! Being a student we are used to always being around people..most of whom are around our own age and are probably like-minded . Being taken out of an environment like this and dropped into a professional kitchen where you only have a limited number of people with whom to interact and not much of a chance to pick and choose can be difficult to say the least. I know myself am very much a 'social butterfly' and like to be out and about.  Unfortunately a working week which consists of a minimum of 5 days, 12 hours per day leaves one exhausted both mentally and physically. This in turn means that days off can often be spent doing nothing but sleep or not doing much at all.  For me personally- it was times like these that forced me to really get used to being my own company and enjoying spending time alone. It was difficult to begin with, but not long after I had no problem planning trips and outings for one.  I also believe it is important to be open to forming bonds with workmates. 
' Pogacsa' sampling with Kiki(we bought one of each)..Pogacsa are the Hungarian versions of scones and are almost always salty. 

    It is very unlikely that there will not be one single person that one can get along with and form a friendship with. I was very lucky to have found a flat with amazing flatmates and friends at work with whom to share  the rainy days. :) 

Morning market hall- fresh, local produce. 
Getting through the tough times:
    I must admit that the past 5 months were one of the toughest times of my life.  I cannot be left unsaid that working in an environment like this puts an immense amount of pressure on ones body and mind as much mentally as emotionally. There will be days when you won't feel like leaving the house or even getting out of bed. Days when you are exhausted both mind and body. These will be the days that will really test one's character. 
Traditional Hungarian-Jewish 'Flodni' dessert 

I will not say that it was easy, but it was possible to overcome every one of these days with a  pinch of discipline and a lot of nagging from my mother to pull myself out of bed. :D I've learnt several things about keeping myself motivated to do it day in and day out- because nobody else will do it for you. I am a goal oriented individual; as long as I have a clear picture in my mind of what I am doing and the exact reason I am doing it for- I will keep going. You gotta give yourself a purpose to get out of bed and crash each and every day. 

   My main areas of focus and personal development were focusing on my health and fitness, and the environment and atmosphere around me. 
    They say you are what you eat. Therefore I saw no better way to spend a percentage of my pay check then the food that I put into my body. I spent countless hours at the local markets and street food nights, eating out from local Hummusbars to several dessert bars. I meal prepped each week for the following 4-5 days, making sure I only used quality, fresh, local ingredients to keep me energised throughout the toughest days.
     Buying a membership at the local 4% gym was one of the best things I did with my time here. Because improving yourself physically will interlink with your mental health. I've always worked out- more for the mental benefits, because the physical will inevitably follow. Teaching yourself the discipline to get out of bed before a 12 hour shift and push through with a tough 1.5 hour workout will teach more drive than most other things. 

Focusing on the job: 

'Hungarian Paris-Brest' - Costes Restaurant. 
    Having been here for almost five months now, I certainly feel that I have come a long way. I have improved my speed, concentration, numerous skills, teamwork abilities but most of all my focus. I have learnt to focus on one single thing at a time , each intricate little detail meanwhile focusing on the flow and run of the service and the orders of the chef. Having run the pastry kitchen alone with Kiki(the other girl working with me in pastry) some days was a huge responsibility to say the least. 

It is not easy to send out each and every dessert to perfection when there is chaos going on around you, but this level of focus and drive will no doubt follow me into all other areas of my life. 

It is certainly a journey, and I am not exactly sure where it is taking me just yet. But the lessons learnt along the way are things that will stay with me for years to come. 

Until next time, 
Hanna. :) 
Budapest- midday walk on the chain bridge. 

Sunday, 21 October 2018

La Cuisine - Staging in a French Kitchen

Salut! Just another quick update from Narbonne. 

Chateau L'Hospitalet - Where I work and live

For my second blog I have decided to further focus on the work aspect of my time in Chateau L’Hospitalet. After being here over a month, I can finally say I am well settled into my little French kitchen.

The hotel entrance
You may remember I mentioned in my first blog that before I arrived, I had requested to spend my time here working in the pastry section of the kitchen. I had never worked in a pastry section of a fine-dining kitchen, so I knew it would be good to experience. I also hadn’t worked in pastry for quite some time, therefore I was eager to get back into what I first started out at.

A lunch special, Beetroot and Avocado dessert

One thing I will note straight away is that the hours here are pretty nice as far as kitchen hours go. We all work Tuesday to Saturday. We have split shifts, 9.00-15.30 and then 18.00-Finish. Finish can sometimes be as late as 1.30 am but the guaranteed long break really makes a huge difference.  We also don’t usually start until 5pm on a Saturday so we really have 2.5 days off. I think these hours really have a huge benefit on everyone in the kitchen. Nobody is ever burnt out and it makes for a more productive day and better end results.

Chocolate Dessert for an event

My accommodation is only a two-minute walk from the kitchen, so my alarm is never set too early. I start each day with a café & pain au chocolat at hand. The quintessential French breakfast. 
There is a different dessert every day on the menu for lunch so the three of us working in the pastry section divide the workload so that it all comes together before service, which begins at 1 pm. The head pastry chef is aware that I want to learn as much as possible so always gives me something new to try. This is something I absolutely love about the kitchen. No two days are ever the same. From brioche to ice-creams, there is always something to learn or a unique flavour to try. There are usually 30-40 covers for lunch, sometimes even less. It makes for a pretty relaxed service. We then clear up, prep any essentials for the set evening menu and head on break.
Apple Dessert

The evening menu never differs too much during the weekdays unless there is an event. In this case, the whole kitchen comes together to help plate up each part of the meal. Because there are many elements to each dish, it is usually quite time consuming. Many hands make light work. Events are most often kept for the weekends, with the highlight being a Jazz night every Friday. We have also done an outdoor BBQ, a canapé party and more. I always find it most interesting to see how different the menu is each time despite the larger covers when needed. There is never much repetitiveness.

Bergamot Dessert

Of course, nothing but the best of local ingredients and equipment (2 pacojets!) are available to use in the kitchen. It ensures the end result is always the best it can be. I have been lucky enough to have learnt many new recipes and techniques which I simply would never have seen in Ireland. And while it will take another few attempts to fully perfect my batches of macarons and cremeux, time and practice is all that is needed. 
I am also very lucky to be in an environment in which it is never a problem to ask questions or to admit I have absolutely no idea what I was told (The French can be a problem). And while there are days mistakes are made and techniques prove to be quite difficult it is a learning experience after all.

Plating up for an event

This style of food is something I have never delved into. I am a fan of simple, wholesome food, veggie if possible. Therefore, beginning work each day with tweezers as an essential was something I absolutely was not used to. It is however, something I have learnt to appreciate. The amount of time and effort that goes into creating the numerous elements for each dish is amazing. It really is an art. It is also great to see that as amazing as a dish can look, its flavour can always match if not better the appearance.

Crepe party for staff!

The staff are treated very well in the kitchen. Our meals are always pretty decent, and there are often spontaneous after-service wine tastings weekly. Perks of the job! Though I admit it can often be lonely living here due to the isolated location of the hotel, I always look forward to work. There is a family spirit in the kitchen. We often sit down and eat together or have mid-service crepe parties just because we can. Work is never something I overly dread, which is a huge difference to my past few jobs!

After service wine tasting

Alors, c'est ça! I am looking forward to learning and doing more over the next few weeks here. In my next blog I shall focus on what I get up to on my time off and what there is to do around the area, so stay tuned!

À plus tard,


A walk from the hotel

Saturday, 13 October 2018

'Believe in the Slieve'

‘Believe in the Slieve’

Hey guys for those of you who don’t know who I am, my name is Aine. I am currently studying BA Honours degree in Culinary Arts in Waterford Institute of Technology. I am currently in my third year of the course and as part of the academic year. I must go on work placement for our third year.
I chose the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa in the beautiful seaside town of Newcastle, Co. Down. I’m here with two of my fellow classmates and friends Saoirse and Robert( Yes I do need a medal for putting up with them) Starting in the kitchen was very nerve wrecking as it is a kitchen that produces such a high volume of food each day, but it did make it so much easier to have a dedicated  team that is ran by our amazing head chef Hazel Magill. I was trained up on the starter section of the kitchen and learnt how to how to prepare cook and serve each of the dishes. It’s also the responsibility of the chef on starters to come up with an Amuse Bouche (pre-starter) for the Hotel Restaurant. This is something I really enjoy doing  as it’s a way of expressing my creativity in a bite size piece of delicious food and gives the customer a glimpse on what is to come.

Once I got trained up in starters I started to move around in the kitchen, so I could get an all-round feel for the workings of the kitchen. I have worked with the chefs on main courses, helping pastry, the function team with weddings, parties and conferences and even have worked in the Lighthouse lounge which serves sandwiches, salads and selections of Tapas.

 This a picture of one of the starters we serve in the Oak Restaurant in the Hotel (Bushmills Whiskey & Dill Cured Salmon, horseradish cream, apple jelly, fried capers and pickled shallots)


The seaside town of Newcastle Co. Down
When I first moved to Newcastle the first thing I noticed was the amazing scenery that is the Mourne Mountains and the North Channel of the Irish Sea. It is a major tourist attraction because of Tollymore forest park which was one of many filming locations in Northern Ireland for the American fantasy drama ‘Game of Thrones’.
So, let’s talk about the night life in Newcastle 😉. So, after a stressful day at work nothing makes me happier then throwing the whites in the corner of the room and getting our glad rags on (but in Roberts case his flowery T-shirt) and heading to Quinn’s Pub in the centre of Newcastle for a few ‘Quiet Pints’ with Saoirse and Robert.

This experience so far has been a whirl win of emotions but I’m glad I get to experience working with an extraordinary work force into making this hotel the best it can be.
That’s all for now ladies and gents stay tuned for more of my journey in the Slieve Donard again soon
Lots of ‘wee’ love
Aine 😊