Monday, 21 February 2022

The Next Chapter

Hello Everyone! My name is Marshall, and I am writing from Belfast City. I can’t believe that a month has already passed here at my time working as a Pastry Chef in the Grand Central Hotel on Bedford Street in Belfast City Centre. It feels like only yesterday that I travelled for the first time to Northern Ireland to begin the Next Chapter of my journey. Despite disruptions and changes to the final 2 years of my college life from Covid, here we are at my placement at last. All of my academia has been essentially completed and now that my final exam results have been released, this placement is all that’s left from finally graduating from the Ba(H) in Culinary Arts degree programme in WIT.
The Grand Central Hotel is the newest addition to the Hastings Hotel Group of Northern Ireland. Purchased in 2015 as Windsor House, an abandoned office block around the corner from their Europa Hotel, the building underwent a 3 year and £53 million (€60 million) revival to become what it is today. Standing as the tallest commercial building on the island of Ireland with 23 stories, the Grand Central offers 300 bedrooms. Dining is available through the ground floor Grand Café, 1st floor fine dining Seahorse Restaurant and Bar, and the top floor Observatory the offers afternoon tea and drinks with a window view of Belfast City. Our Executive Chef Damian Tumilty has the job of managing an extensive kitchen team spread across 4 kitchens located between the ground, 1st and top floor of the hotel. The ground floor kitchen serves the Grand Café with the Seahorse Restaurant kitchen and Pastry kitchen located on the first floor. A small kitchen located just off from the Observatory is where afternoon tea is plated and served from. Breakfast is served daily from the Grand Café during the weekdays with table service while a buffet breakfast is available for guests in the Seahorse Restaurant on the weekends. The Grand Café serves lunch and dinner up until 10pm daily while the Seahorse Restaurant is open on Friday and Saturday nights serving an a la carte fine dining menu. The Observatory offers afternoon tea daily with average numbers reaching 50 on the weekends. After afternoon tea service finishes, the observatory operates as a bar until late. The pastry production kitchen tucked away behind the function suites is where I spend most of my days. The kitchen has everything myself and the team need to do our jobs with our own ovens, workspaces, walk in fridges, dry stores areas and (thankfully) relative peace and quiet. There is a constant influx of the front of house team collecting goods, deserts for functions and Damian sticking his head in to check in with our progress. From 12:00 our landline phone is active enough with calls from around the hotel for requests, allergen enquiries and stock orders. Aside from this it is great that we have relative peace as there is never a day where we are not busy. A standard day starts with turning on the ovens while checking the order sheet the café has sent up the night before. After finishing off the final touches on the afternoon tea pastries for the day, the café must be restocked to include a decorated cake special, brownies, lemon meringues, our own custard creams, bakewells, cookies and carrot cake bars. Once both sets have been brought to either the café or up to the observatory our attention turns to the prep list written the day before which will take us up until 5 or so. On Fridays and Saturdays once the prep is finished and the kitchen is cleaned, I go up to the Seahorse Restaurant kitchen to set up my pastry section for service. After an hours breaks service begins and takes us up to around 10:30 by the time we have finished and cleaned up.

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