From professional chef to inspirational teacher

The opportunity to make mistakes…

After gaining a degree in Hospitality Management, I worked as a professional chef in a number of different business for 10 years. This gave me a valuable insight into operations management, gastronomy, systems and processes, and the professional attitudes, behaviours and work ethic necessary to be a successful hospitality professional.

It also gave me the opportunity to screw up, make mistakes, and make the wrong decisions.

The unfortunate story of the bride and the red wine…

I left the industry with a bank of valuable, and sometimes humorous, anecdotes about what is it like to be a professional chef, and made the natural progression into teaching. Of course, many I would like to forget, but students for whatever reason seem to enjoy the story of ‘why not to spill red wine over the bride on her wedding day’. Ask me about it sometime!

Total immersion in the profession

It is these experiences that I feel help me to teach with a certain air of confidence, but also with a sense of humility. I blend academic knowledge, professional competence, and active experience to really prepare students for working at the highest level in hospitality.

We have created an environment at the University of Derby where students become immersed in a professional hospitality operation from day one of their studies. This includes delivering, supervising and managing real world operations in conference and banqueting, fine dining, off-site catering and event catering. Students work for the opportunity to supervise and manage junior members of the team and solve live problems through first hand experiences, and master their craft in a safe environment.

Chris Jones mixes dough in the kitchen.

Here are my 5 top tips for anyone thinking of studying hospitality and culinary management:

    1. Be prepared to cross train. Even if you have your heart set on becoming a pastry chef, it’s important to train in all areas of the kitchen as this will enhance your employability. Also, train in both food service and food production as you will then appreciate both sides of the operation, essential when working in a senior role.
    2. Network at events. Making the effort to introduce yourself at food festivals, gala dinners and conferences will improve your contacts – very handy when looking for a new challenge later on in your career.
    3. Do not underestimate soft skills. The ability to work in a team, manage your own time and communicate with colleagues, suppliers and event organisers is just as valuable as your technical skills as a professional chef.
    4. Be a reflective practitioner. The strength of any professional chef is in your ability to reflect on and evaluate your own experiences, whether it be your technical skills development, people management or organisational systems and processes.
    5. Be the first chef in in the morning and the last one out at night! This speaks for itself, but work hard and you’ll succeed.

Learn more about studying Hospitality and Culinary Management at the University of Derby.

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