You have nurtured and mentored many young people over the years – what’s been your motivation to do this?
Personal experience and developing others. I worked in a cafe and a hotel in my village in Wales from the age of 13 and I loved it. I used to be very shy, so it helped me come out my shell. Hospitality jobs are a wonderful way to help a young adult develop, learn new skills, gain self-confidence, learn to work with others and take on responsibility. Everyone learns in different ways; what I’ve found in a kitchen is that all the young adults are in a crew of others doing the same jobs, so they learn from and bounce off each other. They work hard towards the same goals during each shift in ways that they wouldn’t in a school classroom or a from a parent at home. What I look for in young adults is a good attitude towards work, regardless of their background or reputation; if they are willing to learn and apply themselves and enjoy earning their own money then that is a great starting point for anyone.
Any success stories that you would like to share?
We’ve built a great reputation in the area for our food and service, including 5-star reviews on Google, Facebook, & Trip Advisor plus great reviews from local papers like The Telegraph and The Courier. Our first apprentice, Lewis Pickett, won the Courier’s Menu magazine award for Rising Star/New Talent which was amazing – we were chuffed to bits, as was he! We also won the BBC Good Food Show Producers Bursary Award for our pies and got awarded a stall at the Glasgow edition of the show. We also now attend three different farmers markets and sell out at each one, sometimes within half an hour!
What would you say to a young person considering a career in food and drink?
Do it! Don’t let people put you off and never stop learning. Food fashions, techniques, equipment and customers tastes change, so be open to adapting, trying new things and evolving. And, importantly, enjoy every minute of it too.
If you could change one thing to help young people flourish in their food and drink careers, what would it be and why?
Change price perception attitudes of customers towards food to help fund better pay for everyone in hospitality, particularly young people. How can anybody be expected to pay for driving lessons, look to move out to rent or buy a home or raise a family on a hospitality wage? People working in the industry end up having to work very long shifts and lots of hours to make ends meet. It’s an excellent job that requires skill, stamina, enthusiasm, creativity and dedication and seems unfair that those working in a job they genuinely love to get a slightly worse deal than some other professions. Many people are happy to pay more for a pint of lager or on cigarettes than they are willing to pay for a decent meal with lovely local fresh ingredients, cooked by someone who has worked hard to gain the skills to produce a dish.
What are your own, personal #ScotFoodGoals for this year’s Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight?
I’ll be focusing on two things: developing and delegating various responsibilities of our kitchen to my new apprentice and my young trainee chef so that by the end of the Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight they’ll be able to cover the kitchen for two days whilst I am on my first holiday in two years! It will be an intense fortnight of preparation, learning recipes and how to plate up as well as getting an understanding of everything that goes on behind the scenes with stock, local suppliers and the fresh produce we use. The second is to promote our WeeCOOK pies at the farmers’ markets we are planning to attend during the Fortnight including Forfar Sat 8th and, if we can get in quick, the Dundee market on Sat 15th September!