David Cochrane – My Life in Hospitality

14 October 2010 by
David Cochrane – My Life in Hospitality

David Cochrane is the chief executive of the Hospitality Industry Trust for Scotland.

David Cochrane's hospitality career began at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, where he spent three weeks looking after the catering needs of athletes and had the opportunity to serve some "amazing" people, including HRH Princess Diana.

"One of my jobs was to change all the milk pergals. There were thousands of athletes so it was a full-time job," he says.

After studying hospitality at Sheffield Hallam University, Cochrane joined Norfolk Capital Hotels at the Caledonian hotel in Edinburgh on a graduate training programme that gave him the chance to familiarise himself with every department. He took on the role of Christmas co-ordinator and was tasked with organising four different parties for every night in December.

"You had to be there every night, so you had to live by what you'd done and make sure each event went as well as the one in the next room," he says.

Cochrane left to join contract caterer Gardner Merchant - now Sodexo - attracted to the steady Monday to Friday nature of the work. He undertook a young manager programme that led to a stint in the kitchen as a chef manager.

"My mother could never believe that I was cooking. I got to work in some of the most prestigious venues in Scotland," he recalls.

While working at Gardner Merchant was very rewarding, Cochrane says it was not without its challenges because, when he ultimately became the district training co-ordinator, it was like having two jobs. "In the morning I would be a chef manager and in the afternoon I was training staff."

When Cochrane left the business just over four years later, his training experience led him to the Hotel and Catering Training Company where he worked with youth training, unemployment projects and training in prisons.

A six-year stint as training manager at the renowned Gleneagles hotel followed and the opportunity to hone his interest in training and people was one Cochrane relished - it led to his next career position as director of Springboard Scotland, where he was honoured with the Industry Award by the Hospitality Industry Trust for Scotland, for services to the hospitality industry.

Cochrane was named chief executive of the Hospitality Industry Trust for Scotland one year later, where he says he has been able to continue his passion for people development in hospitality.

HIGHS… Cochrane describes his time working at Gleneagles as one of the best periods of his career to date. "It was a fantastic place to work because it operates exactly as a hospitality business should - the professionalism front of house was matched in equal measure by the high standards of staff welfare," he explains.

"It gave me the opportunity to work with and meet so many fantastic people, something which I've enjoyed throughout my career."

Cochrane says he has met many major figures in the hospitality industry that have always had time for him. "You just don't get that in any other profession."

LOWS… Cochrane's work in prisions, while rewarding, was not without it's hair-raising moments. On one occasion he was sat in a unit manager's office in a Scottish prison when one of the inmates advanced towards him with a large kitchen knife.

"Out of sheer fear I sat stock still and didn't say anything until he leaned over me and said ‘excuse me, guv', before hanging the knife on a shadow board behind my head. I was so scared I couldn't move," he explains.

Age 42
Family Married, two children and a new labrador puppy
Favourite holiday Scottish Highlands, Roy Bridge
Drives Volvo XC90
Motto Work hard and play hard because you get out what you put in

Don't leave things to the last minute. If you see the bandwagon you're too late.

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