Big aims for 2006 Young Guns winners

22 June 2006
Big aims for 2006 Young Guns winners

Nick Connolly
Aged 23, BA Hons, four-year international hospitality management degree, Bournemouth University

Why hospitality? My first interest was food, and my long-term aspiration was to become a chef. But, during my placement, I realised that my real passion was front of house. I didn't enjoy the kitchen working environment that much, and what I really love is interaction with people.

Where was your placement? It was at Conran's Quaglino's restaurant in London. It was the first restaurant I worked in and I got experience across all departments. When I first got there I felt like a little fish in a big pond but, after only a few months, I was promoted to head waiter. After my placement I moved on to the Savoy Grill for two months to get some fine-dining experience.

What did you learn? A massive knowledge of the industry. It also confirmed to me that it was something that I wanted to do and something I feel that I'm good at.

How has the Catering Forum been? Fantastic. It has been a great opportunity to meet people in the industry who have made a success of themselves. It has also just been useful to talk to people and run a few of my own ideas past them.

What's the long-term plan? I hope to be starting at Maze in September. I don't want to rush into a management role and would prefer to learn the trade from the floor up. I've tried to take the best bits from the people who have managed me and develop my own style at the same time.

Longer-term, I'd maybe like to move to the USA. They are famous for their customer service and it would be an opportunity to see a different part of the world. The dream is to own my own place one day - I think I've got the right entrepreneurial characteristics to get there.

How can the industry make itself more attractive to young people? It's a difficult one. I think the media has given us great exposure, with people such as Gordon Ramsay in the public eye. Although the TV cameras can make it seem quite glam and sexy, when the reality of a 60-hour week kicks in, people can think twice.

However, in the UK I don't think there's the same ethos as in France or Italy, for example. People there are proud to make a career in waiting - there's a cultural difference.

Josie Simcox
Aged 22, BA Hons, four-year international hospitality management degree, Bournemouth University

Why hospitality? I used to work in a riding school and the interaction I had with customers was what made me think about a career in hospitality. I knew I was never going to do a nine-to-five job. I worked part-time in bars and restaurants, and it just became an obvious choice, because I loved dealing with people so much.

The course has given me a broad knowledge of the sector but, while on it, I discovered that what I wanted was a job in hotels. Guests are with you all the time and you can build longer-term relationships with them.

Where was your placement? At the Aztec hotel and spa in Bristol - part of the Shire Hotels group. I spent nine months working in the bar and three months in conference operations. I got on well with everyone and was promoted to bar supervisor.

What did you learn? I can't explain how crucial a placement is as part of a degree. Just when you think you can't take any more in, there's
some more information. It blew me away. I think a placement really is what you make of it, though, and I learnt some very useful technical things, such as stock control. It's one thing reading about it in a textbook and another doing it in

How has the Catering Forum been? Amazing. I'm sure I'll get off and my head will be spinning thinking about everything I've taken in. Being surrounded by hugely successful people can be a bit intimidating, but people are so down-to-earth and passionate - and they're genuinely interested in what you do. It's a great industry - people play hard but they work hard, too.

What's the long-term plan? I'm hoping to get a place on the Malmaison graduate training programme in September. I'm quite ambitious and, by the time I'm 30, I hope to be a general manager or be in a very good operations role.

What I liked about Shire was that it was an intimate company and you didn't feel lost in the system of a big hotel chain. The family ethos is something that's important at Malmaison, too - people can learn from each other.

How can the industry make itself more attractive to young people? It's a tricky one. I think it's important to target children when they are young. It's something that kids don't seriously consider when they're at school. Companies could also do more to encourage their part-time workers to develop more and stay in the industry - it's important to look after those people.

Ultimately, though, I think you have to be naturally suited to a career in hospitality.

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