THE TRANSITION FROM MILITARY LIFE TO THE WORLD OF KITCHENS

By Nigel Mcgrath posted 28-10-2021 09:00

  




ABOUT NIGEL McGRATH

My name is Nigel McGrath and I have been working in kitchens for about ten years now. I had spent most of my working life in the Defence Forces - 24 years in total having joined at the tender age of 17. Leaving the Military was a decision that was never going to be easy as once you leave there is no going back. I had a burning desire to work as a chef from about the age of thirty onwards. I have no culinary background and no one in my family had previously worked in kitchens. There are no grandma recipes lying around the house Well maybe there is, I just did not see them. Truth be told, I did not learn to cook until I got married when my wife found it rather amusing that I had zero culinary skills. I completed a couple of night-time cooking courses in my own time and that’s I believe where it all began for me.

THE TRANSITION FROM MILITARY LIFE TO THE WORLD OF KITCHENS

I retired from the Army around 2013 after completing the 12-week Ballymaloe certificate course. Once I had completed this course, I knew that a return to the Defence Forces was never going to happen. To be totally immersed in all things food for over three months was something incredible and life changing for me. My own personal ambition and desires I now realised lay elsewhere. The decision to leave still proved quite difficult as there was a lot of questions in my head going forward a lot of what ifs and buts, but ultimately the decision had to be made and I found myself working in very good restaurant in Limerick. With the benefit of hindsight, I can now see the moving into the world of kitchens has been one of the best decisions of my adult life.  I’ve met some great people, made great friends and worked in some brilliant locations. That said the change from Military life to Civilian life brought some challenges and difficulties for me. I will hopefully give you some insight into this in the next part of the blog and also my own future ambitions and goals.

As I have said, leaving the military brought its own challenges. After working 24years in a very structured environment with a different mindset and attitude about how to do things I found myself transitioning into both civilian and kitchen life. I found the world of kitchens all a little sketchy at first and communication is probably the one thing I struggled with. Too many people making decisions and very little clarity, for me personally this was very frustrating to deal with. I found myself saying things like “that never would have happened in the army” and sometimes worse than that. I then realised at some point along the way, that maybe I should get off my high horse and maybe accept that not everything in this kitchen culinary world is perfect. I’ve had the great fortune over the years to work in various different restaurants, Hotels, cafes, production kitchens and also a nursing home.  Each environment has taught me something different in terms of learning about kitchens and also learning something about myself. Each job brought its own challenges - stressful kitchens, stressful people and also (who would have thought in a kitchen), difficult to deal with chefs and loads of other challenges along the way. I can say without doubt that I wouldn’t change a thing as I love what I do and when asked what I work at, I say I’m a chef with a certain amount of pride. It’s a tough industry, very demanding, very stressful at times but I love what I do.  The work ethic of the kitchen life, the friendships, the togetherness and sometimes the whole craziness of it all. I would not describe myself as a ‘passionate’ chef because it’s a word that’s overused sometimes, I believe, but I would say when I’m in a kitchen cooking or prepping or whatever else needs to be done then I’m at my happiest.

So, what does the future hold for me? I recently took up a position as a Sous Chef in a restaurant here in Limerick and I’m looking forward to the many different challenges that it will bring for me. It’s also giving me a new perspective from the point of view of running a kitchen and everything that entails. It will be a challenge that I believe will bring out the best in me and will allow me to introduce my own food experience to the kitchen.

I also have a great desire to achieve something for myself in terms of running my own catering business so who knows - this current position could be the final piece of the jigsaw.

So that is my experience of kitchens.  It’s been a great journey with still a few more twists and turns along the way no doubt.  The industry is going through some very tough challenges at the moment as we all know, but I personally believe we will come out the far side stronger and better .

Thank you for reading

Nigel McGrath

 


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