My name is Padraic Tighe and I have been a chef for over 20 years. I am originally from Castlebar but now live in Loughrea. My first job was as a barman for ten years in hotels, clubs and bars all around Castlebar, but as I always had a passion for cooking and hated the hours as a barman, I took the leap from being a barman to go to college in GMIT
So in 2001, I went to college in GMIT where I did my training as a chef for two years. While in college I did some work in Castlebar and Westport, which I loved,but a friend of mine is from Limerick and he asked me to move to Limerick, to which I did for 6 years (love it there too).
I then moved around from Limerick to Killarney back to Galway, Athlone, and now Ennis. I am currently working in Ennis Hospital due to the pandemic. I was working in Centre Parcs but like all in the hospitality industry, Centre Parcs was last open on St Stephens day and can’t open again until we are in level 2.
When I finished college, one of my lecturers was talking to my parents about me going on to a BA degree, which I did not want to do. I was too busy playing jack the lad and enjoying life , partying and having a good time without thinking of my future, and worrying about retirement, pension, having a house mortgage-free and rent-free, not having to worry about anything and living on a state pension. People working in public jobs get a nice lump sum when they retire, compared to this industry where there is nothing for anyone unless you pay into your own pension (and also affect your wages).
So basically what I am trying to say, is that before you go partying and enjoying life - especially in this job as it goes hand in hand (due to anti social hours) - look to the future and your EDUCATION, if you’re going to stay in this industry (about which I have no regrets as I have made some fantastic friends with more to meet and it has brought me to most parts of Ireland). Get your education in order.
For years I kept on putting off going back to college and doing a BA degree. It was always on my mind, and one of the main reasons was that I did not fancy working in a kitchen until retirement age and not getting home till 10-11pm at night. At the stage in life, it’s all about winding things down and getting ready to enjoy life and not waiting for the last day of work while hearing your bones cracking with pain from years of hard work on your legs and knees and back.
At present I am in AIT college doing an Honours Degree in Culinary Arts in Entrepreneurship. I have already done a BA degree, and all going well. I might go on and do my Masters. Why, you ask?
Simple! Before I did my BA, I planning on being a chef and going on to be head chef and stopping there. Doing the BA has now given me more choices and options to get a job for a better work life balance with a good wage and pension( to which I hopefully will not be paying into i.e. HSE, public jobs). It give me choices such as lecturer, manager in HSE, production manager, food production manager. To some, those may sound boring, but it is all about a work life balance.
For the last two years I have been working social hours from 8-4pm. Before I would work 12-9/10pm and getting home at 11pm or go straight to the pub then late bar and roll home at 2-3am. It is my current hours that I have now started getting used to and love (a life). Getting home from work at a reasonable time and watching football or rugby or if my wife and I want to go out for a meal then I have time to get ready and look good instead of rushing home to throw on anything and get out before the pubs close.
Since starting the BA degree I can see more choices ahead. With the course I am doing now, a lot of chefs who did the same course have gone and developed their own products. A friend of mine who went on to do his Masters got a fantastic job and he told me if it wasn’t for his Masters he won’t have got the job. He is now doing lecturing one day a week. All this from doing his Masters. All lecturers will tell you education is important. Yes, experience counts for a lot in this industry as a lot of chefs including me do not have a leaving cert and it’s hard trying to get an education with no leaving cert. So, to get where I am today is an achievement not just for me but for everyone.
Doing the BA helps you become a better chef by learning leadership, HR, food and marketing, and modern techniques. It also gives you confidence.
Education opens doors for opportunities to progress in the industry - be it in the hospitality industry or the hospital sector, and to look at different avenues in food production. In the honours degree we studied microbiology, which opens up other sectors again such as microbiology lab work.
I would highly advise anyone go and do a BA degree and BA honours degree, not just to further their career but to learn more about the industry itself, i.e. the role of HR in the industry. For example, if you work in a small restaurant and the business has no HR in place then it’s up to the head chef to learn the law. By doing a BA, you will learn the relevant laws and the role of HR management in the work place and by learning this it makes you a better chef who is able to help with any problems in the kitchen.
During the course we did advanced pastry, which I really enjoyed as I love baking breads and pastry. So by doing the advanced pastry, I was able to improve my baking skills and by doing this I learned how to bake breads better, tastier, to bake them longer and to get a darker colour and that is where all the flavour is in the breads. A lot of people do not know this which makes a lot of sense.