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Past Certificate Students – Melissa Phair

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Melissa (far right) originally hails from Enniskillen in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. She completed the Professional Three Month Certificate course in June 2013. Here, she explains why he chose to do the course and what she’s up to now.

What were you doing before you started the course?

Once I’d finished my Mathematics degree at Liverpool University, I headed off to the French Alps for a season to run a cocktail bar and it’s while I was working there that I accidentally fell into working on yachts. I was recommending wine to a customer (the owner of a yacht) one evening and he suggested that I seriously consider it as a career. Anyway, I looked into it further, did some research and six months later I travelled to the south of France to start working on my first yacht.

What prompted you to do the Three Month cookery course at Dublin Cookery School?

In my first role, I worked as a stewardess and sous chef. After 12 months onboard, I realised that I really enjoyed the food side of the role. I knew I could cook well but recognised that in order to progress and be taken more seriously for cheffing roles on yachts, I needed to complete a full-time cookery course.

As I travelled a lot with my job anyway, the idea of travelling abroad for a course didn’t put me off and so I researched a lot of different cookery school and courses.

What attracted me to Dublin Cookery School was the length of the course and the pedigree of the tutors I’d be learning from. Doing a course that I could complete in three months and would teach me about so many different areas really appealed to me as it meant that I could get back to doing what I loved – working on yachts, and progress in my career without too much time away. I remember reading about the calibre of the tutors at the school on the website (John Wyer and Sandy Sabek – now the owners of the Forest Avenue restaurant in Dublin) and thinking that I could learn a lot from them.

What were the highlights and challenges for you personally on the course?

The thing I remember most about the course was the level of tuition we received from Lynda and her team. All of the tutors had really strong food backgrounds. It was obvious back then that John and Sandy were very talented and it’s no surprise to see them running their own successful restaurant now.

One of the biggest highlights of the course for me was getting to work as a team with the other students on the course for the pop-up restaurant nights. I got a real buzz out of working in a restaurant-style scenario and getting to cook and serve food to paying diners. It’s something that has definitely served me well in my career since.

The biggest challenges for me were the ready, steady, cook type sessions that John Wyer used to organise for us. He’d give us a trolley full of ingredients and ask us to whip up three courses in two to three hours which he’d then judge and give us feedback on. It was scary at the time but it was a great way of getting us to think on our feet!

Describe your journey post the cookery school

Coming into the course, I was very focused. I knew that I wanted to work on yachts for the foreseeable future. I used to return to my hometown of Enniskillen in Northern Ireland every Friday, work a double shift in the luxury five star Lough Erne Resort and then return to Dublin for the course each Sunday. Then, during the week, with the help of the school, I’d organise ‘stages’ for myself to get kitchen experience at the likes of Pichet and Michelin-starred L’Ecrivain. I was keen to make sure that I got as much as possible out of my three months!

Within a matter of weeks of finishing the course, I decided to fly out to Palma in Mallorca to visit a friend and started circulating my CV to the crew agents in the area. Two days later, I was heading off to Croatia to work as a private chef on a boat for a couple of months. I went from being a sous chef on a yacht before the course to being the head chef/private chef to owners of luxury yachts.

What advice would you give someone considering the Three Month course?

Do it! If you’ve already starting considering it, then it’s a dream that you have to follow. I’ve been working on yachts for five years now and I’m in love with my job. I get to travel the world doing something I enjoy and I make more money working for 6 or 7 months than some of the best paid bankers do in a year!