Q&A with Hallmark Hotels, Bournemouth
Richard Allsopp, Executive Chef at Hallmark Hotels in Bournemouth has been working with The Bournemouth & Poole College and taking apprentices for over 10 years, so he knows a thing or two about it…
Tell us a bit about what you do.
I started at The Carlton Hotel as Executive Chef over 13 years ago. About six years ago, I was given responsibility to run the kitchens at East Cliff Court Hotel too. So I manage one big brigade of staff who are split between the two hotels.
How did you start working with The College?
I’ve known about The College for many years. It has always had a very, very good name within the industry. Having it on our doorstep is a privilege. We should all take advantage of their knowledge, expertise and contacts. So when I started working here, I approached them.
Are apprentices nervous when they start?
I invite them in prior to their first day, so it’s not too much of a shock, and show them round the buildings and kitchens. The first thing you’ve got to do is get them comfortable. Our apprentices can be nervous when they start, they haven’t had experience of kitchens and they’ve had no formal training – so it’s an alien scenario. They always have our telephone numbers, so in between the show round and their start date, they can ask questions. It’s not an unfriendly place to work, so they soon settle in.
Do they work on their own straight away?
On their first day, they will be working with somebody. For the first few weeks, I’ll try and keep them working with that person in a bit of a work buddy scenario.
What do you expect from them?
I expect apprentices to come here with enthusiasm – that’s the main thing. I can teach people to cook if they’ve got enthusiasm, flair and imagination. It’s important they get here promptly, especially in the mornings! I want them to be willing and happy to come to work, to learn and progress. It’s all about the attitude. With the right attitude, they can be brilliant.
Tell us about the best apprentice you’ve had, and what made them so good.
He had enthusiasm and a passion for putting something on a plate. He had high personal standards. He would check everything he did and then he would double check. He knew that if he wasn’t happy with it, I wouldn’t be happy with it. That’s the right attitude. You are against yourself all the time, in competition with yourself to learn and improve. You’ve got to have that self-motivation, and he did.
What’s the benefit for you of having apprentices?
There are loads! They are on tap – I don’t have to go searching. Because they come with support from The College, it’s not like taking someone off the street. In fact, they usually stay in the industry for longer than someone without that level of support, so we get them for a minimum of 2 years. And it builds a great rapport between us and The College.
Aren’t you annoyed when they leave once their Apprenticeship is finished?
Not at all. It’s unfair to keep people for longer because they have to go and learn other things and experience other places. If they leave here and get a job as a Demi-Chef or Chef de Partie at a nice place, then I’ve done my job.
The Hallmark Hotels Bourenmouht are situated side by side on the East Cliff offering commanding views across the bay and have recently benefitted from a £1.1 million refurbishment.