A young Carrickfergus man is forging a career in hospitality through an apprenticeship scheme.
Louis Bell, a 20-year-old professional cookery apprentice, currently spends four days per week in the busy kitchens of the Galgorm Resort & Spa Hotel and one day a week studying at Northern Regional College.
Louis started his catering career at age 16 in a local café. A couple of years later he was working in the bustling kitchens of one of Belfast’s most exclusive hotels - the Malmaison.
How did he snag that coveted job? By asking for it.
Louis said: “I just walked in off the street and said, ‘Can I have a job?’. I got lucky because it just so happened a staff member had left that day.”
Luck may have been on his side, but Louis’ work ethic, keen attitude and hunger to learn impressed his employers.
He said: “Initially they gave me a trial washing dishes, then I progressed to prep. Within about a month I was put on service.”
The experience confirmed for Louis that he wanted a career as a professional chef. So, when Louis learnt about the apprenticeship offered by the Galgorm and Northern Regional College he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
He had been completing his A-Levels in business studies and sports studies and had even considered going to university to study business management. When he told his parents he was leaving after AS-Levels to pursue a career as a chef, they were taken aback at first.
“They said ‘you’ve never talked about being a chef before, you just cook in the house’, and to be fair, I hadn’t really talked about it out loud, but I had been thinking about it for a long time,” Louis said.
In only a few months Louis has already amassed a wealth of experience across a number of the Galgorm’s hospitality offerings. He said: “You have to be really organised and you have personal accountability for your tasks. In a professional kitchen, no matter how junior your role, you have a job that you must do and if you don’t do it, you let the team down and customers don’t get served.”
Meanwhile, the lesson Louis learns in college complement what he’s learning in the kitchens. He said: “Class sizes are really small, so your lecturer can really spend time with you. Everything we do in class relates back to our practical learning in work, so it’s really valuable.”
Louis says he would recommend the apprenticeship scheme to someone who wants to kick-start a career in hospitality. He said: “Nowadays you need experience and an environment like the Galgorm gives you a huge breadth of experience.”