After his GCSEs, Tyler enrolled at the College to do Level 1 Introduction to Professional Cookery as the next step towards his end goal. He has since progressed to Level 2 Professional Cookery and when he completes this, he intends staying on at the College to complete the Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Professional Cookery. Looking even further ahead, he wants to achieve Level 5 and then spread his wings to experience working in fine dining restaurants abroad before returning to Coleraine to manage a restaurant or even open up his own one.
The Level 2 Professional Cookery course is for students working in the industry and Tyler has joined his brothers Daniel and Charlie at The Newbridge-Tides-Urban restaurant group in the Triangle area, working part-time at The Newbridge in Coleraine. Daniel, the eldest of the three brothers, is restaurant supervisor at Urban in Portrush and middle brother Charlie, who completed his Professional Cookery training (Levels 1 – 3) at the College, is a pastry chef at The Newbridge.
Tyler said that working in the restaurant is a great opportunity to put into practice what he is learning in class: “Level 2 builds on the basic skills I was taught during Level 1. I enjoy the hands-on approach that balances theory with working in the College kitchen as part of a team to prepare and serve food.”
He enjoys experimenting with different foods and flavours and said one of the few upsides of the pandemic was that he had more time to experiment in the kitchen at home. He is delighted to have two of his starters – grilled halloumi and fishcakes – included in The Newbridge’s new menu.
“It’s been a very strange time to be working in restaurants. After the first lockdown, we did takeaways for a while and when restrictions were lifted, it went from being quiet to hectic overnight. During the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ promotion in 2020, we were open seven days a week and some days were doing over six hundred covers.
“It’s a very busy restaurant but it’s a good kind of busy. I just love it,” Tyler said.
During lockdown, face-to-face teaching and practical classes were restricted, so Tyler is now enjoying the camaraderie of being back working with friends in the College’s kitchen.
“Our parents are very supportive of what we do; I am always trying out new dishes at home but it’s great to be back in College again and working in the restaurant,” he commented.
Charlie, who is working full-time at The Newbridge, also enjoyed his time at Northern Regional College. He says the Professional Cookery courses there are ideal for anyone who loves cooking and has the ambition to become a fully qualified professional chef.
“You progress from doing knife skills and basic cooking in Level 1, to Level 2 which takes it up a level as you learn how to move a lot faster and to be more organised. Level 3 allows you to become a fully qualified professional chef; a qualification which can take you anywhere in the world – you could work as a head chef, sous chef, work on a cruise ship, go into management or open your own business.”
Charlie plans to move to London to get more experience and learn ‘the trade’ for five years or more with a long-term goal of becoming a private chef.
He has no doubts that his time at Northern Regional College has helped him on his career trajectory.
“I’d definitely recommend the Professional Cookery courses for anyone who loves cooking.”
Vocational courses offered by Northern Regional College at its Ballymena and Ballymoney campuses and other FE colleges are an ideal progression route for anyone with aspirations to train as a professional chef, as well as offering a broad range of clear pathways to successful careers.
Dylan Neill, restaurant manager at The Newbridge, completed both Level 1 and Level 2 in Professional Cookery at Northern Regional College, which helped him secure his current role with the restaurant group.
He said he enjoyed his time at the College: “I decided I wanted to get out of the kitchen and into management and my professional chef experience has really helped me progress in the industry.
“The College is great resource for the local hospitality industry. I have had my own positive experience and I can see how the next generation of students like Charlie and Tyler are getting a great grounding there. Their knowledge and practical experience have come on leaps and bounds since they started working in the restaurant. They are a lot more confident and creative and enjoy experimenting to come up with new menu ideas.”
Anne Birt-Macartney, Curriculum Area Manager for Hospitality, Travel and Tourism at Northern Regional College, said Dylan’s career pathway illustrated how professional chef qualifications can help open the door to a diverse range of exciting career opportunities.
“Even the most successful chefs started their career through entry level positions but with years of experience and further professional training, they were able to progress to more advanced and responsible positions such as sous chef or executive chef, while others like Dylan go on to take up managerial roles.
“There is a growing demand for well qualified and experience professional chefs who are not just needed for restaurants but for a variety of great variety of positions at home and abroad, for example with cruise ships, airlines, catering services, hospitals and schools.”