Chris Jones, Programme Leader, University of Derby

The Staff Canteen
Chris Jones

Chris Jones discusses his role as Programme Leader at University of Derby and his own inspirations with regards to pursuing a career as a Chef.

Name: Chris Jones

Place of work: University of Derby

Role: Programme Leader BA (Hons) Professional Culinary Arts and Management

Follow Derby University on Twitter: @DerbyUni

Chef Skills

Chris Jones takes us through his personal experiences whilst being in the Culinary Industry. These key skills that young Chefs and industry professionals learn as part of their basic training.

How long have you been in your role for?

Two years.

What is your history in the industry?

I am the programme leader for the suite of culinary undergraduate programmes delivered within the Department of Hotel, Resort and Spa Management at the University of Derby. I joined the university in 2013 after 12 years working in the culinary industry. My list of industry experiences includes head chef of small independent restaurants and hotels, regional quality trainer for the largest UK casual dining brand, and quality and safety auditor. I teach a wide range of subjects such as kitchen management, leadership, professional kitchen techniques and research methods. I am a member of the Institute of Hospitality, the British Hospitality Association, and a master craftsman of the Craft Guild of Chefs.

How do you think that learning in an educational establishment, such as The University of  Derby, can be more beneficial than going straight into work in the hospitality industry after school?

Studying culinary arts or management at undergraduate level develops students’ academic, professional and personal skills; essential attributes for a fast-track career within the culinary industry. Students will develop deeper thinking skills in terms of critical analysis, reflection, and evaluation and have an in-depth understanding of topics no so freely taught at junior levels in the industry such as food costing, procurement, financial management and menu engineering. There is no substitute for experience and students will no doubt have to work hard to move up the ranks in industry, but they will hopefully do so at a much faster rate, and be able to apply underpinning theory to their chosen profession. Students will also have the opportunity to master their craft and develop problem-solving skills in a training environment,  in turn developing transferable skills such as confidence, communication and time management.

What are your top 5 tips for anyone trying to get into the industry?

  • Be prepared to cross train. Even if you have your heart set on becoming a pastry chef, it is important to train in all areas of the kitchen as this will enhance your employability. Also, train in both front-of-house and kitchen operations as you will then appreciate both sides of the operation, essential when working in a senior role.
  • Networking at events such as food festivals, gala dinners and conferences will improve your contacts, very handy when looking for a new challenge later on in your career.
  • Take a job for the opportunities and professional development, not for the money, especially early in your career. The more skills and range of experiences you undertake, the more you will earn.
  • Do not underestimate soft skills such as communication, time management and organisation. These are just as valuable as technical skills and will enable you to progress at a much faster rate in the industry. Be the first chef in the morning and the last one out at night!

What qualities should aspiring students have if they want to study a course in hospitality?

  • Have a strong work ethic – studying hospitality is intense in that it reflects the conditions of the industry. Be willing to work hard and get involved in as much as you can to gain experience.
  • Industry awareness – do not make the decision of studying hospitality lightly. Gain an understanding of what potential roles are available in the industry and see if they match your own personal interests and goals.
  • Commitment, drive and determination – undergraduate study is a major investment, and so I would expect students to fully commit to a full time course of study. That being said, the development of social skills are vital for successful future careers, and it is about finding that balance of ‘work’ and ‘play’ that so often goes amiss.
  • Reflective personality – it is important that students develop the ability to reflect on their achievement and how they can improve their academic and technical skills as they progress on their degree programme.
  • Interpersonal skills – hospitality in its very nature is social and dynamic and if students are to be successful on a culinary degree program then they must possess excellent team working skills to be competent in a brigade when they enter the industry.

What should aspiring students aim to have on their CV if they want to study a course in hospitality?

  •  Prior qualifications in a hospitality related discipline (NVQ/VRQ/BTEC level  3)
  •  Prior experience working within the industry at any level, or a willingness to  gain experience while they study
  •  Evidence of commitment to a successful future career in hospitality.

Who are the key chefs and restaurants that people should be speaking to and trying to gain experience with?

 Any business that has a proven track record in the training and development of ambitious individuals. These could range from casual dining brands who have invested a large amount of money in effective training programs, to fine dining establishments such as Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons who are internationally recognised as having an excellent training and development philosophy.

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Editor 4th May 2017

Chris Jones, Programme Leader, University of Derby