Sarah Hartnett, Sheraton Park Lane

The Staff Canteen

Sarah Hartnett, discusses her role as a Freelance Pastry Chef and her own inspirations with regards to pursuing a career as a Chef.

Name: Sarah Hartnett

Role: Fellow of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts / Freelance Pastry Chef / Chef Ambassador to UCC Coffee UK & Ireland.

Bio: After 11 years as head chef at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, Sarah has been working as a freelance pastry chef since January 2016. During her time at the Sheraton, Sarah won a number of awards and is now recognised as an expert in her field.

Chef Skills

Sarah Hartnett takes us through her 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 did you first get into cooking?

My mum was always great at cooking and baking, for our family and friends. From an early age, I loved helping, especially when it came to cleaning out the bowl!

What led you to pastry/chocolate/coffee?

Pastry: My first summer job, aged 17, was at Ballymaloe House in Cork and here, in Myrtle Allen's kitchen, I quickly realised pastry was going to be my future. I learnt the smallest part of any meal plays an integral part in the overall experience. They used the freshest ingredients. If you needed mint for the ice cream, you went to the garden and picked it. It was a real eye-opening start to pastry life. Chocolate is the most indulgent ingredient in any pastry kitchen and there are no boundaries in applications. I absolutely love chocolate, and with so many varieties available and being developed on an ongoing basis, the possibilities are limitless.

Coffee: My first experience of drinking coffee was when I was around four years old. Mrs Barry, an elderly neighbour often looked after me and my siblings. One day in particular, she was teaching me how to knit while she was knitting traditional Aran jumpers. During our break, she took a freshly baked apple tart from the oven and told me that we were having coffee with it. I had my miniature cup and we sat side-by-side enjoying the tart and coffee, and afterwards got back to knitting. I've enjoyed coffee ever since, but I am terrible at knitting!

Do you think that there was enough advice available when you were starting out?

Sadly, no. Advice early on was really poor and it was all negative. At school, I had never previously had a single conversation with the career guidance teacher in three full years of education until it was decision time. We sat together for less than an hour, and the only advice she gave me was that it would be a terrible mistake. She thought she knew the best path for my future career and she knew nothing about the industry.

What would be your ultimate top five tips for someone looking to start a career in this industry?

  • Do lots of research and take your time - it's such a huge industry, there are lots to explore before making choices, and there's something for everyone.
  • Ask lots of questions. People will want to help you learn from their mistakes.
  • Be enthusiastic - bosses will teach anyone who is eager to learn.
  • Look to leaders of the industry to see what they do. With social media, it's really accessible to learn about what they do and what's out there
  • Instagram, Twitter and Facebook make it easy to see what's going on and to see different styles.
  • Travel. Being a chef is the best job in the world for a whole load of reasons - it can take you to some amazing places, and you can experience things that no other job can offer.

What are you looking out for in budding chefs or on the CV of someone looking to work with you? 

Enthusiasm and personality. Don't try to be the same as everyone else, be the best version of yourself. If you have other hobbies/ experiences, include them. It's great to
learn about what motivates a potential new team member.

If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice, knowing what you do now, what would it be?

Believe in yourself. The only person who is ever really standing in the way of what you can achieve.

Find a Chef Job

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd July 2017

Sarah Hartnett, Sheraton Park Lane