Current Role: Chief Operating Officer - Gema Group
Did you always aspire to be in the job position you currently hold?
Not really, I always wanted to be a chef! School was hard for me as I am / was dyslexic which made study and high grades hard. So I focused on what I was good at and that lead me to cooking. I ended up being good at it and loved it a lot. I was working almost full time cooking all the way through years 11 & 12 which gave me a great head start in the industry. I spent the next 18 years cooking. I just worked hard and learned on the job, working my way up the food chain into more senior roles. Then 10 years ago I switched to front of house and management. I never dreamed when I was in high school I would be in a role like I am today.
What have you done since leaving CTHS?
I have been so lucky to have had a great career that has taken me all over the world. After school I did my apprenticeship and worked in Sydney for almost 5 years. Then I moved to London and took a job with the Savoy group. Becoming the youngest Sous Chef in a 5 star hotel in London at 21years old (looking back I was way too young for that role!). I was lucky enough to work with chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Pierre Koffmann and Jean-George Vongerichten in both London and France before returning back to Sydney to take over as the Executive Sous Chef of the Intercontinental Sydney. I continued to learn the industry and work hard until I was lucky enough to secure the Area Executive Chef role with Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts in Indonesia. Moving overseas again to live and work for one of the worlds best boutique hotel chains. I lived on an island just off the coast of Singapore, working in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. In 2009 I moved back to Sydney to take up the Executive Chef & Director of Food & Beverage role for Emirates Hotels & resorts. Delivering at the time one of the most expensive and exclusive hotels ever built in Australia as part of the build and operations team. This is where I made the move to front of house working my way into the Assistant General Manager position. I then made the move into venues and events working at the SCG for Delaware North before moving to Sydney Showground as the Licensee and Head of Catering & Customer Service. I feel like this is where I really found what I love to do. This led me to my current role in 2020 with the Gema Group.
Describe your average workday...
That's a hard question to answer, Most days start with a walk/run or a boxing class before either heading to the office or the airport. Our business has offices all over Australia and we deliver events with clients in every state. So about 40% of my time is spent "on ground" with our team or clients. This might mean a day trip to Melbourne for meetings or an overnight trip to the ACT to check on our 2 stadiums there. If its an office day, I try and get to the office early and knock out emails and computer work before the bulk of the team arrive. then ill grab a tea or a coffee and spend some time talking to our event managers or chefs about their events and any issues they may be facing. the rest of the day is filled up with meetings, conference calls or client catch ups. I make it home in time to take my girls to dance lesions before jumping back on to do a few last min emails. If I am on ground it's a different day altogether. Most event days I will arrive at the event very early, check in with the team and client before popping over to the HR check in area to see some of our casuals. I like to drive the staff bus for an hour or two. It's a good way to get a sense of the staff mood and feedback from the team. Then I would walk the sight and check the outlets and corporate areas on my own. Make some notes and check in with some of our customers. Around lunch service i will go see the kitchen teams and check what's going out the door before doing another site walk with our event manager going over the good, the bad and the ugly. Towards the end of the day final check in with the client, then back to staff check out to see a few of the team and learn how their day was. Before leaving site triple check we are good for tomorrow, most nights i would catch up for dinner either with a client, supplier or key staff before crashing into bed ready to do it all again the next day.
Please share some words of wisdom for today's students…
There are many, many, many ways to build a very successful career. You don't need to be the smartest person in a room or know all the answers. You just need to find and surround yourself with those that complement what you bring to the table. Find something you love and enjoy it! If you fall out of love with it, find the next thing you love and keep working at it. and my final piece of advice is always look forward, never back. If you make a mistake, learn from it, grow and move forward. Put it behind you it no longer has any bearing on your future.
Any shoutouts to a special teacher or subject you think really helped?
How lucky were we to have such a great kitchen to learn and cook in! For me in my profession it gave me the best start and insight and I always look back with fond memories presenting my HSC dish in that kitchen.
What were the greatest lessons you learned at CTHS that you have carried with you into your career?
Relationships are important. Learning to understand someone else's viewpoint respectfully and pair that with yours for the best outcome is invaluable in your working world. The culture of respect and collaboration we were taught in high school is something that has stayed with me for life.
What piece of advice do you have for students today given your experience in the working world?
Find your own way, be your own person. If you try to be something you are not or someone you are not you will fail at some stage. Pick your battles, be kind to yourself and celebrate your success. Surround yourself with good people and try to have fun in everything you do. Work should be fun, if it's not ..... change jobs! You will only get out what you put in, the more you pour into your work, friendships and relationships the more they will all give back to you. So keep in contact with your friends from school. Some of my oldest mates are from school and to call them night or day and talk about that time way back when is special.