From education to employment

Apprenticeship Route Takes Adam to Executive Head Chef Role

Getting your qualifications is just one part of building any career. South Eastern Regional College (SERC) alumna, Adam Jones (24) – recently appointed Executive Head Chef at The AC Hotel by Marriott Belfast – shares his passion, determination and gives some gentle advice for a career role in hospitality.

Following his GCSEs at Fort Hill Integrated School, Lisburn, Adam, from Dunmurry, progressed to SERC’s Lisburn Campus.  He completed a Level 2 in Professional Cookery and was completing a Level 3 Catering Apprenticeship NI with the college, when he was approached to join the team as a commis chef at AC Hotel by Marriott Belfast, under the expert mentorship of Jean-Christophe Novelli.

He said:

“My father is also a chef, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Moving from school onto the college was the right move for me to progress my profession in cookery.”

Speaking about studying at SERC he said: “I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were a lot of opportunities and new experiences which I wouldn’t have had if I had gone back to school to do A-Levels.  It was very practical and hands-on, and we got to take part in cookery competitions which helped to develop my skills further, and it certainly benefited my style of learning.

“My studies at college gave me a solid foundation and prepared me for my role at The AC Hotel by Marriott Belfast. I was able to learn about health and safety, cooking techniques, good communication and teamwork, all of which were easier to learn in a working kitchen, so I received preparation for the industry from day one. The tutors – all of whom have worked in industry – were well engaged. They helped me develop confidence in myself, my knowledge, and skills, so I could reach my full potential and the goals I had set myself.”

Adam advanced to the role of Junior Sous Chef in November 2021 and continued his ascent to Sous Chef in September 2022. Today, he proudly assumes the esteemed position of Executive Head Chef at The AC Hotel by Marriott Belfast. He said, “In my role, I combine strong operational skills with effective people management. Each day presents a unique set of priorities, ranging from crafting and refining menus to upholding stringent food safety standards. I am deeply committed to sustaining and enhancing the culinary standards that define our food outlets.

“One of my core values is fostering a culture of coaching and development within the department. My true passion lies in nurturing the growth and potential of every team member. I firmly believe that the success of our department and our entire hotel hinges on recognising and harnessing the unique talents of each individual.

“In the ever-evolving landscape of the hospitality industry, adaptability and responsiveness are paramount. I take pride in my ability to swiftly respond to changing demands, collaborating seamlessly with various departments to optimise revenue streams and elevate the overall guest experience. It is my dedication to these principles that fuels my drive for success within our department and the broader hotel community.”

Speaking about the main challenges of the hospitality sector he added:

“We prioritise a flexible working culture at The AC Hotel by Marriott Belfast. We believe in work-life balance, steering away from the conventional demanding schedules.

“Efficient staffing management and a supportive team are vital to the smooth operation of our kitchen. To aspiring professionals, I stress the importance of role-specific skills, teamwork and seizing every possible learning opportunity. Currently, we’re hiring for a number of positions, offering a valuable chance to work alongside someone who understands the journey and challenges.”

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