8th April 2020
We caught up with Stafford College's Curriculum Leader for Hospitality & Catering, Rich Finney, to chat about his career history, inspirations and most importantly, his favourite foods!
Q: How did you get in to the Hospitality & Catering industry?
A: At the age of 16 I began working some evenings and weekends as a pot wash for my brother who was a chef at the time. One weekend, one of the chefs didn’t turn up for work and I was quickly thrown on to the starter section to help out. As it turned out, I really enjoyed the adrenaline rush I got from working at such a fast pace and under pressure. I kept this part time work going alongside studying for my A Levels at South Cheshire College and also had a glittering semi-professional football career at Witton Albion FC.
Q: What did you study at college and where?
A: After finishing my A Levels, I started cooking full-time and enrolled on to the NVQ Level 2 Professional Cookery course at South Cheshire College. I quickly learned how vast and varied the industry was, and wanted to explore to find the best place to train locally. After turning 18, I moved to Chester and began working in the renowned Chester Grosvenor Hotel, which has held a Michelin star for 30 consecutive years and has a kitchen team of about 30 chefs! The combination of working 14 hours a day 5 or 6 days a week and traveling back to Crewe on my only day off to complete the course was intense but allowed me to learn lots and progress quickly.
Q: Where do you find inspiration? How do you stay creative?
A: This has changed over the years; it used to be reading cooking books and watching chefs on TV. Now I tend to find inspiration from social media and ideas I’ve picked up from both traveling or eating out at other restaurants.
Q: Who is your favourite chef and why?
A: Probably not a very well-known one, but it would have to be Simon Radley. Simon has been at the top of his professional career for 30+ years and I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with him in the past. Simon demands absolute perfection every single day and had the total respect of everybody who worked for him. The motto was ‘never say no’, and we would do anything for the customers. His ethos has stayed with me ever since.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could only take 5 foods with you, what would you take?
- Fried chicken
- Rib-eye steak
- Ice cream
Chefs have terrible diets!
Q: What advice would you give to your 15 year old self?
A: I would say be more confident, learn, travel and experience as much as you can and stay positive!
Q: Why did you decide to become a teacher?
I came to Stafford College to gain my Level 3 in Professional Cookery whilst owning and running a busy gastro-pub just outside of Stafford. Once I had completed the course, the Curriculum Leader offered me some part-time hours and it’s really grown from there.
Q: What challenges have you faced in your career?
A: Working in this industry has meant I’ve worked in some pretty demanding roles which have required long hours, hard work, and dedication and can be pretty stressful at times! But that said, I wouldn’t change any of it because I’ve learnt so much. It is a mentally challenging industry and you certainly have to have a passion for it and be able to stay headstrong.
Q: What is your favourite type of cuisine to cook and why?
A: I love creating all sorts of dishes. As long as the ingredients are the best available then I’m pretty happy. During my career, I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with so many people who have put their life and soul into producing fantastic, high quality ingredients and as a chef you just want to do them justice.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
A: Move around, don’t get stuck working somewhere for too long because you can often become blinkered. The industry moves so fast but there are lots of opportunity to learn and develop in all corners of the globe. There’s no such thing as bad experience.