GM at Ashford Castle, one of the best hotels in the world, told the Hospitality Graduate Entrepreneur Forum 2016 of the high calibre of WIT graduates
The Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) Inaugural Hospitality Graduate Entrepreneur Forum 2016 which took place on 19 April, drew 100 delegates from far and wide.
Organised by Diploma in Restaurant Management Programme and lecturer Jacinta Greene Beatty, those in attendance included graduates, parents of current students, local hoteliers, restaurateurs, fast service restaurants, catering managers, chefs, career guidance councillors, architects, state agencies, engineers, and members of the past and present academic staff of WIT and other institutes of technology.
Greene Beatty welcomed the delegates and speakers and explained that the forum was in part fulfilment of the Restaurant Management Programme.
She also outlined that it was an opportune time to look back over the last five years and celebrate our graduates success' in particular graduate entrepreneurs.
Keynote speaker for the forum was Niall Rochford General Manager of Ashford Castle. Niall is responsible for the day to day running of this iconic 83 bedroom Castle and also the 64 bedroom The Lodge at Ashford Castle. He has overall responsibility for this world-renowned 5-star resort property in terms of profitability, international standards of excellence and constant guest focus. Under his management Ashford Castle has been bestowed many awards, amongst them; The Best Resort Hotel in Europe 2008, Condé Nast Traveler, Third Best Hotel in the World, Travel & Leisure 2015 and the coveted Best Hotel of the Year 2015, Virtuso.
Rochford, a Tipperary man, delivered a fantastic presentation on what it takes to be the best hotel in the world said training is critical. He stressed the importance of passion, hard work, sincere service and all the tiny noticeable touches which enhances the guest experience. “No request is ever too big or too small,” he said “if we were asked for a herd of elephants we would go to the end of the world to meet that request.”
“General Managers need to be seen and not stuck in the office or on the golf course. Staff are rewarded in Ashford with in-house vouchers which motivates them together with day outs and a personal Christmas gifts from Mr. and Mrs Thomand (owner of Carnation Hotels). Ideas from staff are taken seriously and one such idea was the conversion of the basement which has been transformed into a 27 seater casual dining restaurant.”
He highly complimented WIT on the fantastic graduates and students who work with him in Ashford Castle. He mentioned graduates from the BA in Hospitality Management (Level 8) and the Diploma in Restaurant Management Programme (level7) at WIT. He said the interview which forms part of the selection process of many Hospitality and Culinary programmes is central to the success of WIT graduates that he believes gives them the X factor.
Peter Ward a nationally known figure in the world of artisan food and owner of Country Choice food business based in Nenagh since 1982 also spoke. Ward encouraged delegates “to thine own self be true” and encouraged the delegates to think before they make that crucial decision every day as to how they spend their money on food and to support their neighbours who are artisans and farmers.
The pioneer of snail farming in Ireland Ms Eva Milka a graduate of the Restaurant Management programme 2011 said she has learnt so much about snail farming now that she is giving seminars on snail farming each week as there is a growing interest in this type of farm diversification. She has made all the mistakes and knows what snails are most suited to Irish weather etc. Eva was fortunate to also complete the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers programme run at ArcLabs in WIT’s West Campus, Carriganore, and from there to the Propeller Programme at DCU’s at Ryan Academy. She is the recipient of Young Entrepreneur of the Year, winner of Arthur Guinness Project, and winner of Bank of Ireland Start Up Awards. Eva praised her experience of funding agencies in Carlow.
Mary Walsh Lawlor, CEO of Carlow Development Partnership Ltd speaking at the forum also said “the best approach to take when assessing supports is to be very clear in the first instance on the specific challenge/problem you want to address and then research and identify the optional support that will assert you to overcome that challenge. She added that buddying up with an experienced entrepreneur can really help new businesses final alternative solutions to everyday business challenges.
Audrea Hassett another WIT graduate in Professional Cookery and co-owner of 'Tastefully Yours' encouraged students to consider the entrepreneur road as the benefits far exceed the challenges. They are supplying airports, supermarkets etc.
Marian Keane, Branch Manager AIB Lisduggan and The Quay Waterford spoke about AIB’s ‘Backing Brave’. She shared an old saying her father had in his sowing machine shop which was “It’s better to be consistently good than occasionally fabulous.”
Ade Walsh, proprietor of Kilkieran Cottage Restaurant, Carrick On Suir graduated from WIT in 2011 spoke about her business and in particular growing her business and the benefit of the €5,000 research voucher from Enterprise Ireland. Ade praised the education she she recieved at WIT and how she is always able to pick up the phone and ask for help.
Mr Ray Cullen, Head of the Department of Languages, Tourism and Hospitality WIT, thanked each speaker and complimented the students of the Diploma in Restaurant Management programme together with their lecturer Jacinta Greene Beatty who was instrumental in the development of the Restaurant Management programme five years ago. He shared the great success of WIT students at the prestigious International Cook Serve Competition recently.
An Artisan Business Space at the forum gave three WIT hospitality graduate entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase products.
One such graduate was owner of Joan and Bob’s Juicy Jams based in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny. Joan Fitzgerald Cahill and husband Bob Cahill are both qualified Fine Art Painters for whom the recession turned out to be an opportunity to turn their passion for preserving into a business. “Joan and Bob’s Juicy jams” make a range of luxurious Jams, Chutneys, pesto and cordials. “Doing an Artisan Springboard course in WIT was key to achieving our goals and where we are now,” she said.
Alongside Joan's stand was Waterford-based Rachel Hartrey who studied on the same programme which was state funded Artisan Springboard Course at WIT who has developed an Artisan food manufacturing business also with her husband Mark. They produce a range of Indian curry pastes, spice blends and chutney which are ideal for home cooking or for entertaining at home. These products offer a convenient way of making a real authentic Indian curry without all the fuss. The curry pastes are created using a blend of natural spices, fresh ginger, garlic, coriander and chilli preserved in oil. All products are sugar free and gluten free. They are low in fat and contain no artificial additives or preservatives and are ideal for the health conscious who like to produce quality curries, but don’t have the time to do it themselves.
The Hartery Kitchen is the only producer of such products in the south east and the pastes currently produced are Rogan Josh, Jalfrezi, Tikka Masala and Korma and the dry spice blends are Butter Chicken, Red Lentil Dhal Bombay potatoes and Vegetable Bhajis and also Mango chutney and Pear chutney.
Dunhill, Co Waterford’s TastefullyYours was the next stand. Audrea Hassett who is a WIT graduate from Professional Cookery followed her dream and set up her own business producing a fabulous range of sauces jams, and chutneys with recipes to accompany their products guiding customers as to how to use the products. Audrea also addressed the forum.
Dave's List, a group of WIT lecturers headed up by Liam O Shea who play traditional Irish music as a hobby performed during lunch.
A beautiful artisan lunch was prepared by WIT Culinary Arts lecturer Mr. Tony Barry and his students of the Total Immersion Programme, a Fáilte Ireland-funded part-time course 3 days a week for 24 weeks.
The closing date for CAO applications is 1 May, and WIT is taking applicants from mature students. See www.wit.ie/cao for course and application details. Part time courses which are not on CAO include the Diploma in Restaurant Management Course. See: www.wit.ie/diprestmancert.