As a young lad, who began a career with a small job of washing dishes for his cousin in the kitchen of a conference centre in Melbourne, to becoming the Continental Director Africa Middle East at the World Association of Chefs Societies (Worldchefs), Chairman & Founding Member of the Emirates Culinary Guild and currently the General Manager at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel and Madinat Jumeirah Conference & Events, Jumeirah Hospitality, Chef Andy has had an illustrious active career spanning nearly four decades.
Looking back as to what led him to make the career choice; he remembers having a liking for food & cooking and then his needing to get a skill was all about getting that piece of paper as his mother said, which was the apprenticeship in cookery from the Victorian Government and so his journey began.
“Mother wasn’t a great cook and had a repertoire that she would cook on a cycle, and yet some of her dishes are still the best memories of growing up”, he says as his lips curl up in a smile.
Starting with his first job as a dishwasher, he trained as an apprentice in different restaurants for four years and later went on to study at the Boxhill TAFE in Melbourne, Australia, for an additional three years. The training according to him was excellent where they learned basics the correct way, thus giving him a good start.
He feels sadly disappointed to see that many of the basics are being left out and people today are being trained at levels much lower than they were, back in his time. He goes on to add, “The right qualifications with a solid grounding in basics are so very important in the becoming of a true Chef. It is not about creating Instagrammable food and food blogging, rather it’s about knowing how to cook the right way.”
With the right qualification and training now under his belt, Chef Andy was ready to take his first real step into hotel kitchens. He joined Rockman’s Regency Boutique Hotel in Melbourne in 1986 and a year later moved to Hilton International, Melbourne.
At the recommendation of a colleague, he then packed his bags for England, joining the kitchens at Hilton International London Gatwick as a Sous Chef. Here, he honed his culinary skills alongside some of the greatest European chefs who taught him the finesse of culinary arts. At the recommendation of yet another friend, he made the move from London to Dubai in 1992 and since then made this Emirate his home for well over 25 years now.
From Sous Chef to Executive Chef at Hilton International Dubai World Trade Centre, to become a part of the pre-opening team at the Hilton Beach Club in 1995, to eventually being appointed as Director of Operations for Jumeirah Hospitality in 2000, he has taken up a number of leadership positions in the company gaining extensive experience across multiple parts of the business, from banqueting to catering to resort management and also excelling at each one of them.
When asked about the highlights of his culinary journey – from Melbourne to London to the UAE, Chef Andy said, “Working for the Hilton group in the UK with some great chefs was a big deal for me. It was an excellent learning and I gained so much knowledge. Coming to Dubai in 1992 gave me an opportunity not availed to many at the time and this is where I have stayed since then. The huge highlight was my moving out of the kitchens and running food and beverage management in Emirates Towers which was just fantastic. Ultimately becoming General Manager for Jumeirah Group and running hotels for the group is such an honour. Then came the many opportunities from being a member of the Guild and Worldchefs; being involved in so many high-level events is extraordinarily gratifying.”
Supporting chefs, really pushing them to excel is what drives Chef Andy, who boards the World Association of Chefs Societies (Worldchefs) as the Continental Director, Africa Middle East, and also manages the reins as Chairman of the Emirates Culinary Guild (ECG) where he and his team work hard to ensure that global culinary standards are maintained and enhanced through the training and development of young chefs from around the world.
The work done for the Worldchefs is one of pure passion and dedication. Chef Andy has been the Congress Chairman since 2015, presiding over the Congress in Greece (2016) and in Malaysia (2018) with plans underway until 2028. “I hope that my planning and putting in place practices will help Worldchefs to grow. The Young Chefs Development Team that I have for 4 years is now stronger than ever, as we built a strong base and also put together a succession plan; handing over the position to present Chairman Alan Orreal and Vice President Jasper Jek, who have rocketed this forward to greater heights”, he says.
His vision as the Continental Director of Africa Middle East at Worldchefs is to include all chefs globally into the World Association of Chefs Societies and build strong young chefs with essential life skills to manage and lead the industry into the future.
As far as the Emirates Culinary Guild is concerned, he along with Chef Uwe Micheel President of the Guild and Guild coordinator Late Chef Alan Thong, hosted the 25th Worldchefs Congress in Dubai (2008) taking the growth and respect of the UAE Guild to new heights. From being chartered and inducted into Worldchefs in 1994, as the UAE’s authorized association of professional chefs, the ECG has conducted various competitions, organized exhibitions in liaison with the Government of Dubai Tourism Department, and supported the participation of UAE National Culinary teams in the world culinary competitions.
His greatest contribution as Chairman of the Young Chefs Development Team (Worldchefs) and as Chairman of the Emirates Culinary Guild was continuing the legacy of the Late Dr BiIl Gallagher Young Chef Forum at the congress and building the foundations of the Young Chefs Clubs and the development team that we see today.
When asked why it is important for a chef to be part of the Guild, he pragmatically said, “When I was young, I did not belong to any Guild nor did I partake in any competitions. As I matured, I realized the great opportunities that belonging to such associations can bring to anyone. It is a platform to meet people, compete internationally in competitions, make your mark as a judge, travel with teams worldwide, meet future employees and employers, and gain access to a worldwide network. To meet colleagues and learn from them, is a great advantage for chefs, and one also gets to meet suppliers of new products ingredients, etc. One finds that opportunities are everywhere.”
Coming to fruition in 2015 was the ICCA Dubai Culinary Scholarship, the One Million Dirhams Continuing Education Award for the UAE Young Chefs, which was a long-cherished goal and a career-long dream of both Chef Uwe Micheel as President and Chef Andy as Chairman, of the Emirates Culinary Guild (ECG), together with Sunjeh Raja, the Director & CEO of the International Centre for Culinary Arts (ICCA Dubai).
The Scholarship Program for Young Industry Chefs which is all about educating, training & certifying talented and deserving, but financially underprivileged young chefs in the UAE Hospitality Industry, was designed keeping in mind also the importance in encouraging aspiring young chefs to grow their skills and boost their careers within the hospitality industry, thus giving many a chance to fulfil their dreams and not be limited by their means.
Delighted with the outcome of the scholarship program on the candidates, and its acknowledgement by the industry, Chef Andy remarked, “New hotels, food concepts, restaurants, and cafes are constantly springing up in Dubai. When it comes to hospitality, Dubai has a reputation, standard, and quality to keep up to, and for which there is a constant demand for trained talent that can deliver consistently under pressure. The program evidently has not only successfully managed to elevate the lives of the scholarship candidates; it has also uplifted the quality of output at their work environment which was noticed by their peers and seniors as well.”
Chef Andy was bestowed with the Lifetime Achievement Award 2017 Leaders in Hospitality Award for his contribution and devoted service to the industry. Besides the coveted title, he has also bagged in his kitty the following titles.
“I am deeply touched by the industry leaders and colleagues that awarded this to me and humbled by this recognition”, he said on receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award.
As he continues to inspire the people in the industry and also those upcoming in this space, his message is to never stop the learning and never say no to do anything extra, finding your place by doing everything you possibly can, and understanding that you will never know everything and that there will always be someone that knows something you don’t.
With a twinkle in his deep-set Aussie eyes, he reminds us during these times to do as taught by our mothers,
Image Courtesy: Hotel & Catering, Hozpitality, and My News Desk.
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