Mike spends a lot of time baking, but he's also a chocolatier - a job he says he's very lucky to be able to do. He's pretty ambitious - in five years' time, he'd like to run his own chocolate company! He shares the secrets of a sweet career...
Name: Mike Barber
Company: The Richardson Hotel Group
Industry: Hospitality, Leisure & Tourism
What is your job? Chocolatier
How long have you worked here? 4 years
University: University of Birmingham
Degree subject: Catering
Qualifications: BRQ Diploma
1. What was your very first job?
I started off at York’s Bakery in my home town of Birmingham where I watched and learnt how to make a variety of different doughs.
2. What did you want to do when you were at school?
I really struggled at school. I’m dyslexic so I found the more academic subjects really difficult. I really enjoyed cooking so I guess I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a chef. I’ve never seriously though about doing anything different.
3. How did you find out about the industry?
Mainly watching TV. When I was growing up there were lot of cookery shows on the TV and I really enjoyed watching all of them.
4. How did you get there?
I did a VQR diploma at University College of Birmingham at 16. This was a two week rotation course, which mean I did two weeks in the class room, then two weeks practical - normally in a restaurant. Once my diploma was over, I applied for every job I could. I got my job at the Grand via an online application, followed by an interview.
5. What is a typical day like?
I work away from the main kitchen, in the bakery, so work with much smaller team than most chefs. We are in fairly early in the morning to make the bread and pastries for breakfast. I also make marmalade and jams that can be sold to guests as well as put out for breakfast across all six hotels in the Richardson Group.
6. What’s the best thing about your job?
Making chocolate, I really love being able to create all different types and there aren’t many places that will let you do that. The Grand is a bit special for letting me do that.
7. What is the most challenging thing about your job?
Well we are currently in a heat wave, the kitchen temperature is over 30c so that is quiet challenging, but trying to temper chocolate in this heat is also causing me a few problems!
8. What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?
You have to train hard and be passionate. Always be open to learning new techniques, trends, try new flavours and keep learning. Watch as many people as you can, work with people you can learn from and that can inspire you.
9. What things do you wish you’d known before starting your career?
If I could restart over with all my current experience that would be great! That’s what you need, practice so I would have been easier to start knowing everything I do now!
10. Where would you like to be in 5 years?
Chocolate is a passion of mine and I would really like to own my own chocolate company on day. The next five years might be a bit optimistic but I am aiming high!
If you're a chocoholic and fancy a career making the sweet stuff, find out how you could become a chocolatier.
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Lead image via Freepik