Camille wrote us this beautiful article about working in hospitality. Read about her life in the English countryside below.
Hello, my name is Camille and I have just finished a year in the UK in the hospitality programme that Scotia Personnel offers. I had the wonderful opportunity to work in a small hotel/restaurant as a CDP (Chef de Partie) in North Yorkshire, England. The hotel was called the Blue lion in an even smaller village called East Witton. This village is so small the when I was asked for my address it was the # of your house East Witton Nr Leyburn, which is the second town over that has the grocery store a few shops and cafés/tea rooms!
About the hotel
So, we were a small hotel, a small team of eight full-time kitchen employees and one part-time but only once in a blue moon. I was CDP, and my station was pastry, so I was in charge of the sweets (desserts) where I got to learn traditional English puddings and pastries but also many more. While there I also had the opportunity to try all other stations in the kitchen. I got to grow as an individual – personally and professionally.
The process and arriving in England
Immigration was quite easy, a visa application and online questionnaire, which were a bit expensive, but it was worth it. You also need a few other documents like a police criminal check. After the online questionnaire, you must book and attend an interview. Once you have the interview, they take all your documentation and send it off to New York to be approved. They told me that it would be about 10 businesses days, but one week after my interview I received the visa.
Once in England, I just had to show up to the designated postal office where you may pick up your BRP (British Regency Permanent). Since I was in a small village and had no car, my head chef took time out of his day off to bring us there and back. I was asked by many people and family members if it was hard adjusting to the culture, but I had no trouble doing so. I love discovering new foods and now that I’m back in Canada, I finding myself craving certain things that can only be found in the UK. I also catch myself saying some of their phrases in conversation!
My stay in England was for a year and it was the best year of my life. With the BRP that I was given, it was good for two years, but I had decided to stay for only one year because I had other opportunities waiting for me at home. I also had a few family matters to attend, like a wedding and the birth of my cousin’s baby girl.
Now I did work a lot of gruelling long hours, like you do in hospitality, but working in a small team as I did you get to know each other very quickly especially when you live with most of them! So, on many occasions after work we would get together and eat scones with clotted cream and jam, have a cup of tea or make sandwiches and just chat or watch a movie together. Sometimes we would drive to the next town over if we finished early and go to the pub and play a game of pool or two and drink cider and local beer. For me, Christmas was difficult since I am an only child but of a big family, it was hard being away from them during the holidays. But, we got a small tree and decorations for the house and had ourselves a Christmas party where we had gift exchanged and had sweets and drinks.
We also had a fire pit so we would occasionally have fires in the backyard. If you’re from the East Coast or have Acadian heritage, you celebrate the Acadian festival. Well, my friend threw me a lobster boil and we celebrated the Acadian day together since all three Canadian living there were all from the East Coast!
Typical days at work
A typical day of work would be alarm at 7:30am, then up 8:00am and make my way down to the hotel which is a 4 minute walk away. Once in the kitchen, I’d make myself a coffee or a tea depending on my mood and grab a yogurt, put together my prep list for the day and put the orders away that come in every day apart from Sundays and bank holidays. Work 9-11:30, eat staff lunch typically pasta or curry, then lunch service is 12-2:15 but we normally leave at 3:00 pm. Then, we would take a break and be back for 5:30-6pm and we eat staff tea (supper), dinner service is 6:30-9:15 finally clean up and orders are in its 10:30-11pm. If you happen to be scheduled for breakfast, you were at work for 7 am and you were in charge of staff meals. Sometimes after work, we would sometime go to the local bar and play pool and grab a drink.
On days off
On a typically day off I would go to the near town and go out for lunch and do some grocery shopping, just for some fruits and supplies for the week because our staff tea (supper) was quite early at 6pm, so a little after-work snack and sometimes we would have tea as a group and eat sandwiches and scones and tea or sometimes wine. On auction, I would take the bus to the city of Harrogate and go shopping and go for a massage and different food. I also enjoyed sitting and read a book in my room or on the green if the weather permitted with a cup of tea of coffee.
I had the wonderful opportunity to get 28 days of paid vacation. So, I got to do a little travelling and exploring. While I was in the small town in the English countryside, two of my culinary school friends were living in the south of England doing the same program and we got the opportunity to go to Rome where we explored the city. I also had a wonderful opportunity to go on my first solo trip to York and Edinburgh where I meet people from all around the world!
Also, while working at the Blue Lion we were a band of international workers, Canadians, Spanish, Germany, Latvia, and more. I’ve come out of this experience with some new friends in Canada, Spain and England and hopefully one day we get to get all bake together and have a good time. On top of my 28 days off, I did have free accommodation and free staff meals every day.
So, the UK salary is slightly different from the Canadian. Canada is normally paid hourly and pay is every two weeks. In this industry and kitchen staff don’t get tips, or sometimes but it’s very rare. But in England it’s by weekly salary, if you are a full-time employee and at the end of the month we would get tipped out and it’s not just kitchen and server but everyone that worked at the hotel. Now, this was not everywhere I had friends who were paid every week. So, I did get a good contract.
Do-visits and must-sees
I do recommend visiting York and Edinburgh. They have lots of history and charm to them, but they are also very modern, and they blend seamlessly together. It’s wonderful for young traveller – lots of great places to eat and see also in York. Plus, if you are under the age of 25 you may be able to visit museums for cheaper or sometimes free because you fall in the “student” category.
Now while I was in York I became quite fond of this wonderful vegan place. Now I’m not vegan but I love food and I was looking for something different and not typical English café/tea room that I eat almost every day. It’s called Humpit- Hummus & Pita Bar.
Markets and Harry Potter
There is also another thing I am fond of doing is googling local markets and exploring them. I grew up at Christmas craft fairs because of my parents and in the summer going to the local farmers market. That is what I did in York, well I stumbled upon the shamble Market after visiting the Harry Potter stores and from now on, every city I’ve been to I’ve been to a local market. One thing that I am missing is clotted cream on scones with jam and a cuppa of Yorkshire tea.
If you’re ever in Edinburgh and you’re a Harry Potter fan like me, it’s the place for you. Now there are paid Harry Potter tours, but on the Scottish mile road, there is a tour company that believes it or not charges you based on how much you enjoyed the tour so you just tip at the end.
There is also the famous Elephant Café where the second and tired book were written. I had breakfast there and it was delicious and not expensive. The bathroom is covered in Harry Potter quotes and fan messages. Now if you only wish to see the bathroom there is a 1£ charge and this money that they collect goes to charity.
Some favourite moments
I have a few favourite moments. They’re not all rainbows and sunshine but I will always remember them. The first one is our fryer caught on fire because it was old. No one was harmed in the process, but it was definitely memorable! On to the happier moments we had a gift exchange between the kitchen staff and staff house and had a small party after work a few days before Christmas. We also did 95covers x 3 that day in 3h.
Everyone knows the Tour de France. Well, a few weeks before that race there is the Tour de Yorkshire, which is considered the pre-race of the Tour de France and it happens to pass in front of the hotel since there is only one road in or out. We got to see the bikers pass I’ll put the video below.
Now the next one is not for everyone. So, the hunting and game meat between the two countries is completely different, Canada to sell game meat in a restaurant it must be raised on a farm so: quail, venison, bison etc. But not in England there is still the old tradition of shooting parties like 15-40 men and women go out and hunt wild game meat, mostly birds like quail and pheasants. Once they are done the shooting, they would come to the hotel for some drinks because they’re not drunk enough and they just drop the birds out the back for us to clean like 30-150 depending on how many groups were out that day. So, I learned quickly how to clean them ready for cooking. From taking only the feathers and the guts and head off or taking it completely apart just like a whole chicken but not pre-cleaned like at the store.
The application process
I’m from the Ottawa region, which is easier than explaining exactly where I’m from. I heard about Scotia Personnel when I was studying at the local French trade college in culinary management in my first year in my two-year course. When Marilyn came and did the presentation, I was all for it but I wanted to get my diploma in culinary management. One of my friends from school had only done the one-year program at school and was in England already and was planning to extend her contract for an extra year. So, I had her as a reference for how things were and thatmade my decision even easier. Plus, I had already been bitten by the travel bug.
The interview was quite easy. I was quite nervous, but it was really like just having a skype call with a friend. Once that was over, the paperwork piles up a bit, but if you do it right away it’s easy and if you have any questions, they’re there for you every step of the way.
Placement was quite easy and with today’s technology, it’s wonderful to look up where you could potentially be going. The Bleu Lion was not actually my first offer it was my second and that is because the first placement was closer to my friend because at this point, I had two friends in England and they were close to each other but when I looked it up it didn’t speak to me. So, I declined and I’m glad I did because I made the best of friends at the Bleu. I don’t think that I would have made as many friends at the other place, but The Bleu had a charm and it was calling me.
I would work with Scotia Personnel again and probably in a new country. I would consider living in another country outside of Canada including the UK. One of my goals is to visit 30 countries and more whether it’s with work opportunities or travel.
I’ve returned to my college for a few events and my teachers have introduced me to their classes as one of their old students explaining I’ve just done a year abroad in England. Some students have asked me questions about it and if they should do it and my answer has always been yes.
Travel is inspiring
If I ever meet someone who was afraid to take the leap, I would say do it. Yes, it might be scary a bit expensive but what you gain as a person is priceless, and the UK is a great location for jumping in and exploring all of Europe. Travel and transportation are years ahead of North America and it is much more affordable.
I’m on this travel group that inspire women to travel by ourselves and to not be afraid, and every month there is the opportunity to send a postcard to two ladies around the world and you sent two. This is what my penpal wrote, “Life is like a book if we don’t travel and explore our life would only be the first page. So, go write a novel.”