Michael John, 34 - who is originally from Porthmadog - started off his career at the college’s Bangor campus, where he spent three years training, successfully completing NVQs at levels 1-3. During his time at the college he also worked part-time in a family-run restaurant in Criccieth called ‘Poachers’.
Through Coleg Menai, he was given the “amazing opportunity” of a trial at Raymond Blanc’s world-renowned hotel Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxford, which has held two Michelin stars for the last 38 years, and is the location where Raymond has helped train over 40 of the country’s top chefs. Michael impressed them so much during the trial, he was offered a permanent position!
Former Ysgol Eifionydd pupil Michael explained more: “I have been at the Manoir for the last 15 years, where I spent a couple of years in the cookery school assisting Raymond Blanc with cookery courses, demonstration events and TV programmes, before moving into the two Michelin star kitchen. I spent over six years in the kitchen before returning back to the Raymond Blanc Cookery School as the head tutor. At the moment, I also work one day a week as development chef for Raymond in his restaurant.”
Michael spoke a little more about his early competition successes whilst at the college and also his fledgling career. “During my time at Coleg Menai I was lucky enough to participate in various competitions”, said Michael. “For example, I entered Chez Dudley (Welsh MasterChef) on S4C, where I finished in the last eight, securing a place in the final and a 10-day trip to the south of France!”
“Also whilst at college, I had trips to Florence and Angers (France), where I stayed with a family and worked in a windmill-turned restaurant. This particular opportunity gave me the most valuable experience of kitchen life and culture.
“I also spent a summer at the Pen y Bryn pub in Colwyn Bay, as well as two months at the Chester Grosvenor Hotel which has one Michelin star. These experiences helped with the practical side of my cooking and I gained valuable experience from what the hospitality industry has to offer. All these fantastic opportunities combined, opened my eyes to all the opportunities that there are in the hospitality industry.”
Michael has returned to Coleg Menai in Bangor on several occasions, “to give something back and try and inspire these chefs of the future”.
He added: “The best advice I could give to any student who wants to become a chef would be to use their spare time whilst at college to work in various establishments, where they can find out what type of culinary style they would like to specialise in. They should also read as much as possible about the industry, and finally be prepared to work really, really hard.”
For more information about courses starting in September at Coleg Menai, visit www.gllm.ac.uk