Experiencing the field …

Gaining experience in the field is the first step in learning the ropes.
During my time in school, I started to work during the weekends in the bakery down the street and I helped in the banquet hall in town when they had large wedding parties.
I wanted to submerge myself as much as possible in the industry.

Internships were also included during the culinary art program.
So my first year, I interned in a gastronomic restaurant in Spain in the kitchen. I was in charge of the preparations of vegetables and fish and during the service, all of the desserts came from my station.

Being away from home for 6 weeks in a country where I didn’t speak the language was my first big test. But nomads will always find a way.

Luckily enough, the restaurant was owned by a very European family. The patron came from Belgium, his wife from The Netherlands. Their son ran the kitchen and was married to an Italian lady. Imagine the amount of different languages we could use in 1 sentence!

My second internship was in a Michelin star restaurant closely by my home town.
My knowledge of the front of house had to level up to keep up. Michelin star restaurants are being held to very high standards and consistency is key.

I discovered that I thrive better in high quality environments.
No wonder I requested my sommelier internship in De Karmeliet, a 3 Michelin star restaurant with one of the most impressive wine lists I had ever seen!
I was beyond excited to see they had ‘my wine’ Meursault Perrieres by Coche Dury!
If only we could sell one bottle … I would be able to taste it!

I had shared my obsession about this bottle and it turned out that my prayers were being heard!
So one night, it was a Saturday, I was in charge of the small dining area, Benoit, the head sommelier, came to me:
‘Ann, I have a surprise for you downstairs in the wine cellar. I’ll take care of your section for a second. Go and let me know what you think about it.”

And there is was, a glass of wine with a little bit of Meursault Perrieres from Coche Dury.
I was surrounded by around 500 bottles of wine, all of the best in the world, sipping the wine that represented the point it all started for me.
My hospitality fire inside lit up and created a memory nobody ever could erase!

Xo – Ann

The graduate …

When I graduated from school, our principal gave a speech.
I was too excited to celebrate but 1 line I will always remember:

‘Now that you’ve studied 4 years of hospitality and culinary art, keep in mind you don’t know anything. We taught you how to read a recipe. Now go out and learn how to make the recipe, use it daily to refine it so that one day, you can create your own recipe.’

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about that speech. You can learn something new every day. Be humble, be curious, start as the student to become the master. But even then, there is always something that I didn’t know before.
Ask to listen, listen to learn, not to respond.

I have learned so much during my school time.
Not only the basics of the industry but also the art of learning.
The goal to become the master is a never ending journey.
The knowledge I gathered, I share with my team every day to make them better, to help them see the beauty of the industry.

In reverse, I learned about their culture, their language, their dreams, struggles and personal goals.
I can honestly say that my team shaped me into the person I am today and the way how I managed my restaurant.

And for that, I am eternally grateful!

Xo – Ann

Becoming the student …

And so it went on … I was going to learn about the restaurant industry in one of the major hospitality schools in Belgium:
Hotel and Tourism School Spermalie in Bruges.

Since the school was about 1 hour away from my home town, my parents sent me off to their boarding school.

Want to know how to create a routine? Boarding school.
Or how to decide what to wear every day? Strict uniform policy takes care of that.
How to serve guests and how to behave like a guest yourself? Daily meals in the school restaurants.

It all sounds like a military drill but to be honest, I would do it all over again and most likely send my kids too.
Besides all the ins and outs of the industry, I also gained major life experience.
Some of them are still in use today.

“I still need to hear the story about that super model that was discovered in her yoga pants!” Yep, teachers can be very persuasive when it comes to uniform standards!

They say your time is school is the best time of your life …
I wouldn’t call it that way, but I sure am cheering for their education program!

Xo – Ann

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