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Culinary Training for Gap Years: George Dyer, Ski Famille

George Dyer is executive chef and area manager with Ski Famille, a family ski holiday specialist with chalets in the French Alps. Here he explains why a ski season is the perfect job opportunity for any chef at the start of their career and why a Leiths qualification puts candidates on the front of the queue.

What kind of roles do you have available?

“We’ve got our chalet chef role; they basically do all the cooking in the chalets – breakfast, kids’ meals and the adults’ three-course evening meals with canapés and drinks. They are in charge of their own kitchen. There’s also a chalet host role which involves serving the food and wine, occasionally helping in the kitchen, also cleaning the common rooms and guest rooms. The resort head chef manages a number of different chalets, oversees the chalet chefs as well as ordering, checking the stocks, the EHO paperwork, and covering any shifts.”

What are you looking for in candidates?

“Not including Covid, this is technically only my second full year of being in this executive chef role for Ski Famille. I’m trying to bring up the quality of food across our chalets. Previously, with a lot of ski holidays, the food’s been fine, but nowadays people want more value for money and a bit more of an experience. I’m trying to ramp up the food and give a more interesting choice on the menu, hence this year we’ve got our head chef role and we want to get more experienced chefs in. If you’ve got someone coming from a cookery school like Leiths – I actually did the foundation a few years ago so I know the standard – they’ll immediately go to the top of the list and will be able to work in any resort they want really. Candidates also need to have interpersonal skills as all of our kitchens are open plan. If they have some management experience, they could also look at applying for the head chef role.”

What is the application process?

“Candidates should get in touch as soon as possible explaining they’re doing the Leiths foundation, so I’ll know they’re applying for the deferred entry from the end of December. We would ask them to come down for an interview, for a test day. If they’re successful, we’ll invite them out for training. Students on the Leiths foundation course would miss that first set of training in November to start later.”

What makes doing a ski season such a great opportunity for a new chef?

“If you’ve done the foundation course, you’ve got your core skills but you’re very much starting off. A ski season gives you an opportunity to get into a kitchen where you can have a bit of leeway, because it’s your kitchen. It’s good for a budding chef because the recipes and menus are not overly complicated and you’re catering for an average 10 to 16 people. Once you’ve got the confidence to do that day in day out, you’ll be able to do whatever you want going forward.”

“We also offer returner benefits. We have about 30, 35 percent returners which we think is very good for a ski company (normally, people will come for their year out then go off to uni and get a different job). I did a ski season as my first real chef job. All our senior management have done ski seasons previously and now their families are getting in on it too. There’s plenty of space to grow.”

Will they have many opportunities to ski?

“Absolutely! They can be skiing every day. On a typical day they should be out by 10am at the latest, then they’ll have the entire day until about 4.30pm. They also get a full day and two half days off. It’s only Saturday, changeover day, which can get a little bit busy but if you’re fully prepped you can have about three- or four-hours’ skiing before the new guests arrive.”

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