Bill Brogan FIH embarked on his journey in the hospitality industry at a very young age. Through 35 years of membership with us, he has demonstrated a commitment to his professional development. We caught up with him to discuss his career insights, what makes the industry attractive, and what happens on his typical day at work.
You are currently working as Catering and Conference Manager at St John’s College, Cambridge. How long have you been doing this role?
Since January 2005. There was a lot to change when I came to the college, from staffing, the food offer, service aspects, budgets, to make it in line with expectations from an internationally renowned university.
What do you love most about your current job?
The diversity of people I work with, from Students, Fellows/ Academics/ Politicians, Royalty, in a totally forward thinking environment in wonderful surroundings. It’s also wonderful to see the students develop and many come back and see us once they have left.
What’s been your biggest achievement since working in the industry?
Seeing the people that you nurture go on and have great careers, working in Japan with P&O with a great team in a wonderful food culture, winning many awards over the years and trying to stay ahead, not just settling for second best.
What is the biggest challenge the hospitality industry is facing?
Standards seem to be going down and becoming the norm, along with recruitment of staff, which is even more difficult in Cambridge due to the high cost of living.
Describe a typical day at work.
Normally I get into the office around 07:30, I check the areas, talk to the staff and sort out emails, then attend meetings during the morning. At lunchtime check all service areas and outside functions, and we may also have some conference lunches ongoing during the Easter and summer vacations. In the afternoons, team meeting with staff, strategic planning, meetings and then watching the start of evening service. I normally leave work around 19:30-20:00, but later if an important dinner is taking place.
If you were to describe this industry to someone leaving school, how would you sell it?
It is a creative industry where you can make people very happy and you can travel the world during your career. It is a career where you can keep learning.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in hospitality?
It is a wonderful career, very diverse, making customers happy, you can travel, you can achieve promotion, you can learn new and different skills all the time.
Who has inspired you the most during your career so far?
Ramon Parajes, who was General Manager during the time I worked at the Four Seasons Hotel in London. Mike O’Hare and Geoff Chalkley from ICI Catering, so far ahead. Pierre Koffmann, one of the greatest chefs. Graham Wilkinson, Principle of Kendal College, runs a stunning college. John Mann ex Dorchester Hotel taught me the art of cooking at a high level. The chefs at the Eastgate Hotel in Lincoln when I started cooking there on weekends at the age of 12. Trevor Stone site Catering Manager at Astra Zeneca, Alderley Edge. Rene Redzepi from Noma, and the Troigros brothers in Roanne France where I went for a week.
You are a member of the Institute of Hospitality, which elements of the membership do you use the most?
Networking, reading the magazine, and the actual qualifications. They are a benchmark, and we have used them for training some of our staff.
Tell us three personality traits you need to succeed in hospitality.
Good humour, be flexible and be willing to learn, you can keep learning new ideas every day.