Port O’Call’s revitalized internship programme has attracted six locals to trainee positions at the Front Street restaurant. They came for different reasons, but all with a view to further their knowledge of fine cuisine and the skills to serve it.
The three back-of-house trainees work in the kitchen under the direction of the head chef, while the front-of-house trio answer to the maitre ‘d on the floor.
Manager-in-training, Keegan Stirling studied hotel restaurant management. He graduated from Niagara College in June 2009 and came home to the same restaurant at which he’d worked between school years.
“They put me in the kitchen… but that’s not what I wanted to do,” Mr. Stirling said. “I wanted to be in a managerial position.”
Port O’Call’s owner learned about him through a colleague, Mr. Stirling was offered a server’s position and two weeks later, managerial training.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity, just for the experience, because a lot of the industry is based on experience and knowledge of what the restaurant produces. I’ve been doing serving and waiting. I’ve bartended. I’ve done some inventory.”
The young manager-to-be will also work out of the office where he’ll be exposed to marketing and event planning, accounting and product ordering, according to Jamie Lovell, Port O’Call’s marketing director and event planner. A greater familiarization with spirits, wines and foods will follow.
“I will potentially like to open my own business,” Mr. Stirling said. “I am only 22-years-old. I think it’s a great start. I met a lot of new and interesting people that have a lot of knowledge in the industry. I believe they can teach me a lot more.”
“We see him going much further,” Mr. Lovell said.
Andrew Fox’s story is somewhat similar. Mr. Fox had worked elsewhere with Port O’Call head chef, Andrew Larkin.
Mr. Larkin called to ask if he would be interested in working at the Front Street restaurant.
Mr. Lovell noted: “The head pastry chef left the island. We knew of (Mr. Fox’s) potential talent, and instead of bringing in another pastry chef, we looked at training him to become a head pastry chef.”
The pastry chef-in-training admitted: “It was a little overwhelming at first, to be honest with you, but it gets a little easier every day.”
Trainee server, Maceo Walls has worked with the Port O’Call group since a 17-year-old summer student.
“Oh, man, I really enjoy it,” Mr. Walls said. “I love to interact with the people, meeting new people. It’s different every day, a different challenge, different way of getting past that challenge. I like the different personalities that I work with also. I work with a largely diverse group of people, and I enjoy that. Culturally, the executive chef is South African. We have a Filipino chef also, Sri Lankan. You learn so much from these different personalities. We have some Indian guys and one Hungarian guy.”
“Maceo can definitely be a manager with his positive attitude and his intelligence,” Mr. Lovell noted.
Chef de partie-in-training Shannin Tannock is studying at the Bermuda College for an associates degree in culinary arts. The 12-week internship at Port O’Call is part of his course requirement.
“I want to become an executive chef,” Mr. Tannock said. “…I enjoy it [here] because I get to experiment a little bit. So far during this internship, I’ve been in the cold kitchen working with pastries and salads. For one of the salads I made recently for Bistro J, I did grilled watermelon with ‘mesculine’ greens, shredded carrots, crumbled feta cheese and lemon vinaigrette.”
‘Mesculine,’ according to manager, Karl Massan is a French word for baby greens.
Mr. Tannock continued: “During the process, I get assessed by the executive chef… because this is a graded programme. I get assessed through my uniform and cleanliness, how clean is my work station, my speed and my performance.”
Noting the trainee’s daily creation of salads using quality items properly blended, Mr. Lovell said: “If he would like to come back after school, we would welcome him.”
Shay-Juan Bascome, who in the fall will begin his third-year classes at Bermuda College, is working as a server’s assistant, or ‘food runner’.
A food runner is someone who helps bring food to the tables.
Mr. Lovell said: “In order to train him about the different cuisines, table settings and presentation, we have him take out the food and present it to the guest.”
But Mr. Bascome is between decisions.
“I would like to become a teacher some day,” he said. “This is just a pit stop for me… I think of being a waiter as being a hobby, and I kind of enjoy it. I like people… There’s a little tiny part of me that wants to do it, be a waiter, but being a teacher has been my childhood dream.”
History attracts the young server, and if that wins over waiting tables, Mr. Bascome admits to still being uncertain if he will first complete an associate’s degree at the college, or immediately head overseas.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said.
Mr. Lovell added: “Hopefully he stays with us throughout his school term.”
Dakia O’Brien is the sixth member of the Port O’Call trainee group. According to Mr. Lovell, she is training to be a sous chef, which is just beneath the executive chef and interchangeable with chef-de-partie.
This position allows the individual to do everything in the kitchen.
“He [or she] can do pastry, salads, cook and even design,” Mr. Lovell said. “… Dakia O’Brien is a vital part to this team. She is playing an important role right now in the kitchen.”
How these all-Bermudian junior staff members fare in future depends upon the choices they make.
For now, level-headedness, good attitude and teamwork appear to be leading them to excel within the opportunistic circle provided them by Port O’Call Restaurant, a foundation that should support and encourage their development in other areas, as well.