Elaine McCarthy was born and raised in Ireland. After completing her Higher National Diploma in Professional Culinary Arts, Elaine secured positions both as chefs and as restaurant manager for a variety of establishments including Michelin-starred restaurants as well as 5 star hotels.
Elaine’s holistic experience in both front and back of house operations and experience across Ireland, UK, America and France inspired her to set up her own restaurant and wine bar back in Ireland that she ran for 8 years.
After many years of successful business, Elaine’s passion for education saw her move to a prestigious Swiss Hospitality School where she ran the culinary programmes across two campuses. During this time, she also achieved a master of science degree in Food Product Development.
Elaine is a fully qualified teacher and joined Le Cordon Bleu London teaching team in 2013.
When did you realise that hospitality management was the right route for you?
I was about 15 years old and I got a job in a restaurant. I absolutely loved working around food and I really enjoyed the pace. As soon as I worked there I knew I wanted to train as a chef.
Can you tell us one of the most memorable moments in your career to date?
I think setting up my own restaurant was a massive landmark. It was challenging, yet exciting, and I was self employed so I was in charge of my own recipes and menu design.
How did you find the experience of opening your own business?
It’s challenging but in a positive way. All the people around me were so supportive. Of course some things went wrong, but running a restaurant with a great team is very rewarding. New opportunities are also always coming along so it’s nice to share the development with the people you’ve picked to join you on your journey, I was especially lucky that my team stayed with me for a long time.
It’s an exhilarating and exciting industry, and there are always new ideas and innovations to explore every day.
Describe to us what a day is like when you own your own business?
Well let’s put it this way, running your own food business is a lifestyle choice, it becomes a part of who you are. The day starts early from 7am to collect deliveries and prepare for service. But in-between that comes a numerous amount of tasks like: answering marketing questions, visiting the accountant, training staff and chefs, as well as managing the front of house. It really is a multidisciplinary role. You need to be able to communicate with customers, be creative, leave some down time to catch up on paperwork but after all those tasks you have service, and that is so exciting!
If you can you should have all of your team sit down for dinner before evening service as it’s great for team building! You wouldn’t normally leave until around 12pm, and if you are like me you’ll be involved in every part of the business. It’s an exhilarating and exciting industry, and there are always new ideas and innovations to explore every day.
What do you think the industry is looking for in a person today?
You need to be open minded, yet skilled in different areas. Ideally you would have some marketing knowledge, understand the service of food, be a good money manager and have a good understanding of food science – the new trends and nutrition.
Ultimately the industry is keen for people who are creative and passionate. Our Diploma in Culinary Management helps students discover their own creative style, and we encourage them to learn skills from as many people as possible, gain as much experience as you can and soak it all in. The best businesses I’ve seen have been created by people that use their own background as inspiration, yet gather everything they’ve learnt and use it to create a really special business, and it’s usually those that make it all the way.