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Gregory had a rich career spanning more than thirty years in the catering industry before returning to school. Retired and still looking for new challenges, he decided to join the Wine and Management Programme in 2019. Today as a graduate, he shares with us his experience and proves that it is never too late to live one’s passion.
What did you do before integrating the Wine and Management Programme?
I had a career in the Catering Industry as a Professional Chef for the past 30 plus years, after graduating from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park New York as number one in my class. Our commencement speaker at graduation was none other than Julia Child. During my career I had a track record of working with small high-end catering companies and accompanying them during their growth. The last company I was with did less than One Million in sales when I joined in 2001 and grew to 15 million in the last year that I was there, in 2018. They spread over several brands including restaurants, an Italian pastry shop, several venues as well as off-premise catering. I supervised a team consisting of a Chef de Cuisine, three sous chefs, a pastry Chef, 20 cooks, a team of dishwashers and porters.
What made you want to study wine?
When I began working in restaurants in the 1980s I originally worked as a waiter and I was very interested in Wine at the time. When I made the commitment to pursue a career in the hospitality industry I did not at the time consider studying wine / becoming a sommelier in the United States as an option. After working as a Chef for over thirty years I decided to follow my passion and study wine at the highest level possible. I researched available options around the world and decided the Wine and Management Programme at Le Cordon Bleu Paris was the most suitable for me at this point in my life and career.
What is your favourite memory from your adventure at Le Cordon Bleu Institute in Paris?
Definitely the opportunities we had to experience food and wine pairings prepared by Chefs at Le Cordon Bleu together with wine selections selected by our Sommelier Teachers. To experience the passion and expertise of these professionals working in unison was magical!
What advice would you give to a student who wants to follow the Wine and Management Programme?
My advice first and foremost is to be sure you are fully dedicated to the program, which like a career in this industry, can be very demanding, as there is much to learn and the time. Commitment is so important in order to be successful. My second piece of advice is: network, network, network. Meet everyone you can, engage them, find out what they do and keep in contact, you never know what opportunities await you. Use LinkedIn and the Hosco platform to connect with individuals and prospective employers. Keep this updated and respond as soon as possible to inquiries. Be aware of your presence on social Media, these platforms can be useful to your success but can also work against you depending on what you choose to post. Show up every day in the correct uniform looking like the professional you are. While it only takes a few minutes of preparation to look the part of a professional, it takes years to actually achieve it.
What are your plans for the future?
At this point in my life I am fortunate in that having to work in order to survive and pay my bills is not necessary. I have already had a very successful, rewarding career in terms of both recognition and monetary compensation. I am however a person who likes to stay busy and engaged. At some point I will return to the United States and plan on becoming involved in consulting. With my past experience as a chef with knowledge of restaurants, catering and operations, combined with my wine knowledge and education, I believe there will be a demand for my services. Of course, with the current Global Pandemic it may be a while before there is a demand for such services again.
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