Brits Abroad: Archie Maclean, head chef of two Singita lodges in the Kruger National Park, South Afric

25 January 2013
Brits Abroad: Archie Maclean, head chef of two Singita lodges in the Kruger National Park, South Afric

Archie Maclean is head chef of two Singita lodges in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. He tells Janet Harmer his highlights of working overseas include watching the New Year's Eve fireworks in Sydney from a skyscraper

When did you first work overseas and where?

How easy has it been to find different jobs overseas? I have found it quite easy, but I also think I had a bit of luck on my side. The world is getting smaller and the internet is a great tool for finding work anywhere.

Of the different countries you have 
worked in, which ones have provided 
the highlights and which have been more challenging? One of my best memories is of New Year 2007 when I was working at Forty One in Sydney, which is on top of the third largest skyscraper in the city, the Chifley Tower. 
I had a brilliant view of the New Year fireworks over Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Getting to grips with all the different cultures in South Africa has been a challenge, but it is rewarding to see the world from a different perspective.

What does your current job entail? I oversee the food operation at two Singita, Relais & Chateaux five-star lodges, as well as look after our school of cooking, where we have nine students from the local community studying for a nationally accredited chef qualification.

What are the biggest challenges of working at two lodges in the Kruger National Park? Apart from being careful not to be eaten 
by lions on the way to work, the obvious challenges are the logistics and communications. My suppliers deliver twice a week, but it takes the closest one three-and-a-half hours to get here. There is no supermarket nearby to pop round to if something has been forgotten, so I need to be on the ball and anticipate as far ahead as possible. Telephone and fax lines are often not working, but luckily we have our own cellphone tower for emergency calls.

Do you have difficulty sourcing the ingredients you require or recruiting staff? Not really; my suppliers are very helpful. If I need something special and give them enough time they can get me almost anything. Recruiting staff is a universal problem, whether in the city or the bush!

What do you most enjoy about working in South Africa? The weather and the people.

What do you dislike? The lack of decent public transport.

Do you speak the local language? I can speak a little Afrikaans, but the other languages are difficult - maybe a word here or there.

Do you have family with you? All my family are in Scotland. They like to come and visit, but I don't think they will come to live.

Are there financial advantages to working overseas? Being a chef is not the best paid profession in the world. Compared with the UK I think the cost of living in South Africa is lower so you get more for your money.

Is there anywhere else in the world that you would like to work? I have never been to Asia; I would like to work there because it is a whole new world - I think that would be a challenge.

What advice would you give to anyone wishing to work as a chef abroad? Just do it… the hardest part for me was getting on the plane the first time. There is always an excuse not to do it so I say, just go. Working overseas helps you to grow and understand different cultures - I would recommend it to anyone.

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