How I got here

20 January 2005 by
How I got here

Michael McGuinness, 37, has followed a long-term dream, and in 2003 he founded party and events caterer Live Cooking.

"I never realised I'd get this far," he says. "Business is tough, but persevere and you'll get there."

Now living in Cambridge, McGuinness grew up in a politically charged South Africa and became involved with the Roman Catholic church at a young age, eventually

moving to the UK to help the poor in inner London. Eleven years on from becoming involved with the church he realised he had different aspirations and returned to South Africa to consider his next move. Although he had limited real-world skills, McGuinness wanted to explore his interest in food and, having done some research, contacted Anton Mosimann, who took him on as an apprentice at his restaurant in 1996. While there, he started, and went on to gain, a four-year advanced diploma in international culinary arts as well as an NVQ level 4, through Thames Valley University. In 1997 McGuinness moved to the Langham Hilton hotel as a commis and later chef de partie, and found the lads-together culture a shock. "Working in the kitchen there certainly toughened me up," he recalls. In 1998 he arrived at 1 Lombard Street, a Michelin-starred restaurant headed by chef Herbert Berger. Although it was a five-day week (the restaurant served the City of London and was closed at weekends), the shifts were long and he became worn out. To recover, he moved out of the restaurant industry and joined Neal's Yard Dairy in London's Covent Garden in 1999. While there he learnt about cheeses and had his first taste of book-keeping. "For the first time I saw more than just cooking, getting involved with the money and ordering side of business," he says. Having made the effort to keep in touch with friends from previous employment, McGuinness was convinced to return to catering in 2000 when several of them moved to a new London restaurant, Axis, in Gordon Campbell Gray's respected One Aldwych hotel. Having started as demi-chef de partie, he worked his way up to chef de partie, adding the polish to his skills that encouraged him to strike out alone. McGuinness misses the togetherness of working in a kitchen brigade but has taken great satisfaction in looking after all the requirements of his event catering business, not least the ability to be involved in producing all the food from starters to desserts. Live Cooking handles everything from dinner parties to 80-head events, with McGuinness on hand to see everything through, from designing the menu to purchasing the produce and cooking the dishes. Additional manpower, when needed, comes from previous work colleagues. "The most important things I've learnt are knowing your limits and thanking your suppliers," he says. "Sending suppliers a good bottle of wine works wonders." Career highlights 1996 Joins Mosimann's as apprentice 1997 Works at Langham Hilton 2000 Returns to restaurants at Axis 2003 Founds own company, Live Cooking
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