Jonathan Simister, chef de partie, Merrill Lynch

24 November 2005
Jonathan Simister, chef de partie, Merrill Lynch

Jonathan Simister, 21
What? Chef de partie
Where? Merrill Lynch, in London
Which company? Restaurant Associates

What's your training background? I studied at Bournemouth & Poole College and started my contract catering training with Restaurant Associates at Tower 42, under Jeremy Ford, when I was 16. I've also trained at one of our investment bank clients.

Tell us more about your training It was three years in total, broken up into four months in college, one year in the industry, then back to college for three months, returning to London and working for a year and then a final three months at college, where we completed a six-hour practical exam. The qualifications I received are NVQ levels 1, 2 and 3 in food preparation and cookery, p‰tisserie; confectionery, food and drink service; and hygiene in the kitchen.

Career highlight so far? I entered the Roger Naylor Chef Competition and ended up winning. It entailed cooking a three-course plus canapŽ dinner for four covers using only British produce. Albert Roux was the overall judge.

What are the advantages of training in a contract catering company? If you work at it you can advance to an influential role in contract catering in half the time you would in the hotel and restaurant industry - and still have a good deal of time to enjoy a life outside work. Contract catering is on the rise. We work with the best chefs and use top-quality ingredients. We also work with clients to tailor our service to meet their style of business.

Do your clients have different expectations from hotel or restaurant clients? No. Both are pushing to achieve the highest quality cuisine, sourcing the best possible ingredients, demonstrating creativity and flair and being a team player.

Are you still given regular training? Of course - maybe even more than I would get in hotels and restaurants, as a lot of our catering is bespoke. It's great as it provides constant opportunities to upgrade your skills while still working. I've just enrolled in the Triple A course, which is designed to test those with NVQs.

What skills would you say are imperative today for a contract caterer? To be able to cater for a multitude of different styles. It's not just about having to produce ˆ la carte service. I'll get involved with canapŽs, buffets, tapas, summer spit roast functions and chef's table, where you cook in front of the guests seated at the kitchen area.

What experience have you gained specifically through contract catering? The invaluable skill of being able to converse comfortably with clientele to ensure they get the best possible results. It's a lot more personal than working in hotels or restaurants where all you do is send food out from the kitchen.

Restaurant Associates is part of Compass Group. Contact 01932 573 000 or log on to

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