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Brits abroad: Tom Hannah

10 April 2015
Brits abroad: Tom Hannah

Tom Hannah works in guest services at the nine-bedroom Azur Lodge beside lake Wakatipu in New Zealand. He tells Janet Harmer why the culture and ice-cream make the country a wonderful place to work

What attracted you to live and work in New Zealand, in 2013?

I was looking for my next step, having been at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire for
five years, and wasn't quite sure which path to follow. My grandparents had travelled extensively
in New Zealand and always spoke so highly about the country that I wanted to see it for myself.

How did you find your first role in New Zealand?

I used Relais & Châteaux as a benchmark to identify the properties I might like to work in, then
ran the options past a Kiwi chef who I worked with at Le Manoir and we whittled the list down.
I contacted my first choice directly and, after a couple of Skype interviews, I was offered a position.

Was it difficult to obtain a visa?

No, it was all done online and was very quick and straightforward. The only costly aspect was the medical examination, which you need to enable you to extend from a one-year to a two-year Working
Holiday Visa.

Describe the style and setting of Azur Lodge

Azur is a small luxury boutique lodge, with just nine villas, nestled on a hillside overlooking the lake and mountains. We are five minutes' drive from the centre of Queenstown in the southern part of the South Island. Azur aims to provide the highest level of service with a relaxed feel, which is well suited to the fact that the majority of our guests are here on holiday.

What does your current job entail?

My role includes overseeing day-to-day operations, assisting in the kitchen, looking after guests and

Why did you decide to move from the kitchen to front of house (in 2012 when working at Le Manoir)?

I was incredibly fortunate that I had multiple mentors: Raymond Blanc, Philip Newman-Hall, Gary
Jones, Andrew Foulkes and Dave Watts, to name a few, who saw something in me and pushed me
to achieve my best. They encouraged me to explore all aspects of the kitchen, which allowed me to
acquire management and organisational skills and then apply them to a front of house role. The
HR team put together an extensive cross-training plan for me, and it all went from there.

What are the key challenges of your current job?

The weather, for sure! Queenstown is the adventure capital and so many activities rely on good weather, and although we'd love to ensure all of our guests get to do everything they've set their hearts on, sometimes Mother Nature just doesn't want to play ball.

What are the best aspects of living and working in New Zealand?

The scenery, the culture, the wildlife, the people, the friendliness, the pride everyone has for the country, the countless activities that are on the doorstep, the cost of petrol, hokey pokey ice-cream -
there are too many to list!

And the worst?

You can't just 'pop back' to the UK on days off to catch up with friends and family.

Have you come across many other British employees working in hospitality in New Zealand?

Yes, plenty. However, the nice thing is that there are lots of other nationalities here as well, so before you know it you've made a network of friends and associates from around the world.

Is it easy for the British to obtain jobs in hospitality in New Zealand?

Yes - but the availability of jobs is dictated by the area.

Are there financial benefits to working in New Zealand?

Generally the cost of living is lower than in the UK. However, presumably due to the buying power of a country with just four-and-a-half million residents, the cost of imported food can be higher than it would be in the UK.

How long do you intend to remain in New Zealand, and do you intend to work in the UK?

Although Azur has offered to sponsor me to stay out here, the plan is to return to the UK in June this year as my visa comes to an end. I'll spend some time with my family and begin the search for the right job and go from there.

CV

2014-present Guest services, Azur Lodge, Queenstown, New Zealand

2013-14 Duty manager, the Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

2008-13 Commis chef, demi chef de partie, kitchen manager, then guest relations manager, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire

2004-08 First-class BA (Hons) degree in culinary arts management, University College Birmingham

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