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How I got here

23 November 2004
How I got here

Mark Parfait, 30, firmly believes that relevant work experience carries more weight with employers, and is of more use personally, than solely classroom-based learning.

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His view has been shaped by personal experience, which saw him condense his first year of tuition at Brunel University's catering department into four days a week so he could work the fifth in a local restaurant. Having got a taste for it, the City & Guilds qualified chef then opted to spend his second year on day release, working four days a week at the Michelin-starred Priory hotel in Bath. "I learnt in three months of working in a kitchen what I would have done in two years of college - although the standard of college education is much higher now," says Parfait. Logically, when it comes to recruitment, Parfait will often look for an individual's workplace experience rather than just their qualifications. "I think without doubt my work experience helped me get ahead," says Parfait. "I was already chef de partie by the time I finished college, and didn't have to start as a commis chef as some of my peers did." In 1997 Parfait went on a working tour of Asia, also working as sous chef at the Park Royal hotel in Wellington, New Zealand, and at the Sheraton Royal Wentworth hotel, Australia. On his return to Britain, having experienced the fusion food revolution in the Pacific Rim, Parfait became hospitality head chef at contract caterer Avenance in charge of seven dining rooms at the Swiss Re group in London. Promotion followed in 2001, to group head chef in charge of three London sites. Last year he became development chef, city, at the company, a move made in part because of Avenance's growth and the need to maintain consistently high standards across contracts. "I'd certainly recommend any college leavers to look at a career in contract catering, as the standards in the sector have improved dramatically," says Parfait. "Another advantage is that contract caterers are big on training and have the time and resources at their disposal that smaller, independently owned restaurants don't have." Although hours in contract catering mirror those of the client, and are therefore typically office hours, Parfait remains extremely busy because of his role as chairman of the London Chefs Forum and the time spent on organising the company's Chef of the Year and Grand Prix competitions. "My advice is to make the most of any situation. Jump at any opportunities that present themselves, and don't let them pass you by," says Parfait. Career highlights 1998 Joins Avenance as hospitality head chef 2001 Becomes group head chef 2003 Assumes the role of development chef, city
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