Jim Mullholland, owner and head chef of No.14 The Georgian in Comber, is full of praise for the skills he learnt at college when it comes to his kitchen.
His beautiful restaurant, set on the Square in Comber and renowned for contemporary Irish cuisine with an emphasis on local produce, is supporting a new campaign, ‘FE for Me,’ launched by the six regional further education colleges, that celebrates further education in Northern Ireland.
Jim started college in Lisburn following an NVQ Level 1 in Catering in Hospitality at what is now SERC.
Since then he has worked at some of the top restaurants in the country, including Belfast’s Marriott Hotel, where he was hand-picked by Jean-Christophe Novelli for the coveted first executive head chef position.
Jim said: “I loved college. The lecturers were fantastic, and I just soaked it all up.
“They had all worked as chefs, so they knew the standard you needed to reach, and they passed on those classical methods for doing everything, from your basic sauces to vegetable preparation.
“For any dish, you start at those base points, and that was the grounding I got from further education.”
Jim maintains a connection to SERC, where he has lectured and mentored many student chefs in his own kitchens.
He is passionate about the impact further education can have on the individual and mentions another past student of SERC, Rachel Carson, who struggled at school due to dyslexia but shone when she came to SERC, winning awards, including Student Culinarian of the Year at the NI hospitality expo IFEX.
He said: “Had she taken the academic route she would have been lost. She had natural talent and we honed her skills, she became more confident as a person, worked hard, got her qualifications and is now working as a chef in England.”
Jim concluded: “College is very practical and hands-on. The technical knowledge is very high from the students that have come to me through college, and then they all go out and get part-time jobs before they even leave college, gaining that all important on-the-job experience in restaurants and cafes up and down the country.
“If you want a career as a chef, that’s your starting point, that’s the cornerstone of your kitchen.”