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My name is Kirsty Thomas, and I am Restaurant Manager at The Samling Hotel in Windermere.
I began at Kendal College on the Level 2 Diploma in Professional Cookery; I did this for one year and then went on to my second year and did the NVQ3 in Hospitality Leadership and Supervision. I loved college! Maybe that’s a little geeky to say, but it was probably 2 of the best years of my early life. Leaving school was a big decision, and it took a lot to think about, but once I started college it just felt so much better, you were treated more like an individual, and you were taught to think for yourself and look after yourself. It made me much more of an individual and how to have my voice and hear it. The tutors and peers really pushed each other to get the most out of what we were doing in our spare time, and also maybe compete a little against each other! I was lucky enough to be part of the Culinary Team in college and travel to Dubai, what a fantastic experience and a tremendous way to finish two great years. That opened my eyes more to the outside world and also to what other countries had to offer for our industry.
After college, I started out in a part-time job at The Punch Bowl at Crosthwaite, leaving there to take a full-time position at Linthwaite House as a commis, progressing to Chef de Rang and then Supervisor, I then took a big step to The Samling, working hard and learning about cooking styles and progressing my menu knowledge and was part of the team that won the Michelin star for the 2015 guide. After making the design that I wanted to progress further and be a little more independent, I decided that I would need to move away from the lakes and really push myself. I moved to Surrey to a large hotel called Pennyhill Park. There I worked at 2 Michelin star restaurant Michael Wignall at the Latymer. This is where I feel that I learnt a lot about myself and my knowledge progressed to another level from all the different ingredients and styles that we used. I started as a Chef de Rang and was quickly promoted to Junior Head Waiter. This was a challenging yet exciting move for me, and I feel like I learnt a great deal here we maintained the 2 Stars in the two years I worked there. On a personal note, I also met a lot of my long-term friends here. After this I moved to Devon the 2 Michelin Star Gidliegh Park, this was also with Michael Wignall, I took the step into Assistant Restaurant Manager, which was a lot more responsibility and again working closely with the Restaurant Manager and Chef to make sure the service was run smoothly and efficiently. After leaving Gidleigh Park I moved to Moor Hall in Ormskirk, this was a new opening, something that I had never done before, so to be part of an opening team is something that is worth going for, as starting training and learning about the style and food before you have any guests is weird but makes you think about the back details and how to get the best out of the service. Here we worked to win a Michelin star within six months of opening. I left here as the opportunity to come back to the Samling appeared, and also to work with Pete Howarth who I had met initially at The Punch Bowl but went on to work with him at Linthwaite, the Latymer and also Gidleigh. The opportunity to work with someone like Pete again, I couldn’t say no. His style of food is exceptional, and I believe in him and his style a great deal, which is what you need when taking the plunge to work closely with him and the team he was bringing. I would start as Assistant Restaurant Manager, so getting to know the style of everything and also having my little input into certain things, working with them at the time restaurant manager to nurture and grow the team which was in place. I have just been promoted to Restaurant Manager, which will be a challenge but a challenge I am ready to take on.
There have been a few people who have inspired me, but the first was my college tutor, as he had experience from Michelin and also restaurant management, so was a tool which I could use for advice and begin my knowledge base, moving to a few of the hotels. If you're going to get far in this industry, you have to not be afraid to work hard, get your head down and concentrate on all the positives you want to get from your career in the long term.