Patrick Clarke, Ecole Hotelier de Lausanne
If the will is there, the way will follow. I am referring here of course to myself, and my determination to make it!
Born in 1951, finishing my basic education in Cardiff, at 16 years of age I had no idea what the next step would be! Should I study or should I work?! There was one pastime which did interest me however and that was travelling and eating well.
As a child I spend many long summer holidays in France as luckily we had relatives there. As one knows the French enjoy their food and have the odd glass of wine to go with it, and why not! After spending those memorable holidays in France it paid off. I sort of picked up the language and really started to appreciate good food and at a later date the all important wine. Maybe it was not so much food fare which I enjoyed but more so the fantastic vibrant atmosphere sitting around the table which went with it.
Due to my interest in food and what went with it, I sat down with my parents to have a good talk about my future. Amongst many, the Catering College in Colchester Avenue was mentioned, possibly to obtain a City and Guild course in Hotel management; and that is how it all started. After leaving college I was however still not convinced that the Hotel industry was for me. Only one way to find out was to try it! So off I went.
My first full time job was at the well renowned Angel Hotel in Cardiff, which in those days was one of the few 5 star hotels in Wales, where I worked as a commi chef in the pastry kitchen. Like most areas of the food industry the hours were long and unsocial which was a big negative for me. I had many a discussion with the head chef, who kept on encouraging me to keep up the good work! Telling me that it might be tough to start with, but the benefits will be well worth it later in life, he actually often talked about this famous Hotel school in Switzerland which really meant nothing to me at the time. Anyway after all his good words, I still had my doubts about the industry!
At this stage of my life, I had a lot of thinking to do. At the back of my mind I decided that maybe I should set some goals in my professional life. One of the thoughts which excited me most was to get into teaching, as to escape working those long nights and week-ends and live a normal life! Who knows I dreamt I could teach at that posh Hotel School in Switzerland which I kept hearing more and more about. This I thought would never happen, but still remained a distant dream.
After much thought and reflection from advice I had received, I made the big move to London, which for some reason in those days was a thousand miles away from Cardiff. Looking back that move was probably one of the best in my life! I worked at a hotel called in those days the Great Western Royal (which I believe is now Hilton) which was actually the first hotel you come to as one leaves Paddington station. This was a great experience but tough! I worked in the main kitchen for a while, but eventually was moved to the pastry kitchen which I did not mind in the least! That was the moment that I felt working in the pastry kitchen was the area I enjoyed and excelled most, also my chef told me I was a born pastry chef!
I was now starting to feel ambitious and realized that I should continue to work in a top 5 star hotel. This is when I moved to the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane, the hotel was pure class; needless to say it was very hard work but looking back probably one of the best challenging moves of my life. That is when I first met Mr.Mosimann, who was, and still is a top personality and a great chef, whom I learned a lot from, especially his Swiss management skills.
My next big step in was to leave the UK, to broaden my horizon as they say. I was told many times by my past mentors that if you want to get to the top of the culinary ladder and succeed, go to the continent preferably to France or Switzerland and aim for the top.
Switzerland was where I ended up! With French and German widely spoken, I was now being really challenged to learn German/ brush up on my French and learn the finer continental culinary ways of doing things.
Over the years still living in Switzerland and working myself up from commi-chef to a chef de partie was not easy at times, however if you have the right mind set and determination all is possible. Working in many fine establishments throughout Switzerland, I still had this ambition to teach at the top! And felt that I was going in the right direction, and my dream maybe was not so far away!
The moment had arrived! The Ecole Hotelier de Lausanne (EHL) was looking for a lecturer to teach the Culinary Arts Pastry Professor .I could not believe it! I applied, went through a few rigorous interview sessions and was finally accepted. I was very proud of myself. After all those years of hard work it had all paid off, goal scored!
I have now been teaching for 12 years at the EHL, where I teach the Culinary Arts in English and French. The teaching standards are very high and challenging for both teacher and student, which needless to say, is what one expects of a school of this reputation.
Reflecting back on my past, it was not always an easy ride, it never is! I really did have to put my mind down to it and work hard to get to where I am today. When one does reach the top it’s very rewarding not just financially, but in my case just fulfilling that dream of ending up at the EHL, which without sounding pig headed is a great achievement and am very proud of.
Patrick B Clarke, Lausanne, 10/06/2011