For a chef at the very top of his game who has commanded some of Scotland’s top hotel restaurants, Gerry Sharkey might be an unlikely candidate for a return to study. But La Bonne Auberge’s Executive Chef gained a degree in Hospitality Management that gave him two additions to his kitchen armoury.
Firstly, the qualification offered him a route into teaching and mentoring other aspiring chefs. Secondly, the demands of the course would allow him to rid himself of niggling anxieties that sometimes crept into his cooking.
Gerry, 54, who acts as a consultant for the 55-strong chain of Interstate Hotels, said:
“Normally I’m what you’d imagine an executive chef to be like, but sometimes little things could trigger anxiety in me. Doing the degree course was a way for me to get into teaching and get me out of my comfort zone. It helped me with confidence and it helped me to have an audience out-with the kitchen. It helped me to communicate with people at all sorts of levels and it helped me in the role as a consultant to Interstate Hotels. It just added to the skillset that I already had.”
Gerry combined his full-time job with the one-year BA in Hospitality Management offered by one of New College Lanarkshire’s legacy institutions, Motherwell College. On completion, he worked as a part-time lecturer teaching HND students for two years and he continues to keep in touch with many of the chef-lecturers.
“The team at the College is very strong indeed – I can’t speak highly enough about them. They all care very much about the students and I think they care even more when they see students who are really interested. Everybody I came into contact with during the degree was helpful and enthusiastic.”
Since starting out as trainee in the restaurant of the Daly’s department store in Sauchiehall Street, he has gone on to work in a range of hotels and restaurants, including Lodge on Loch Lomond, the Moat House (now Crowne Plaza), the Copthorne (now Millennium) and Parklands Country Club. A key figure at La Bonne Auberge for the last 20 years, he oversees around 110 covers a night at Glasgow’s only French-Mediterranean brasserie, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.
“You don’t get many chefs like me – I do lots of things just because I’m interested and I want to learn and I want to be good at things. Going to college, I learned about strategy, research, people management and customer service – and learning interests me.”
"Doing the degree course was a way for me to get into teaching and get me out of my comfort zone."