December 2018

Top of their game alumni return to share journeys with CAM students

Read time: approx 1 mins

The boss of a renowned Latin American casual dining chain, the only fully-certified, female sommelier in Birmingham and the restaurant manager of celebrity haunt The Ivy - three UCB alumni had students on the edge of their seats when they returned to the University to share their exciting journeys. 

Former College of Food students Mos Shamel, Abigail Connolly and Simon Warren were invited back to inspire current students in a series of talks organised by Culinary Arts Management (CAM) lecturer Stuart Stringer, with assistance from hired@UCB’s employability team. 

Mos, CEO of Las Iguanas, who graduated with an HND in Hotel, Catering and Institutional Management, was instrumental in growing the chain from six UK sites to 41 and considers himself “part of the DNA”, while CAM graduate Abigail is one-to-watch after opening her own wine and retail experience bar, Arch 13, in the Jewellery Quarter this year at the age of just 26.

Simon, also a CAM graduate, has just been pronounced a UK Restaurant Manager of the Year 2019 semi-finalist.

Stuart said hundreds of first year CAM students were left excited about their prospects and future career after hearing the talks.

“It was really great to be able to welcome these ex-CAM students back to UCB to inspire the next generation of chefs and hospitality professionals,” he said. “What a was a fantastic experience for the students, to be able to listen to such consummate professionals in this field, the talks helping to bring together their learning experiences and relate them to careers within the industry.” 

True to his roots

Mos graduated from UCB after an invaluable placement as a Cultural Representative for the UK at Florida Disneyland. He joined Las Iguanas in 2004 and is a self-confessed stickler for taking care of his staff, so much so, the chain was hailed one of The Sunday Times’ Best Companies to Work for. 

Student Emma Preisig said: “It was a very valuable experience to have someone from the industry come talk to us, and it was close to home as Mos is a past UCB student. It allowed us to truly see his progression within the industry, gaining amazing experiences and opportunities all over the world, showing and proving that anything is possible with hard work and dedication.”

Fellow student Joshua Neil said: “It was somewhat humbling to hear real stories about real situations that Mos found himself in. It opened my eyes even more, as he didn't hold back on talking about the good and bad areas of his job. It also meant a lot that a man of his stature made the time to come and talk to current students, which helped to ground me. Mos hasn't forgotten his roots and is still true to what he was when he began his career.”

Weakness into strengths

Abigail graduated from UCB in 2015 after working part-time at Michelin-starred Carters of Moseley during her degree, with a year working at Restaurant Romano in Port de Cassis, France, organised by her UCB placement tutor, Tracey Haupt, as an integral part of her course.

Promoted to assistant manager at Carters, she left in 2016 to become general manager at The Humble Pub Company in Moseley, then restaurant and bar manager at The Bluebell. Wanting her own venture, she wrote a business plan and Arch 13 - where you can buy unique wines and pair these great tastes with cheese and meat – was born.

Her key piece of advice during the talk was: “Know your weaknesses and hire staff who have your weaknesses as strengths. You need to surround yourself with the right people.”

Climbing the ivy

Driven from a young age, Simon graduated after a placement in Cyprus with 5* Amathus Hotels. Returning to the UK, he worked at Café Rouge, then BANK in Brindley Place as a waiter, where he served up to 500 covers a night and was promoted to supervisor, then restaurant manager on graduation.

He moved to the acclaimed Tom’s Kitchen as restaurant manager and helped Tom Aikens open his restaurant in The Mailbox, before being made assistant general manager at Gusto in Colmore Row prior to joining The Ivy next door.

His advice to students during his talk was: “It is important to hone your skills, and learn new techniques for your second year of placement. Absorb as much as you can, find out what you want to do and nail that element of the course.”

He also offered some sage advice: “Do not wash your chef whites with any colours. I had a salmon pink outfit for a while.” 

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