GMIT — a tour of the hospitality and culinary arts department

I had often wondered just how big our local college of catering is, so with the help of Robert Dagger, head of the hospitality and catering arts, I was given the ‘tour’. I also met Gerry Talbot, head of hotel and tourism management. These two departments are what make up the school of approximately 900 students and 40 staff who are partaking in the many courses that the hospitality and tourism industry world require. I use the word ‘world’ as the skills are extremely portable and equally applicable in any corner of the globe. Many graduates occupy some of the highest posts around the world in hotel management and as executive chefs.

GMIT is the only IT which has its own catering department. Other IT colleges that have catering courses do so as part of another department. What types of courses do they run? Well a short summary is as follows: Higher certificate in hotel management, higher certificate in bar supervision, higher certificate in tourism, higher certificate in hospitality studies, higher certificate in culinary arts.

You can move on to a BA in these areas plus others. There is also a BA honours degree for those wishing to broaden their horizons or possibly teach. There are many courses for mature students from either within or without the industry.

The tour with Robert Dagger was fascinating. The department is run with military precision and the emphasis seems to be on making the whole experience as close as possible to running a food business. The department is also a very large purchaser of goods in the area as every day sees several kitchens running full blast with students cooking meals at every level you can imagine. During the tour I spotted some of the exhibition pieces that have won many gold medals for the teaching staff; their butter sculptures and icing creations are stunning.

Many of the students are required to work in industry for 12 weeks so if you have a business that could use this facility, usually at your busiest time in June, July, and August, and are not already in contact with GMIT it might be something worth exploring.

While I was having the tour, we were able to observe an external examiner marking the final year BA in culinary arts practical exam. There were several large trays set out with epicurean delights that one only dreams about, eg, a seared galantine of quail with a duck foie gras flavoured with black winter truffles, pate en-croute of guinea fowl with apricot and pistachio, and a jelly of duck with forest mushrooms and Gran Marnier.

As the examiner had just finished sampling some of the dishes I was treated to a few small samples, absolutely delicious — the detail, the care, the balance of flavours, and all while under the pressure of an exam and a time clock. Still, the real world is absolutely no different, the customers are the external examiners and the clock is there for every single dish that a chef cooks.

If you are someone who has worked in the industry but has no formal certificates you may qualify for a process known as recognition of prior learning (RPL ). If so, and you would like to get some formal qualifications, you may be able to get an exception from certain studies due to your practical experience to date. During a recession it can sometimes be a good idea to be a student, especially if there is no employment in sight. For details of any of the courses contact Clare Gavin or Mary O’Dea at (091 ) 742343.

• Two notes for your eating out diary are: Sheridan’s on the docks has brought back its pre-theatre dinner offer, three courses for €25, which is available Tuesday to Saturday between 6pm and 7pm.

• KC Blake’s restaurant has just introduced BYOB (bring your own bottle ) for only €8. This is one of my favourite enticements when choosing a restaurant; almost everyone has a bottle of something special in the press, waiting for the right time to open it. The perfect thing to do is bring it to KC Blake’s and you can splash out on the meal as the wine bill will only be €8.

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