A former hospitality student shares his career journey since studying here
We have incredible students who go on to create fantastic careers for themselves. Ryan Caston is a great example of that!
We caught up with Ryan to ask him a few questions from studying at MidKent College to finding the job that he loves!
What programme did you take at College and what did you do after you left?
I took an interest in food from a young age from my great grandmother and aunt who loved to bake and cook. I took on a Saturday job at the local fishmongers just to get a feel for food preparation, I thought it would give me the upper hand in the kitchen! Through that, I got my first kitchen porter job at The Barn Restaurant which was on Lower Rainham Road (now Sundar Rachana) where I learned a lot of skills from Joe Rozier (now head chef of The Mariners in Rock and Damon Dalmedo of The Ship Inn, Conyer). Leaving school with all my necessary qualifications I was excited to get into College and study food! I studied for a VRQ Diploma in Professional Cookery before accepting a job offer in the south of France.
France was tough. Being miles away from home, just turned 18 in a French kitchen, and knowing little more than "Happy Birthday" in the native tongue. I spent eight months in the Côte D’Azur before I came back home and took a more senior role back at The Barn. I’d lost that spark somewhere in France and I wasn’t sure if the kitchen was still where I wanted to be. I loved the buzz of a restaurant. I loved being busy and I still loved my food, my cheese, and my wine! So I explored other avenues, for a few months I researched training to become a sommelier, then realised I wanted to be more hands-on (I’ve never been very good at sitting in a classroom). This led me to the role I am in now.
What is your current role and what things do you get up to?
Now I’m back to where my food journey started, The Fishmongers. My current role is manager of Hales & Moore Fishmongers. Along with the tasks of retail, face-to-face interactions with customers, and basic maths skills (luckily for me!), there is a lot of preparation and portion control involved for many restaurants, colleges, pubs, nursing homes as well as customers. You need to have speed in your work but also care about the product to ensure maximum yield is taken from the product. Since starting seven years ago, I have created another job role for myself as a social media manager. I have grown our social media platform from the ground up into nearly 3,000 followers with a website, some would say too good for a little fishmonger!
What skills did you learn at MidKent College?
College taught me quite a few skills. I had a basic knowledge of food preparation which was aided by the intricate exams we were tested with. Food hygiene was a vital tool. Most of all College taught me patience and understanding. You’re not going to be at the same level as everyone on your programme and that’s okay. Not everyone is going to be on your level, that’s okay too. Life in a kitchen or in any tight-knit group that has to work together to achieve high quality, high standard, and the professional end product is a team effort. You are only ever as good as your weakest member, so it’s important to slow up sometimes to make sure everyone is getting the maximum yield from their product.
If you had any advice for someone thinking about a career in catering, what would you say?
When you’re thinking of your career in hospitality and catering remember that you are going to be working for a long time. Branch out and do your research, not all jobs in catering are in a kitchen. If you have a love for food, you could be a fishmonger, a butcher, or a baker. You could start a food blog or a podcast and talk about the last meal to eat if you were on death row. Like wine? Look into studying it and becoming the best in that field, growing the grapes or knowing every variety. This is your chance to spend the years of your working life doing something you love, waking up every day and never having a single ounce of dread that you have to go to work.
Have you got anything other experiences you would like to share?
Six years ago I became an Apprentice Freeman at the Rochester Oyster and Floating Fishery (R.O.F.F) and I was asked as a young apprentice to represent the fishing industry as an ambassador in some talks at the Houses of Parliament in regards to statistics and analysis of production methods in the UK. I have been asked back since, but due to work commitments and an increase in custom (not to mention covid!), it has been difficult to do so.