Chef Smith: ‘It’s Great Working With Students’

November 10, 2016

Ascots’ Executive Chef Edmund Smith holds bragging rights as the only chef on the island who’s taken part in Bermuda Hospitality Institute’s Plates of Passion event for four years straight.

He was invited the first time around by BHI’s former executive director Karla Lacey Minors, who happened to be a long-time friend.

“At the time I was head of the Chef’s Association of Bermuda and at that point [Karla] wanted us to partner,” Mr Smith said. “The idea was to have ten top chefs on the island and give them all the same basic ingredient, for instance duck.

“They would work with local culinary arts students to interpret the dish their way and it would create conversation around the table for the guests and the creativity of the chefs and the students would be sparked as well.

“That’s how the relationship began four years ago. Next year will be my fifth time taking part in BHI’s event.”

Mr Smith, originally from Ireland, admits it’s been great working with local students – especially the ones really excited about cooking.

“I’ve come across one or two who have really been inspired and excited about taking part in the event and seeing them really trying and exploring their creativity is a big part of it,” he said.

“My philosophy is it’s a partnership, but I’m only willing to give them as much effort on my part as they are willing to put in.

BHI Edmund Smith Bermuda Nov 9 2016

“The way I see it they are representing Ascots and I expect them to rise to that level. That’s what it is all about for me. I also try to raise my level as well so they are getting as much out of the experience as possible.”

It’s also about creating a bond with the students, Mr Smith said.

He encourages them to show up early and stay late so they develop an expert work ethic and understand the demands of a culinary career.

“The most gratifying thing is when I do see those trainees putting in the extra effort,” he said. “It gets me very excited. On the other hand, the biggest disappointment is when you don’t get that from the students.”

Mr Smith admits he became a chef almost 40 years ago “by default”.

He actually had dreams of becoming a specialised artist, but after realising he didn’t have the grades he started working at his father’s hotel instead.

“I went for an interview at a culinary school, but was never that serious about it. However, I was accepted and soon got into the whole foodie thing,” he said. “The visual presentation side was a lot of fun for me.

“When I was asked to create pastries, the buffet presentations and sculptures with vegetables and all of a sudden I said ‘This is cool’. It just all sudden became relatively easy for me. I’m the type of guy I like coming to work and wake up in the morning looking forward to my job.”

BHI’s Plates of Passion has become one of Mr Smith’s annual highlights.

He most enjoys the camaraderie between the professional chefs and students and learns a lot by watching his peers in their element.

“This event is a great way for us to work by each other and get to know each other,” he said. “It’s fun rather than it being a competition. I think some people see it more as a competition and they often try too hard, but it’s a great camaraderie and brings us together as local chefs.

“I think it’s nice for the students to see how we can be allies, but also play around with each other and maybe slightly sabotage someone by moving a plate.

“I’ve seen that done in the past though not by me. When you work together with chefs it makes it easier to call and ask for help, maybe you don’t have an ingredient you need, you can call around and ask other people in the industry.”

The head chef believes one of the most important ingredients necessary for any young professional is a positive attitude.

“You can see it in the plate if the chef is miserable – the food will just be chucked on there, but when someone is passionate about what they do you can see that as well,” he said.

He believes it’s important for talented Bermudians to get into the hospitality industry. It provides a more authentic experience for the customer, he explained.

“If people come to a restaurant and have a real charming Bermudian server who is bubbly and asks them ‘Have you been to Horseshoe Bay or checked out this particular spot in the area where I grew up’, then that person will have a better overall experience.

“I think the tourism industry got lost a little bit and they are now rebuilding that which is great and really important.

“Myself and my partner Angelo Armano are very committed to the tourism product at Ascots – and going forward especially with the America’s Cup coming up and the expectations of service and quality- we are very much in sync with that and it’s very important for everyone to have a standard so the expectations can be met.”

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Comments (8)

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  1. Its me again says:

    Eddie is the man

  2. Thinker says:

    Well done Eddie you were always a stand up guy.

  3. wahoo says:

    For anyone who has not been to Ascots you are missing a fantastic opportunity to see what good food and good service really are and their passion seems to be expanding.

  4. I heart 441 says:

    He sounds genuine.

  5. Athena says:

    Nice to read about encouragement being given to the next generation of chefs from one whose restaurant produces dishes that satisfy both the palate and the eye.

    Keep up the good work Chef Eddie.

  6. Mary says:

    Awesome guy !

  7. Fiona says:

    Fantastic article and says it all. What a legend!

    Chef Ed, it’s incredible work your doing. Your students are so lucky to be working in such an amazing restaurant.

    Look forward to my next visit to Ascots. Best food ever!!!

    Well done.

  8. Roger Lambert says:

    Through this program & chef Smith some locals are getting into the chef industry, good.