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By Nicholas Allen, Class of 1992 Les Roches alumnus
Over the next few months, I’m catching up with some of the great people I met during my time studying at Les Roches. Last time out was Krystyna Shvedova; This time it is an absolute honor to introduce you all to one of the greatest assets Les Roches had during my period there. He is now known as Dr. Brendan Cronin D.B.A. I respectfully refer to him only as Chef…
Nicholas Allen (NA): What years did you teach at Les Roches and in what capacity?
Brendan Cronin (BC): After I left Mandarin Oriental Hotels, I taught at Les Roches from 1988 to 1995 as a kitchen instructor. I taught production morning and afternoon classes; individual kitchen for lunch; a la carte for dinner and also in the demonstration kitchen. These years teaching at Les Roches were some of the most memorable in my professional career.
NA: What is your profession and current position?
BC: I’m currently Operations Manager – Assistant Professor at the School of Hospitality Management in Endicott College. We’re located in Beverly, Massachusetts, USA.
NA: Who worked with you in your direct team?
BC: At Les Roches, I worked with Rudi Bider, Andy Haering, Othmar Novak, Fredrick Stegmuller, Oscar Eberli, Jean-Marc Martin, Dominique Stockli, Nicola Beyer, Peter Muller, Nicola La Sala, Harry Rahjar, Leon Vouardoux, Anna Bauge, Tom Schnader and Peter Schlatter.
NA: Where did you grow up?
BC: Belmullet town, on the west coast of Ireland.
NA: Whom has made the biggest impact on your professional career?
BC: First would be my mother. She inspired me to enter the hospitality industry at a very young age. So many other people have impacted my life and career, notably Andy Haering and Rudi Bider at Les Roches; also Hubertus Timmel at Mandarin Oriental Hotels. Each one in their own way inspired me to be better and encouraged me to reach new heights. We all have mentors, sometimes we do not notice their presence until much later, when we may have moved on to a new stage in our journey.
NA: What students and teachers stood out to you and why?
BC: Over the past 24 years, I have maintained a great relationship with Les Roches. During that time, I employed over 40 Les Roches students as stagiaires (intern chefs) in our hotel school here in the US. They were all excellent and are now very successful in their careers. Each one of the teachers I worked with brought unique attributes to the table (pun intended). I could not single out any one teacher because, looking back, I know how much each one impacted student careers through their passion for the industry. I am still in touch with many former Les Roches students and teachers.
NA: What’s your advice for new graduates?
BC: Work constantly on developing – and maintaining – your self-confidence in your personal and professional settings. The power of high self-confidence, different from arrogance, is a foundation for strong leadership and attracts the right people into your circle. With this foundation in place, you are now empowered to achieve your dreams.
Also, do not let anyone dissuade you from pursuing your dreams. While on the path to achieving your dreams, help others along the way by using the golden rule: you will get there faster.
NA: Is there one moment while you were teaching at Les Roches that makes you laugh?
BC: There were many such moments during my seven years teaching at Les Roches – but you asked for only one! One of the pastry chefs – when disappointed with students’ work – would always say, “Step aside, I have no money to buy you flowers, and no time to attend your funeral”! Most students would look at him with a confused face as if to say “What?”.
NA: What is your fondest memory of Les Roches?
BC: Every Cultural Night! Those Cultural Nights were always an emotional time to see the students celebrating and demonstrating pride for their homeland through authentic food, beverages, music and dance. Above all, they had so much respect for each other. Students were so proud of the dishes they made and would wait in riveted anticipation as the teachers tasted each dish. Students genuinely wanted the teachers and guests to like their food and viewed our response to the taste as our endorsement of their culture. I felt this was true hospitality – the students’ desire to make people happy.
NA: Do you have any phobias?
BC: I am afraid of heights. I do not like to be near the top of any tall structure. This also includes being near the window of a hotel guest room on the upper floors.
NA: You can ask me one question, what is it?
BC: What aspect of your education at Les Roches was most useful in your career?
NA: It’s an interesting one Chef. I would actually say my time in the kitchen, with the team of your good self, Chef Bider, Chef Haering, Chef Novak, Chef Stegmuller, Chef Eberli, Chef Stockli & Chef Beyer… you taught us all how to make a team “sing” with direction, purpose and, if it’s not on time, “Step aside, I have no money to buy you flowers”!! Yes, I was on the end of that one a few times. It still makes me laugh, too.
NA: Last question. You have organized a lavish dinner party with no expense spared. You can invite eight people, alive or dead, who are they?
BC: Richard Branson, Clint Eastwood, Deepak Chopra, Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela, Elon Musk, Frank McCourt and Steven Covey.
NA: Thank you so much, Chef!
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