In June 2021 mother and son, Jill and Thomas, took part in one of the Optimum Skills Hospitality courses located in Durham. One year on they have been successful in opening their own business on Durham’s River Walk. The Maple Patisserie boasts an array of tasty treats, freshly made drinks and a friendly atmosphere in Durham’s city centre.
We visited Jill and Thomas to find out how they are getting on and how their experience and skills gained on the course have benefitted them in their new venture.
Why did you choose to attend the Hospitality Course with Optimum Skills?
Jill – “We were looking round for more training to bring our level 2 food safety up to date, somebody had contacted me online to say that Optimum Skills had loads of courses on offer. We managed to secure two placements and joined so we could get our level 2 food safety and the barista training, especially with it being free.”
Thomas – “To be honest we saw that it was a free course, and because our budget was limited when we first started, we decided it would probably be the best thing for us to do, to get the qualifications and training. We really just needed the level 2 food safety certificate, but we thought that for free with all the other aspects of the course, it would be really beneficial for us, because you need those things when you’re starting a hospitality business.”
How did you find the course whilst completing it?
Jill – “It was really good, really friendly. The course had a lot of information that we were able to gather and take in. I felt as though the course went seamlessly to be honest. We understood what was happening and we knew our next steps and what to expect.”
Thomas – “As easy as it should be, there was obviously some revision and stuff on the exams but the rest of it was easy to get through. It was nice just to learn it on the course.”
What did you learn on the course?
Jill – “I was trained as a level 2 barista; we also achieved our food safety level 2. There was a lot of customer focused activities, because obviously a lot of people don’t have customer experience, which was good to refresh our brains.”
Thomas – “Loads of things, such as temperatures and different cooking times of meat. How to store different food, I didn’t realise flour could carry parasites and stuff like that. So that’s really helped us out here, especially with storage. Also, my people skills were so bad when I first started, so it’s helped me when I’m speaking to people.”
Did you learn anything which has supported you in setting up your business?
Jill – “Quite a lot yes, barista training especially and obviously just a refresher of the food safety. It’s been 25 years since I was last in the industry, but we’ve took all of it on board and brought it here.”
Thomas – “It’s definitely increased my knowledge of what I should have known, especially with handling food, it’s definitely increased what I should have known.”
How has it been setting up your own patisserie on Durham River Walk?
Jill – “Extremely hard, stressful, hair-raising, exciting. Brilliant, because we are doing it as a family. Worrying, every emotion you can ever imagine. It’s fantastic, it really really is, to be your own boss. Problem solving, I think this is what me and Thomas spoke about to be able to problem solve as a business owner as opposed to just being in an industry or a job where you just get told what to do, you’ve got to stand on your feet and problem solve on your own. It’s good, it’s really really good.”
Thomas – “Stressful, tiring, worrying every night but there’s definitely some benefits to it especially working with my mum. I’m happy to work with family and see something grow from nothing. It’s a really nice feeling especially when we get returning customers, and are growing our audience, seeing how many sales we’ve made in a particular week, It’s just nice to see it grow and blossom.”
Would you recommend the hospitality course to others?
Jill – “I would do, yes definitely. I have promoted you to several different people and I have your advertisement in the window, so yes I would definitely.”
Thomas – “Yeah 100%, if you’re not doing anything and you need that sort of qualification, it’s just beneficial. I’ve always found it’s just beneficial to learn as much as you can. If it gives you the qualifications to be able to get jobs in the future, I don’t see why not.”
Jane (Hospitality Tutor) – “Jill and Thomas knew what they wanted from the beginning – to start their own patisserie in Durham – and they brought a single-minded focus to the course. They were really engaged from day one, willing to share their knowledge and experience with the other learners, and happy to learn anything that would help them on their journey. Jill had worked with customers before and was able to demonstrate really good people skills – crucial in the hospitality industry. Thomas was a little less comfortable with that aspect, but he learned well in the safe environment of the course, and I have seen him put these skills into practice at Maple Patisserie. Both of them took to the barista skills like ducks to water! I have tried their cappuccino and mocha so far, and both are delicious! Highly recommend a visit.”
For more information about upcoming hospitality courses contact Optimum Skills