We were delighted to read the blog post from the Edge Hotel School which ran a Q&A with Jess Counsell who is our Catering Manager and runs all the events and parties for  Milsom Catering.  As you can imagine, this is a demanding and varied role as we cater all over Essex and Suffolk at some fabulous venues – each with their different challenges, all of which Jess takes in her stride.

At the Edge Hotel School, we love to catch up with our recent graduates and share their recent successes. We caught up with Jess Counsell, a graduate from our BA Hotel Management, and current Catering Manager with Milsom Hotel and Restaurants at Le Talbooth. After a challenging period for many hospitality and events organisations, we were keen to learn more about how many in the industry are feeling about the near future and the changes we’re all having to make to maintain success.

What is your current role and how has your career progressed over the last few years?

My current role is Catering Manager for Milsom Catering. It’s a full-on job, even more so in the summer period – my role is to oversee the running of all functions. This can be challenging when we have multiple events running on one day. Due to Covid-19 my role has changed, which has given me the opportunity to work for different departments within the group. I have been helping out in our Brasserie restaurant Milsoms, as Restaurant Manager over the last summer period. I am now back at Le Talbooth where I have been back of house with the event coordinating team meeting with clients helping re-plan dates for their functions and starting to recruit a new team ready for when large events can start again.

My 4 years with the Milsom Hotels & Restaurants group has allowed me to work in a few of their properties. I started in the group at Milsoms Kesgrave Hall as Assistant Restaurant Manager, then promoted to Restaurant Manager – in my time I was able to develop new ideas and gain management skills which I transferred to when I came over to Le Talbooth as Restaurant Manager for a short period as maternity cover which I really enjoyed. After this I was then offered the Catering Manager role. This path shows how if you really have the passion for your job, it is possible to progress quickly into management roles.

You’ve been working in hospitality since before University, but how did Edge Hotel School help in preparing you for your career?

I started working in hospitality from 16 years old. I knew I had a passion for it within my first year! It’s such a rewarding industry. Being able to provide great customer experiences, even more so in events by running someone’s wedding day to the best of my ability, is then so rewarding when they are so pleased.   Receiving great feedback from the guests and working within a great team is the most rewarding thing about working in my role. The rush of a busy service or event and that it runs successfully is the best feeling. Everyday there is a new task or challenge. Although some days I work long hours; with a strong team we have so much fun!

Edge definitely helped me with my confidence around customers. They gave me a great start to be able to go straight into a management role with confidence. There are certain tasks that I will do in my day to day working and remember snippets of how it was done at Edge Hotel School and Wivenhoe House which always makes me smile! My best advice to current and future students would be to ask lots of questions about all logistical elements of the hotel and operations. The more you can figure out in your time at Edge Hotel School the quicker you can handle and adapt to tasks in your career.

How have you had to adapt to some of the challenges over the past year?

Covid-19 has proved very challenging for our industry; my department in particular hasn’t been able to operate in over a year. I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to work within the group. The restaurants and hotels were constantly having to adapt the rules nearly every week and as a company we were very efficient in complying with the new rules. Nearly all members of staff in the group were furloughed, but thankfully the majority of the team are back working again. I do think now that trying to recruit new staff is challenging, as we have lost so many full time staff across the whole industry. I think this is linked to the time off work during furlough.

What advice would you have for those who might be thinking about studying hospitality or events at university, or just starting to think about embarking on a career?

For those thinking about entering our industry, it is a fantastic industry with such a great range of jobs and roles. If you are looking for an active career which no day is the same and have a passion for customer service, hospitality is definitely an industry worth joining! For those just finishing their degrees, try to apply for multiple manager/ supervisory roles as it might surprise you how many will want you! Make sure you do your research on the company really know your stuff. Consider what type of company you want to work for – I really love working for a family-run business as I get to work closely with the owner.

Tue 10 Aug 2021, Sue Bunting