Ele from Preston, sous chef at our Corsican resort since 2015, talked to us about her work and about life in the Mediterranean.
• Hi Ele, how did you make your way to Corsica and to the job of sous chef for Mark Warner? What’s your career background?
I started working for Mark Warner about 14 months ago, at the Chalet-hotel Aiguille Percée in Tignes, as a chef de partie. Then I spent the summer in Sardinia as CdP. Since then I’ve been really lucky to work up through the ranks and progress to being sous chef out here.
Before that I was working in a tapas gastro-pub in Preston for about three years, but really I’ve been working in kitchens and as a chef since leaving school at 16.
• What originally attracted you to working in the catering industry? And the tourism industry?
I started off as a commis chef in the tapas place and quickly got more and more responsibility, moving from one location to the next helping out in different kitchens. I love the opportunities that are available when you work as a chef, and the chance to travel the world working in different countries and seeing amazing places.
• What are your responsibilities in the kitchen?
I’m second in line in the kitchen here and I assist the head chef with his duties and run the kitchen when he is not around – managing and training the junior chefs. I also act as a bit of a mentor, giving advice and training whenever possible. It’s good to still be hands on in the kitchen as well and get to cook and work alongside the other staff.
• What are the greatest challenges of your role?
It can be really hard keeping motivated and full of energy – and keeping those around you going when you hit the middle of August and the temperature outside is 30°+. In the kitchen it’s so hot! It can be really draining and very exhausting. It’s so important to keep positive in the kitchen – in fact, it’s essential.
• And what are the greatest pleasures?
Getting to work with good ingredients and make great food that people enjoy. But also working with the junior chefs, seeing them come in sometimes quite inexperienced at the start of a season and leaving having learnt so much. When they come and thank you for the training and advice you’ve been able to give them, it’s great.
• Many kitchens are very male-dominated. Is that true at the San Lucianu? And if so, how do you cope with that?
From my experience of working in kitchens for eight years, I know that can be a very male-orientated environment. But it is really what you make of it. If you’re doing your job, and doing it to a good standard, gender doesn’t matter.
• Do you have a favourite Corsican dish?
Corsican food is very Mediterranean, with Italian and French influences. There are not a lot of specifically Corsican dishes. It’s quite a rural island, so it’s all about what you can grow and hunt and cook yourself. The main meat is wild boar, which is usually stewed in a rich gravy sauce. Locals like to put chestnuts in everything – from cakes to the local beer, Pietra. Another favourite is sheeps’-milk cheese Brocciu, which you often find in pasta dishes. In the summer though, as this is an island, it’s all about fresh fish and shellfish. All the mussels and oysters served around the island are farmed about 30 minutes south of the hotel, making them super tasty!
• What are your favourite things to do in Corsica when you’re not working? Do you have any insider tips for guests coming to the island?
After a breakfast shift, I like to head down to the beach, kick off my flip-flops and go for a walk or a swim. If there’s a bit of wind, I’ll head over to the waterfront and perhaps go for a sail or windsurf.
• What do you like to do outside the summer season?
By the end of the season, it’s really great to go home and catch up with family and friends and spend a few weeks with them. Then I head back to the snowy mountains for the next winter season!
Read more about summer holidays at the San Lucianu Beach Resort.