Hazel began her career aged just 17 at Hastings Hotels and quickly rose through the ranks before finding her true love for the finer details and a passion for pastry. After 24 years at Hastings, Hazel became Head Pastry Chef at La Mon Hotel & Country Club building a team over 7 years. When the opportunity to be involved in the opening of Belfast’s first licensed Patisserie Miel et Moi arose Hazel grabbed it and worked to establish the venue as one of South Belfast's most refined and elegant restaurants. Now Hazel can be found in the kitchen of Newcastle's most iconic Slieve Donard Hotel. Hazel also works with cancer charities including the cancer fund for children to organise ‘dinner with a difference’ – where 7 of NI’s award winning chefs came together to create a charity fund raising meal.
How did you get started?
My career was on I different path, however the last year at school my father passed away so this threw me into a confused spin. I found myself joining my friends on a half catering half business course. As a child I spent my summers away in my grandfather’s country retreat far from the troubles in Belfast. This is where I learnt to bake so naturally I moved towards the catering course.
After my year at a prestigious catering college in Belfast, and at Thames Valley University, where I graduated with a BSc in Culinary Arts, I was introduced to Frank Hughes, in 1990 the Managing Director back then at Hastings Hotels. That is where it all began for me, having flown the nest here, I am back to the nest as Executive Head Chef at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa.
What’s the best piece of advice you would give to aspiring chefs?
Keep smiling, never give up & never give into panic!! Put the effort in, surround yourself with positive people, absorb & learn from them as I did when working with Paul McKnight the fabulous Executive Chef at the 5 star Culloden Estate and Spa. When something goes wrong take a step back count to ten then start over again. Even the darkest clouds pass sunshine reappears. Always be reflective on your performance even when things go well. I was taught this by some very famous chefs whom I got to cook with during my career at the Culloden, another Hastings Hotel, namely Gordon Ramsay and Raymond Blanc.
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years time?
Succeeding in my current role; which I view as my biggest challenge to date is my goal. It was totally unexpected and an exciting turn in my career path to become Executive Head Chef at the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, my favourite Hastings Hotel!!
If you could only cook one of your own recipes, what would it be & why?
Chocolate and Ginger Pave. I am not such a chocolate lover however it's a touch of luxury and pleasure that everyone enjoys, I love the marriage of these 2 flavours combined. Earlier in my career I specialised as a pastry chef and I completed pastry courses in Paris, but my favourite were the chocolate based courses at the culinary institute Le Notre and DGF.
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
As I get older and my next big milestone is on my horizon, it would have to be my parents. Having lost both at early age they did not get to see what I have achieved or the values instilled in me growing up or the person I have become. I am my father’s daughter.
I guess here I could be all false and create a show stopper, however I enjoy time with family/friends which in this industry is a time to treasure. So I would cook something of comfort for me and there is nothing better than simple roast chicken dinner with champ of course coming from Ireland, followed by apple tart tatin with obvious chef twists not to be too boring.