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FCSI Student Team Challenge winner Domenique van Nielen sends updates from his internship Down Under

As a member of the winning team at FCSI’s EAME Student Team Challenge at HostMilano 2019, Domenique van Nielen was selected for an internship with members of FCSI Asia Pacific in Australia. During the month-long programme, van Nielen spent a fortnight with Foodservice Consultants Australia (FCA) in Melbourne – where he had his first taste of life in the industry. He then moved to Sydney to spend time with Hospitality Management Australia (HMA).

He rounded off his enriching, educational trip with consultancy Hospitality Total Services (HTS) in Perth. He even tried his hand at pruning vines and picking apples and olives. Sadly, another, less welcome, visitor to Australia was making its presence felt at the time and the government’s lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19 prevented travel between states, impacting van Nielen’s trip.

Here we share his thoughts and experiences from the internship that he so successfully enjoyed.

Finishing an internship during a pandemic

Domenique van Nielen: When I arrived in Melbourne for my internship at Foodservice Consultants Australia (FCA) and MTD Hospitality Consulting, I received a warm welcome from Andrew Brain FCSI, the Director of FCA and MTD Hospitality Consulting. We had a wonderful dinner with his family in a restaurant where, a couple of years ago, his company had designed the kitchen. I love Australian hospitality! Side note: at this time, toilet paper was already scarce in Australia.

Being a newbie to the foodservice consultancy field, I expected to see and learn what tools, knowledge and skills are required to thrive in this fast-moving, yet conservative, industry. Together with my mentor Andrew, I attended numerous consultancy meetings.

This is where I discovered that the kitchen is often a small part of a huge multi-million-dollar project. Investors try to cut costs where possible, the kitchen seems to be a good place for it.

This is when I am inspired by how Andrew explains to everyone that some of those cost savings will not be cost effective in the long run.

I also learned the basic skills of Revit while I designed a dark kitchen in a shipping container (pictured, left). Joel Wilson, architect at MTD Hospitality Consulting, taught me all the tips and tricks that allowed me to create this kitchen. Side note: at this time, hand sanitizer became our best friend.

While working in the FCA and MTD office I visited the biggest production kitchen I have ever seen, at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC). The operational efficiency of this kitchen allows the MCEC to serve up to 6,000 guests at the same time (the picture below shows Julian Ha of FCA, Jacques Morin of Phoeniks, Domenique van Nielen and Joel Wilson of FCA at the MCEC).

We were welcomed and guided through the kitchen by executive chef Peter Haycroft. That evening there was only one event for 500 guests, obviously the executive chef did not show a single sign of stress.

I have been working in hospitality all my professional life and I have never seen ease and efficiency like this in a kitchen. This is why I applied for this internship. It makes my heart beat faster to see how a well-designed kitchen helps in an operation.

Finesse and attention

All in all, these experiences have confirmed that I will stay in the foodservice industry for the rest of my life. The luxury hospitality market especially catches my eye because of the high level of finesse and attention to detail. I realized this during one of our first meetings at Capitol Grand, a luxurious apartment building with six F&B outlets.

There is still one week of internship left with Mario Sequeira FCSI (pictured, left) at Hospitality Total Services in Perth.

This week we will continue as soon as the current status of Covid-19 changes for the better and the borders of Australia’s regions open again.

Currently, I am writing this blog out of the backyard of a vineyard. Side note: at this time a 1.5-metre distance is required between people.

Domenique van Nielen

 

Domenique van Nielen (pictured above at Driftwood Estate Margaret River) was having a great time on his internship trip to Australia and gaining an unbelievable amount of experience before it was overtaken by world events.

Heartfelt thanks are due to all FCSI APD members who helped to make this internship possible. It is clear from his comments that van Nielen has been impressed by everything he has seen and done and the memories will last forever.