Staff Spotlight - George Timmons
Every Friday we feature a member of our staff in the Staff Spotlight! This week, we spoke to Catering Manager George Timmons about his career.
How did you get interested in working in catering?
I got the inspiration from my mom. I came from a family of 10, and she was a great home baker and cooker. She also had a small home bakery and used to go to the farmer’s market every day to sell breads and pies. Initially she brought me with her to help set up and keep an eye on things, and then she just got me involved. Once I was higher than the counter so that people could see me, she had me right out front and that really built my confidence even though I was a very shy person. Then I started learning about the products she was making and learning the recipes off by heart, because she said “If Mrs. O’Brien asks you what’s in that bread you need to tell her,” because of allergies and things like that. So that really got my interest and I developed a passion for it. We had to survive as well, so my mother kept the books of how much the ingredients cost, how many cakes and pies we sold, and so on. So I really learned all the aspects of business with her; she was a really creative woman and really fun to work with. As I got older in Junior and Leaving Cert, it was my summer job. After the Leaving Cert I went to DIT Cathal Brugha Street and did my degree in Hotel Management.
After college I was working in Dromoland Castle in Co. Clare for two seasons. The director of the New York Times was staying for a month and I just got the inspiration to go to New York City. I said, “Now’s a good time to go because I’m 21, and if I don’t go now I’ll never go.” So I sold my car and bought my ticket and planned to stay for 6 months just to get the flavor of it. Then of course, 15 years later I came back. New York opened a whole new world for me; that’s where I really learned the meaning of the word hospitality. They’re so hospitable in everything that they do, and they’re still the best at the barbeque. I had great experiences and met people from all over the world. New York really became like my second home. I worked hard there, and the rewards were amazing. If I didn’t move on something, someone else was behind me to jump on it. And everyone was treated the same, to make something work. There was community there and there was teamwork for everything; everyone was a cog in the wheel. I did a food science diploma while I was there as well so that I could learn about all of the technical sides of cooking that I hadn’t had in my degree from DIT. All of the experiences I had there stayed with me and helped me really develop. I found it easier to accept change because it came at you every day in New York. I enjoyed every moment of it.
When I came back to Dublin it was very different from when I left and had so much diversity, which made the transition back here easier because it was almost like a mini Manhattan. I felt like I didn’t leave it all behind, and helped me settle back in as well. It’s like a good soup - having a good mixture of people is what makes it right.
Are there any differences between your previous job and your work at Alex?
I was previously in the National Maternity Hospital, so it was a much more clinical environment. The same skills and passion applied though, because you’re dealing with new moms and newborn babies. I always say that was Phase 1, and then I brought it to Phase 2 here in the Junior School, and Phase 3 is Senior School so I’ve captured it all really; I started with them when they were born and then I followed them here.
Why did you choose to join the Alex community? What do you like best about Alex?
Working in the hospital was 365 days a year because babies don’t really have a schedule or calendar as such. I was looking at my own children, who were still in school, and really felt I needed a better quality of life. I knew I wanted to continue providing services for kids, and as I looked at Alex I looked at the ethos and community of the school. I really benefited from having the same time off as my kids; the family element of Alex was really the priority that drew me here.
For me, every day is rewarding here. Seeing what we do and what the school gives back to students is brilliant. I love to watch the kids maturing and progressing through their academic year and hear the delight in their voices. The events in the school are some of my favorites because of the effort that’s put in; everybody’s involved and that’s an aspect I love about it.
How have you adapted your work for Covid-19?
With all of the preparation that was done in the school before we reopened I was just amazed at how safely, professionally and smoothly everything went. We’ve learned every day how we can make each process better as we’ve gone along and now we have it down to a T. Everyone’s safely looked after, calm and relaxed, and one of my main goals was to get that atmosphere back for the students. This may be the new normal, but you still have to live your life and go to school and we will take care of you safely and professionally. The support is always there across the board and the community has come together to keep eachother safe and happy.
What has been the highlight of your time in Alex so far?
I have so many highlights throughout the year; the events are some of my favourites. The effort and work put into the events and performances given by the kids are just phenomenal. I love seeing the confidence built in the girls on the stage. I also love when they reach the end of the academic year and the confidence they ooze is just amazing. There’s highlights everywhere, it’s not just one specific thing. I’ve seen them develop and grow in my 5 years here, and I find that really rewarding.