Carol Vallejo, Head Chef in the Hub, has recently been shortlisted for the CSC Chef Award. We caught up with her to find out more about the award, her two areas of particular expertise - vegetarian/vegan food and cakes/patisserie, and how she tries to ensure that the food available in the Hub keeps up with the latest food trends.
1. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your role as Head Chef in the Hub?
I’ve worked at Royal Holloway for over 30 years in various roles. I’m originally from Yorkshire and studied at Hull College for two years on a catering course for the Hotel and Hospitality Industry. I manage a team of ten in the Hub and every day brings a different challenge.
2. Congratulations on being shortlisted for the CSC Chef Award. Could you tell us a bit about the award itself?
This award is about all that is excellent about the amazing people and teams working across our industry.
3. We hear that your two areas of particular expertise are vegetarian/vegan food and cakes/patisserie, what is it about these two areas that you enjoy?
I come from quite a creative background, my father loved to oil paint and sketch so making cakes is my form of art and I find it quite relaxing. I was a vegetarian for over 25 years but became a pescatarian about six years ago. I enjoy creating vegetarian and vegan dishes for our customers because I think more choice is needed. Vegetarianism and veganism has come a long way in the last twenty years, we’ve moved on from cauliflower cheese as a main course. It’s not only about what you eat but about how eating meat and raising cattle etc. harms the environment.
4. Could you tell us a bit more about the team that work alongside you in the Hub?
My team are my greatest asset, they are all very dedicated in their roles and they have won various awards for their competition entries and are always willing to face new challenges.
5. How do you try to ensure that the food available in the Hub keeps up with the latest food trends and remains to be what your customers want?
We base our menus on street food which is very popular at the moment and we try to make it as varied and international as possible to suit our customer’s tastes. I love attending food festivals and browsing the internet for new ideas. Wherever I go on holiday I’m looking for new ideas that can be brought back for us to make in the Hub.
6. What do you enjoy most about working at Royal Holloway?
I love the variety of work at Royal Holloway, we do many different types of conferences, from large international companies to the summer schools and even royalty once in a while. The Founder's Building is a beautiful building to look at each day as you drive in and is often used for filming which is another interesting thing about working at Royal Holloway. We were also an Olympic Village for the rowers back in 2012, that was very exciting.
7. What do you enjoy doing outside of your work life?
I enjoy spending time with my two grandchildren, gardening and looking after my allotment. I also volunteer for a local club for adults with learning difficulties. Travelling is another thing I enjoy doing and checking out the local food wherever I am and whenever I get a moment I enjoy making and decorating cakes.
8. You may have seen our latest recruitment campaign, ‘Find your why’. We are interested to find out what Royal Holloway has helped you to discover about yourself…
I have discovered that I love to help others, using my skills and experience I love to pass on what I know to my team and help them grow.