We sat down with Mick Smith, our National Hotel Services Manager recently to hear his inspiring career story.
“My Uncle was a Caterer and Chef. He passed away when I was 14 and left me his chef knives and cookbooks. He had travelled the world with his cooking, he was someone I looked up to, he was my idol. I idolised him and his food so much that on his passing, I told him I would be a Chef too.
It was such a difficult time, but I decided to take on his journey.
I started my career at the age of 14 ½ and I always kept him in the back of my mind. He fueled my emotions and my drive. People loved him for his food, and I wanted to have the same impact.
I began my kitchen journey as an Apprentice at the Cafe de France in Melbourne. I worked for a British Chef and the restaurant was well renowned. I then went to Stokehouse on St Kilda Beach… everyone wanted an apprenticeship there. They would only take on two apprentices a year. I learnt from a Michelin Star Chef, who was trained by Marco Pierre White (who trained Gordon Ramsay). It was hard and really challenging, but the experience opened up the keys to the city as I learnt the old-fashioned way.”
What was your most memorable experience as a Chef?
I’ve had a few. The best experience I’ve had was when I was tasked as a qualified Chef to cook for Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, prior to the premier of their movie ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. This was the pinnacle of my career. They ate in the restaurant before heading to walk the red carpet for their movie premier. It was an amazing experience with all the people and paparazzi.
Another stand out experience was when I was at Stokehouse. It was the Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne. They put two Ferraris on the balcony, and I got to cook for Michael Schumacher.
3 Black Chef Hats awarded to me, that was very special.
Why did you decide to work in aged care?
The Pandemic forced me to look at other options and get out of the restaurant game. I remembered some work experience I had in aged care when I was 14. I remembered the atmosphere and the food and why it put me off aged care. The smells were all hospitalised, no real flavour and all the powders and boosters they would use.
When COVID hit, I thought about which of my skills I could utilise and give back to the community through hospitality and aged care. I started researching other Chefs that had come from a fine dining background and moved into aged care, such as Maggie Beer. I thought, maybe it’s changing for the better, so I researched different companies. I was then approached by an agency and saw a video of the construction of Infinite Care’s new facility in Toowoomba. I thought, if that’s what is coming to aged care, they will need really good food. I liked Infinite Care’s values and I enjoyed everything they sold to me about the job at the start.
What does success in aged care look like to you?
When you walk into an Infinite Care dining room, you know you are in an Infinite Care home. The presentation of the food, the plates, the uniforms, the consistency of standards. It’s a journey, and bit by bit we are achieving this goal.
Food and mealtimes are important and I want our residents to enjoy the experience each day and make sure it’s great. As Infinite’s National Hotel Services Manager, I now have the opportunity to go into all our homes and I want to be around the residents and see our staff providing them memorable meals and moments.