Salar Brock: From Exeter College to the Rick Stein Restaurants
As part of Exeter College celebrating 50 years as the UK’s first ever tertiary college, we’re talking to some of the inspirational students, staff and alumni who have helped make us the Ofsted Outstanding education provider we are today.
This article was written by Amy Vann, JAx Journalism Academy student.
Before the lockdown, I had the pleasure of speaking to Salar Brock, Operations Manager at the Rick Stein Restaurants. During this interview, Salar talked to me about his Exeter College experience and discussed the details of being Operations Manager for one of the most significant influencers in all things seafood.
Born and bred in Exeter, and still living just around the corner from Exeter College, Salar studied the NVQ Intermediate course in Hospitality, noting that the College ‘always had a good reputation of excellence.’
Wanting to work in a restaurant or hotel environment from a young age, Salar said, “I always liked to engage with different people, I found it very fun. The course gave me an oversight of many different areas.
“If you go to one restaurant, you learn about what they do, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you go to college, you get a foundation of learning all skills for all restaurants. You have a better understanding of everything.”
Salar’s endless passion for food and hospitality was abundantly clear, commenting on his love for looking after people and how lucky he is to do it at the Rick Stein Restaurants.
He said, “I’ve also always loved being part of a team, striving to make things better both for your colleagues and for the customer. You get to work with great products and producers, and it is exciting!”
Working within the Rick Stein Restaurants since 2014, the biggest part of Salar’s job is building teams and connections, through working on internal and external relationships. Internally, there is a heavy focus on organising general managers and head chefs, ensuring that they pass their knowledge onto the teams, and making sure that they can take on any challenges.
Having now worked in an array of locations including Walkabout Bar, The Castle Hotel in Taunton, and a conference hotel, Salar was grateful for his college experience.
“The catering course at Exeter College gave me early exposure to everything. For young aspiring managers, it is important not to settle and only do one thing. Explore other options,” he said.
“I think having that overall knowledge from the College course was great. To have that understanding of produce and how to create the end product helped me, as it meant I could discuss all aspects of the job. It gives you that underlying knowledge and confidence.”
One of Salar’s significant achievements in his career with Rick Stein is his progression, from his early role as the manager of their flagship seafood restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall, to becoming part of the senior management team.
Rick and Jill Stein started their first family restaurant in 1975, but today their company employs over 500 people across 10 restaurants and a cookery school. A big moment for the company was getting into ‘The Times 100 best employers’, where they came 54th in ‘Best Employer in Britain’ in just their first year of entering.
“We feel very passionate and proud about being included in this. It shows every level of the business working together and as a team,” said Salar.
Reflecting on his time at Exeter College, Salar shared his advice for any students looking to branch out into hospitality, “I came to Exeter College primarily focused on being a hotel manager, and actually I don’t work in a hotel at all now. Gaining experience in every part of hospitality, from Michelin Starred restaurants to working at your local café is important.
“Gain experience and work in as many places as you can. Use the resources when you’re at college and be open to ideas; you don’t know of the opportunities that may be available.”
Exeter College is celebrating 50 years since being named as the UK’s first tertiary college. Although our roots date back to the 1800s, our status as a tertiary college marked a revolution in further education and 2020 marks our 50 years of excellence since that landmark. If you have a memory of Exeter College through the years that you’d like to share, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or get involved on social media using #ExeColl50.