TWO chefs have been hailed the ‘heartbeat’ of a York hotel where they have clocked up 50 years between them.

Billy Foster is the head chef at the Mercure York Fairfield Manor Hotel where he has worked for 30 years, while sous chef Daniel Martin has been part of the team since leaving school at 16.

Billy, 55, got his first taste of working in a catering kitchen as part of the YTS youth training scheme as a teenager, and progressed to become a full-time commis chef.

Paying to do his own City & Guilds training on days off, he worked through the ranks at various hotels and restaurants before moving to York and the Mercure, Shipton Road.

Billy also taught catering students at York College on a day off each week for five years.

Billy said the location of the Mercure, its atmosphere, team, and the respect and trust he received from his employer had kept him there for three decades.

“I enjoy the variety, problem solving and creating good food. I also enjoy training and developing young chefs and watching them succeed in their career.”

Hospitality has faced a staffing crisis, compounded by Brexit and Covid restrictions, but Billy said being a chef offered ‘a rewarding career, job satisfaction, transferable skills that they can use all over the world, a choice of industries to work in, for example, top hotels, gourmet pubs/restaurants, cruise ships - the list is endless’.

“Attitudes need to change to encourage the next generation to join the hospitality industry, where they will be properly trained and know they can work their way up to senior positions, have a decent wage and a good work/home life balance.

“I would advise young people to think about the kind of chef they want to be, look for the hotels/pubs that will give them the best training, or a combination of work and college. There are some good apprenticeships. Be prepared to work shifts and weekends, and move around to get as much experience.”

Daniel, 36, has worked at the Mercure for 20 years, starting as a kitchen porter and working up to sous chef at 22.

“I have had the pleasure of working closely with the head chef Billy Foster, worked with some amazing people in the kitchen and across all other departments. Generally, most days are different so always busy and challenging,” he said. “I still love being a chef, enjoy the hotel and work well with the other supervisors/managers. I’ve made many friends over the years which is important in the industry as stress levels and pressure can be very intense.”

He said the long hours and evening and weekend shifts might put some people off a career in hospitality and said people had to have ‘the right attitude and mindset to meet the demands’.

“It’s a rewarding career as there are so many different types of chefs around and many great opportunities in different settings. Many chefs move round for experience but I’ve managed to learn a lot over the years not just food based, how to train and manage other staff. It is an industry where you never stop learning.”

Ruslana Yarmolyuk, general manager, said: “We are so proud to have Billy and Danny as part of our work family. Both of them are very valuable members of the team, they work hard, they’re the heartbeat of our business, loved by the team and by our customers. We could not imagine our workplace without both chefs.”