Sue, a renowned chef, set up The Great Catering Company in 1995. Trained at the Savoy Hotel in London, she saw a need to cater to the food-driven dreams of a discerning market. Sue’s stellar kitchen talents have brought tremendous success. Her company is the leader in the private and corporate catering world.
Here’s 10 questions with Sue Fleischl, for this Member Spotlight.
What made you decide to go into the industry / what gave you your first start in hospitality?
I have always loved cooking. My mother died at an early age and my father (a jewish refugee from Vienna) loved European food. As children growing up, we all had to help out in the kitchen and the garden. Preparing and cooking food is what we all had to do.
This may sound totally corny, but when I was 11, I won the “cook of the year” award at Napier Intermediate school. From that day, I decided I wanted to be a chef.
My father wrote to all the big Hotels in Europe and the only hotel that responded was The Savoy. When I was 17 years old, straight after 7th form, I was on a plane to London where I worked my way around every partie in the kitchen. This set me up with a glowing reference and my career as a chef.
What inspires you?
With food, I get most of my inspiration from visual stimulation. Going to local markets and looking at pictures.
With business, I get inspired by talking to other people in the industry as well as talking to my team on how we can improve and do things more efficiently and better than last time. I get a lot of inspiration from attending the conferences in the USA, they do everything on such a grand scale with grand budgets to match!
What do you love about the hospitality industry?
We are in the industry of making people happy. It is a feel good industry. Everything from a wedding, a 50th birthday dinner, a product launch or a funeral is a celebration of some thing or someone. We are here to make someone’s day. What’s not to love about that?
What are your key challenges?
Our key challenges are people related. Finding committed staff is not easy. In Europe they see hospitality as a career, to many in New Zealand, it is “only a job”.
What is the secret to your success?
Don’t give up, believe in yourself and aim high.
What is the best piece of advice you have received to date in your hospitality career?
One day years ago, when everything seemed to be too hard (yes we all have these days), a wise chef said to me “Stop! Take a deep breath, and start at the beginning”
What one piece of advice would you give to people starting out in the industry?
Find someone you admire in the industry and ask if you can have a coffee with them. Ask them about their journey, what they have learnt and what advice they can give you. Everyone will have a different story. I asked a woman I admire in business (she wasn’t in hospitality) to have coffee with me and she introduced me to so many people who I then did business with as well, she also helped me market my business. It was GOLD.
What do you think makes NZ Hospitality unique?
Which restaurants are on your dining bucket list?
I definitely have to go back to Pasture again. The best dining experience in New Zealand.
What do you do to relax?
Every morning I walk Takapuna beach or take the paddle board out. I love the sea.
During the weekends, its gardening that calms me down.