With the ski season almost upon us and snow already reported across the French Alps, many will be preparing to sort their usual accommodation or, indeed, looking to try a different ski resort.
Meanwhile, there are many people who, instead of planning a holiday in the snow, have been busy preparing to work for the winter season as chalet hosts with accommodation provider Ski Beat.
The company run 53 hosted chalets in 11 ski resorts including Trois Vallees, Meribel, La Tania and Val Torens, and many more across the region. Some offer doorstep skiing, heated indoor pools, private hot tubs as well as five-star accommodation in the ski in ski out resort of Arc 1950. And, of course, all hosted by people handpicked by Ski Beat’s recruitment manager Susie Large
The men and women, who range from new university graduates, looking for a post-study change, to early retirees keen to develop and build new skills, but all sharing the same passion - that of being in the mountains.
Before they can set off for the Alps prospective hosts have to go through a number of interviews, the first of which, is to cook a three-course dinner within a set time, alongside a kitchen full of other possible candidates.
I went along for a day to experience what they face at the Avenue School of Cookery, in Wandsworth, under the watchful eye of Susie, head chef Diana Horsford and members of the Ski Beat team.
Before the cooking got underway, Ski Beat’s operations manager, Emma Knight, explained the challenges faced by hosts, but the team ethic and the happiness of the resort team was vital to give their guests an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Staff can also enjoy the magnificent surroundings and are given free time to get out on the slopes themselves.
Emma said; “I want to make sure that staff are also out there on the slopes enjoying their time and in turn, they can pass on that joie de vivre to our guests.”
My own ‘interview’ was slightly different to the usual ones they hold as I was paired up with France magazine writer Sophie Gardner-Roberts for the cookery skills test.
Our menu was French onion soup with cheesy croutons to start, a main course of roast duck breast in a cassis sauce served with mashed potatoes, carrots and leeks with a dessert of a tangy lemon pot with little rosemary biscuits.
I’m not sure where those two hours went, but it still remains a bit of a blur. Now and again I get flashbacks of parts of the cooking process, like chopping carrots, mashing potatoes and overcooking the biscuits and judging whether the duck breast was cooked properly. Fortunately, my cooking partner had it all under control and we came out at the other end with three tasty, well prepared and nice looking plates of food. And, with the help of a light dusting of icing sugar, even the overcooked biscuits passed the taste test.
The crowning moment came when Sophie and I walked off with the top prize for not only our cooking, but having the most clean and tidy work station during the test.
So, I expect you are wondering if I have all the ingredients to become a chalet host with Ski Beat. Well, let’s say this, I’m still waiting for the call.
For more on Ski Beat holidays go to www.skibeat.co.uk, or for cookery courses at The Avenue Cookery School go to http://theavenuecookeryschool.com/
Pictures: kylie eyra - kylieeyraphotography.co.uk
For more of Jeff's writing jeffrfuidge.com