A hotel chef has had his fingers in many pies during the COVID-19 pandemic – trying his hand at night porter, security and even housekeeping duties to help keep the business running.Adrian Dumatrache, Head Chef at the Mercure Hatfield Oak Hotel in Hertfordshire, has proved himself even more versatile than his usual catering duties demand.

The Hatfield Oak, which is managed by Focus Hotels Management, was only closed for three weeks during the pandemic before re-opening to support key workers and has been running at around 50 percent of its usual occupancy through most of the lockdown.

General Manager Katherine Webster-Brown said: “There were four of us here during the full lockdown, two during the day and two at night. We needed to make sure we had 24-hour coverage here, and Adrian volunteered to be one of the night workers, which meant he had to take on a whole host of new skills. He moved into the hotel, with his wife and teenage son. We provided him with training in the areas he was less familiar with, and he really got stuck in, helping to keep the hotel running and making sure his colleagues have jobs to come back to now that we are able to open to the public again. Being a chef, Adrian is well aware of the importance of practising good hygiene, but he proved himself to be extremely adaptable and has been absolutely brilliant.”

Adrian, aged 42, who has been a chef since 2005, came to England from Romania in 2016, and joined the Hatfield team as Head Chef in August last year.

“We have a small team and I always want to give 100 percent when I work. So, when they said they needed someone to work here at night during the lockdown, I asked my family first and then said yes. The hotel was closed to start with, so I did some security work, but we then opened for key workers, and I chose to do the overnight shifts. I asked my colleagues to teach me what I needed to so, so that I would not have to keep calling them, so I learned how to make a booking and how to answer the telephone.”
He said: “I have enjoyed all the work, because I have been able to have fun. It is all about the people you have around you, and this is the best team I have ever worked with.”
His wife, Kristina, and their 17-year-old son, Alexander, have been living with him at the hotel, together with the family dog, Bruno – a beautiful Shar Pei.

They brought Alexander’s computer with them so that he could continue his college studies while living at the hotel.
Adrian said the hardest thing about the past few months has been not being able to cook properly. “I missed cooking in the kitchen, it is my passion and what I love to do.
“I love food; I like to eat first, but I love to cook as well.”

During the lockdown, as was the case in many other hotels, food came into the premises ready-made, and just needed to be re-heated.
Katherine said: “Adrian kept pestering me all the time, asking when could he start cooking again, so it was just as well we were able to keep him occupied with lots of other tasks.”
The hotel re-opened to the public last weekend, and Adrian has wasted no time getting himself back into the kitchen and doing what he loves most.
After learning housekeeping duties too, when asked if he would be expected to do more housekeeping once the family returns home, he laughed – even if a little nervously – and said: “When I go home, I hope I will be able to put my feet up!”

Lynn Hood, Chief Operating Officer of Focus Hotels, said: “At times of crisis, you hope that everyone will come together and do whatever it takes to help keep their business running. It can often mean people have to step out of their comfort zones and do things that they are not familiar with, have never done before or never thought they would ever do. Adrian is a shining example of a true ‘team player’, taking on a variety of extra tasks and roles, always with a positive attitude and a smile. We’re proud to have staff like him as part of the Focus team, and would like to thank him for all his efforts and for spreading a bit of light during what has been some very difficult, and dark, times.”

ENDS 7 July 2020
Issued on behalf of Focus Hotels by Empica.
For further information contact Darren Bane or Martin Powell on (01275) 394400 or email darren@empica.com