Five decades of hospitality
27 June 2012
After 50 years in the hospitality industry, French-born Claude Baudet is calling time.
A health scare has prompted Claude to move into the next phase of his life and he retired from Whanganui UCOL at the end of June.
Claude’s experience in the hospitality industry is global and diverse.
As a teenager he trained as a chef in Northern France. After 18 months in a catering unit during his compulsory military service in the French army, Claude decided to see the world. “I couldn’t speak English so I decided to head to the French speaking city of Montreal in Canada.”
He had mastered English two years later when he made the move to Bermuda and spent two years as a Chef Saucier in the kitchens of a huge hotel.
It was at this point that Claude was offered a job in New Zealand. “I thought, ‘Why not?’, I hadn’t been to the Southern Hemisphere,” he says.
He worked in restaurants in Whanganui and Timaru and eventually opened Cameron House in Whanganui with friend and fellow chef, Antony Smith in 1986.
“Antony worked mainly in the kitchen and I was responsible for Front of House,” says Claude.
The pair gave Whanganui a high end dining experience and Cameron House soon became an iconic player in the city’s hospitality scene. “I promoted a formal style of table service,” says Claude. “We filled a niche that existed in Whanganui.”
The restaurant won the title of Best Provincial Restaurant in New Zealand in 1989/1990 for its fine dining menu and exemplary service.
Claude joined the Culinary teaching staff at the then Wanganui Regional Community Polytechnic in 1989 as a part time tutor until he and Antony sold Cameron House in 1993.
He then became a full time teaching staff member. Since then he has tutored many hundreds of cookery students in the UCOL kitchens, and taught them the finer points of restaurant service in the training restaurant.
“I knew I had a good knowledge of all facets of hospitality but teaching was a new challenge,” says Claude. “I had to learn how to impart that knowledge.”
In his 23 years of teaching at Whanganui UCOL, Claude has been instrumental in the Whanganui Culinary Arts students’ success at National Food Shows and the annual Toque d’Or cooking competitions. He has coached the Front of House servers to four Toque d’Or gold medals since 2009, including when the team were outright winners of the prestigious event in 2004.
He was also the kitchen coach for Whanganui UCOL’s winning team at the Wellington Food Show in 2009.
Whanganui UCOL Culinary Arts Programme Leader Tim Snape says, “Claude has always been meticulous in his approach to Front of House Service; this is reflected by the numerous awards his students have received over the years.”
“Fifty years is a long time. Over that time, the name Claude Baudet has become synonymous with professionalism and great service. His presence will be missed and his departure leaves a large void within the team at UCOL and the industry,” says Tim.
Claude and his wife Patricia have planned a two month visit back to his homeland of France. He is then keen to give his garden and golf handicap “some serious attention”.
Photo: Claude’s experience in the hospitality industry is global and diverse.