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Tracey Donnelly

How did you become the Head Chef of the Old Royal Naval College?

Duration: 00.32


I was transferred for here, so I worked down at the Army Barracks down at Ashford that was getting knocked down for Euro Tunnel to run through there, so I was transferred to the Naval College through contract catering and started here in 1993 and been here ever since.

You’ve got a good team around you and there’s lots of people here that have been here for years like Tess, Bonnie, and it’s good that we can all meet up after and have drinks and socialise outside of work as well.

What does your day-to-day look like?

Duration: 00.21


My day starts at seven o ‘clock. We come in, we get the orders in, the deliveries, we do the temperature checks on the deliveries, put everything away, we go through the job sheets, we do a prep list of what we’ve got to do for that day or what we can do for prep ahead of time. Yeah, then we crack on and we get cooking. 

How has the Old Royal Naval College changed throughout the years?

Duration: 00.27


So, it’s very different from when the Navy was here. When the Navy was here, we’d be doing breakfast, lunch, and evening meal for up to 350 a day. Lunchtime would be a snack bar, a sandwich bar, a salad bar, a three course, or an omelette, if they wanted an omelette from the kitchen. And then evening would be a choice menu of two mains. Yeah, very different. 

Working in a historical site – which is not necessarily built to host events – comes with its own challenges. Can you share one of the funniest anecdotes you have?

Duration: 00.30


We had one job when the Navy had a dinner here and the lifts broke down and there was no lift engineer on site, so we could get no hot food upstairs, so we had to just raid the fridges for salads and all the cold meats that we would use for the sandwiches and the snack bar the next day, anything that we could serve cold, we had to get it up the stairs and run it up. They were okay, but after that, every time there was an event on and a dinner for the Navy, then a lift engineer had to be on site. 

What is an event or dish that feels special to make?

Duration: 00.35


Trafalgar Night where you’ve got the ‘Ships of the Line’ Parade and the ‘Baron of Beef’. So traditionally they have a three-course dinner and then it’s always beef on the main course. Then chefs will parade the ‘Baron of Beef’ around before main course goes out. I’m guessing that the beef used to go to the top table years ago before my time and it was carved at top table.  

And then the ‘Ships of the Line’ used to be desserts. But now we do plated desserts, and we send the ‘Ships of the Line’ out with petit fours, with their flags and all that on as the end of the night.