Life has taken Shandene Montgomery through many detours, but the 27-year-old native of Lluidas Vale district in St Catherine never lost sight of her dream to become a chef extraordinaire.
She is now a chef and dinner supervisor at Grand Palladium hotel in Hanover, she said, adding that her talent and positive attitude catapulted her to the leadership role within less than five months on the job.
“My accomplishment to date makes me proud of myself,” said the mother of a six year-old daughter. “I could be at home with another child or three more children, but that was not the aim… I stepped out of the box because there are needs to be met for me and my child.”
Montgomery opened up about her experience after reading a story The Beacon published yesterday, highlighting an appeal for residents of the Lluidas Vale area to stop idling, and to enroll at the skills training centre in their community.
Montgomery, who noted that she is endorsing the appeal, said her initial dream was to become a nurse.
But her fear of blood prompted her to change course after graduating from McGrath High School in Linstead, St Catherine. In that course-changing moment, she cemented her love for the Culinary Arts.
Montgomery enrolled at Kellits Skills Training Centre in Clarendon, where she obtained certification in Commercial Food Preparation before being employed as a pantry cook for a year at Beaches Boscobel hotel in St Mary.
She returned to Kellits Skills Training Centre to study Restaurant Service (Levels I and II).
Montgomery subsequently became pregnant, and ended up spending some time at home, without a job. “I didn’t want to stay at home; I am the working type of person,” she declared.
She eventually turned to her hairstyling skills, renting salon spaces in Linstead, St Catherine, to eke out a living.
She told The Beacon that, although she has a knack for hairstyling, she could not escape the yearning for her first love – the kitchen. “I didn’t want to be in Linstead doing hair; my mind was just in the hotel industry,” she said.
Montgomery again left her rural community. She took up residence in the volatile Flanker area of St James, and worked at Irie House Restaurant in the St James capital – Montego Bay. “I left that job due to the crime rate in Montego Bay, and I went back home,” she recalled.
Staying at home, again, was not the answer.
Montgomery went to Linstead and opened a small business – Shann’s Beauty Bar and Nails. That operation, however, was short-lived.
She returned to St James; this time working in another restaurant.
Montgomery, now employed to Grand Palladium hotel, thinks she has found stability and her dream job. “I went there as a regular line staff, and I am now a supervisor in less than five months,” she told The Beacon.
She further stated that, despite the many detours and challenges encountered, she has never fallen prey to complacency. She is always on the move; always trying to find the next big opportunity.
“I am proud to say that I was raised in Lluidas Vale where there is not much opportunity, but I stepped outside the box. Sitting down isn’t going to get you anywhere. If you don’t go out and get it, it will not come to you,” Montgomery said, adding that she wants to be an inspiration especially to young women in her hometown.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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