NASSAU, BAHAMAS — If you hope to excel in the culinary field, but you lack the resources to pursue further studies, then Senior Sous Chef and Banquet Chef at Sandals Royal Bahamian, Thomas Reckley, may serve as the perfect source of inspiration.
Reckley, 45, began working at Sandals Royal Bahamian in 1997. He had just graduated from the CR Walker High School in Nassau. He lived in a tough neighborhood at the time, and his family feared that without a job, he would’ve fallen prey to certain ills.
With that, Reckley knew that he had no choice but to look for work. He managed to secure employment at a small diner as a prep personnel, cutting up vegetables and stripping and peeling meats. His boss, the executive chef, who would later leave that entity to work with the Luxury Included® resort brand, Sandals, saw the drive in Reckley and brought him along.
“When he started working at Sandals, he came back for me. I didn’t know much about cooking, but he told me that if I wanted to learn, I could because I had the zeal. It was rough at first because this was not just a Bahamian kitchen, this was five-star global gourmet,” he recalled.
Chef Reckley shared that while the tasks were formidable, his enthusiasm and passion propelled him to learn and adapt swiftly.
“The first kitchen they put me in was the Crystal Room. At the time, that was one of our finest restaurants. Most of the people who worked in that kitchen had way more experience, qualifications and certifications. All I had was my drive,” he said.
“I remember the chef telling me that some people pay the schools to teach them but at Sandals, I can be paid to learn and master this art, all it takes is time. I started coming in earlier and leaving later so I could learn. A lot of my colleagues made fun of me and taunted me for giving the company too much of my time. But a year and a half later, I was one of their leaders,” he said between chuckles.
Reckley had received a huge promotion and was now donning the title of chef de partie, a restaurant chef in charge of specific dishes.
Reckley recalled how at one point, they got a new executive chef who he thought was giving him a hard time. He would soon find out that the chef was impressed with him and wanted to push him to grow.
“He left me to run a restaurant all by myself. The whole team would be off on a Monday and I would have to spearhead everything on my own. Because of this, I avoided him like the plague. One day, he sent a menu over to me and it was all written in French. I didn’t understand a single word so I had no choice but to go and speak with him,” he explained.
Reckley stated that it was at this point that it dawned on him that the chef was assessing his ability to lead all while using myriad strategies to teach him about various cuisines.
“He told me that while I may not have been able to travel all over the world to learn about different cuisines, Sandals is bringing the world to me. And when I think about it, I’ve worked with executive chefs from all over the world, Scotland, India, America, South Africa, France, just to name a few. College came right here to me. I went to culinary school at Sandals,” he declared.
“Every one of them taught me something different. It was an Austrian chef who taught me how to make beef stroganoff,” he added.
Reckley soon matriculated into the role of sous chef, much to the delight of the entire kitchen staff.
“I was moved from one restaurant to the other and I made an impact in every single one of them. We had great scores and I would excel from strength to strength. I was often lauded for my impeccable timing. I could have my meat in the oven and could still be interacting with guests and wouldn’t miss a beat,” he said.
Over the years, Reckley has received recognition at various levels within the company, copping several coveted awards.
Today, he operates in the capacity of senior sous chef and he also heads the banqueting kitchen.
Reckley’s leader, Executive Chef, Colin Watson extols him for being an archetype of excellence, an outstanding and invaluable member of the team.
“Chef Tommy is revered by the entire team and for good reasons. He is an astute professional who masterfully and creatively goes about his assignments. He leads with sheer brilliance and works from a place of unbridled passion,” Watson shared.
Reckley has no plans to slow down and believes he will continue growing in his craft and at the company.