The hotel industry is in mourning this week, following the passing of Val Cook, Alumni Manager, Ambassador and Vice Principal at Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS) for the past 26 years.
Cook was a mentor to many in the hotel industry in both Australia and globally and his passing has shocked colleagues and students both past and present around the world.
BMIHMS Alumni Chair, AccorHotels’ Vice President Operations NSW/ACT, SCOTT BOYES, penned this obituary remembering both a mentor and great friend.
I met Val ‘Chef’ Cook for the first time in February 1992. I was straight out of school and sitting in the dining room of the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School. It was day one of my post school career and I didn’t really know if I belonged or if I had made the right choice. I was apprehensive, nervous, and excited, while unsure of what my future career could look like.
As we sat, eager for the day to commence, a tall man made his way to the lectern. He was introduced as Mr Cook. He was immaculately dressed and was commanding and caring at the same time. He spoke with a strong voice on teamwork, excellence, service and getting the best out of yourself. He spoke with a passion for the industry and with genuine care for all of us; I was hooked from that moment and have been ever since. He made me feel I belonged here and from what I have read over the past couple of days, he made many others feel that way too.
Following my time at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School, no matter where I was, Val would always make the effort to keep in touch. He would arrange Alumni events and had a wonderful knack of bringing people together in such a genuine and caring fashion. When Val held an event, no one was ever left out and everyone always felt welcome and included. As a result, over the years he built a network of hospitality professionals across continents, companies, brands and age brackets that would rival any other.
More recently in our catch ups I enjoyed discussing the state of play, how things were and how things should be. We did not always agree, however I always appreciated that Val trusted me enough to share his point of view. I always came away from our conversations a little wiser and better for the experience.
For many of us, Val was a link to where we’ve come from and how far we’ve come. He has seen us grow and grow up, and as a result the bond formed between us is a special one. He was always there in the foreground connecting us and in the background cheering us on. His commitment to me from February 1992 until August 2017 has evolved from teacher to disciplinarian, to mentor, to friend.
Val leaves a wonderful legacy to the global and local hospitality industry and I am convinced he is still there bringing us together and cheering for us all.
Mr Cook, your job is now done. We have all grown up, you can rest easy knowing we will be OK. We are all so much better for knowing you. Thank you for everything you have done for us all, you leave behind a wonderful legacy and will be greatly missed.
Scott Boyes graduated from BMIHMS in 1994.