Formerly General Manager at Slieve Donard Resort & Spa in Newcastle, Stephen began his career with Hastings as a restaurant manager at Ballygally Castle in 2002 before climbing the ranks. Stephen is currently president of the NI Hotels Federation and General Manager of Hastings Grand Central Hotel in Belfast.

  • What is the best thing about your current job?

I am very lucky to work alongside an amazing team at the Grand Central Hotel, Belfast. They always have a smile on their faces and their can-do attitude makes it a pleasure to come into work.

  • What was your first job in the hospitality/foodservice industry?

My first job was working as a Part time bar waiter for Croft Inns at their Chimney Corner and Landsdowne Court Hotels. I really enjoyed my time there and was given the opportunity to work across different departments and learn new skills.

  • Who has been your biggest influence during your career?

My biggest influence was the late Sir William Hastings. Throughout my career at Hastings Hotels, I admired how he always took the time to get to know the team across his properties. He believed in me at a young age and gave me the opportunity to be General Manager.

  • What key piece of advice would you give the future generation of hospitality professionals?

Embrace every opportunity and have a little fun along the way. We work in a fantastic industry with so many great like-minded individuals. With a little hard work and perseverance, you can achieve great things.

  • What is your favourite restaurant or type of food?

I love trying different cuisine, and Belfast has such a great food culture with so many wonderful restaurants. I particularly love ‘Street Food’ bursting with flavours and simply presented to let the food speak for itself.

  • What is your favourite dish?

I really love Mexican food and in particular fish tacos and guacamole.

  • What is your favourite drink?

This very much depends on what mood I am in. I love a full bodied good red wine but equally enjoy an IPA or one of our many local Gins.

  • What or who are you looking forward most to see or meet at IFEX 22?

I am really looking forward to the Street Food competition and seeing up and coming young chefs demonstrate their skills. Ultimately it is just wonderful to meet up with so many industry professionals and get back to a sense of normality.