When Nick Le Cornu was studying for his catering diploma at Highlands College, little did he know how big a part the preparation of food and wine would play in his life some 25 years later.
Currently, one of two bookkeepers in the accounts team at Les Amis, Nick has spent most of his career working in the tourism industry – a legacy of his family’s involvement in the hospitality trade.
Having graduated from Highlands, his first job was in the accounts office at Hotel L’Horizon at a time – the early 1990s - when what he describes as “the golden period” of Jersey tourism was coming to an end.
Hotels, nightspots and cabaret venues such as Swanson’s and the legendary Caesar’s Palace were closing down, but the top hotels – such as L’Horizon - still retained some of the more formal elements of customer service.
“It was still quite traditional in that the hotel porters wore top hats and frock coats,” recalled Nick.
He worked there for five happy years, but left to go and work for his father Alan, who owned and ran two hotels – Hotel Sandranne in Rouge Bouillon and the Old Bank House in Gorey Village.
Unfortunately, it was while he was employed by the family business that it was discovered that he had a brain abscess - a life-threatening condition – which resulted in a number of brain surgery operations.
Indeed, it was so serious that at one stage his Mum and Dad were called in to the hospital to say their last goodbyes, as Nick wasn’t expected to last the night.
Still, survive he did, although he was to spend most of the next five years in recovery.
“I spent a lot of time reading, and watching the History Channel, but eventually was well enough to go back to working part time, this time for The Grand Hotel,” said Nick.
And it was during his time at “The Grand” that his life changed again, when he went on a blind date arranged by his best mate (and later, best man) Joel Richardson, who he’d first met at Highlands.
“By then, he was a grower at Flying Flowers and Julia (my date) worked there as a HR assistant.”
Nick and Julia hit it off immediately, so much so that within a year they were married and, shortly after, became the proud parents of their first child Max (now 9).
The marriage took place at St Thomas’ Church, officiated by Canon Nicholas France, and Nick was back there again 13 months later, but this time it was for his First Communion, having found his way back to religion during his long period of convalescence.
What made it even more special was that he was sponsored for his First Communion by his wife Julia.
And it was this fusion of family and the church which have been the most important elements of his life for the past decade. He and Julia, a carer for the elderly at Phoenix Home Care Services, now have a second child Lilly (aged 4) - who has just started school at Beaulieu - while Nick has spent the last five years training to become a deacon in the Catholic Church.
There are two types of deacon; those who are students in the last phase of training for the priesthood and the others, as in Nick’s case, who have a secular job to support themselves, but who assist in church work by visiting the sick, teaching the faith, counselling couples and individuals, working on parish committees and councils, and giving advice to the pastor.
“Most deacons are family men and so you’re encouraged to be self-sustaining – to derive your income from outside of the church – which means you have to fit your church commitments around that, by helping when or where possible,” explained Nick.
His pathway to becoming a deacon has meant making regular weekend trips to ‘Deacon School’ in Birmingham where, along with nine other trainees, he attends classes and lectures as well as helping to serve at mass and other services.
“It’s a big commitment, and there’s a lot of reading and study involved, so you really appreciate the support of your family,” he added.
And while his long period of recovery and reflection following serious illness eventually led him back to the church, the training to become a deacon has reawakened his love of music. Having previously played both flute and guitar, Nick picked up a flute again when, as a fourth year seminary student, he and his fellow trainees were expected to provide some of the music at the services they attend.
“Music has always been important, and I especially enjoy a bit of blues and country, but with being so busy with family and church it had taken a bit of a back seat,” said Nick.
He now finds the time to relax by strumming a few tunes on the guitar – so, why the flute? “Well, it was lot easier to transport to and from the UK.”
Nick is now just two months away from the end of his training and is looking forward to being formally ordained by the Bishop of Portsmouth in early 2018
And whereas normally the ordination would take place in Portsmouth Cathedral, it’s likely that he, and his family and friends, will be able to celebrate in front of a ‘home crowd’, with the service being held in Jersey with the members of his congregation at St Thomas’ Church.
Once he’s ordained, Nick will be able to baptise, witness marriages, perform funeral and burial services outside of Mass, distribute Holy Communion (hence the earlier reference to the preparation of food and wine), and preach the homily - the sermon given after the Gospel at Mass. He is also expected to find time to pray and give thanks for each day.
In the meantime, he will be celebrating another significant milestone – the completion of his second year at Les Amis - having joined during a period of significant change in June 2015. And, as with all the places he’s most enjoyed working, it’s the friends and colleagues he works alongside that make it so rewarding.
“I work with some great colleagues and we’re fortunate that we have contact with many of the other staff and residents at Les Amis. It’s a happy place to be, and it’s great to work in an environment where there’s lot of smiles and laughter.”
Long may that continue.
Les Amis Limited Registered Charity No. 232 | LA Incorporated No.231 | Association of Jersey Charities Number: AJC 113