Meet Pascal Issert
Learn more about Pascal Issert, ISL Chef for 16 years, retired in January 2021
Where are you from originally?
Burgundy, the wine area of France. All of my family still lives there today.
Did you ever think that you would be the head chef at a school when you started your career?
No, never! When I first got my diploma, one of my first placements was at the Hotel Zimmer in Ehnen, on the Moselle. I worked there for the summer season and eventually came back the next summer as well. However, I did not have the intention to return to Luxembourg. I placed an advertisement in the newspaper ‘Hôtellerie’ announcing my availability to work and voilà, I was offered a job in Esch. I guess it was my destiny that I stay on in Luxembourg.
Before Eurest assigned me to ISL, I worked for them at Eurocontrol (where I actually met Francine Phillips!), then SES Astra, and eventually Siemens. When Eurest asked me if I wanted to come to ISL, I didn’t really think too much about it because I knew if I didn’t take the job, I might not have any opportunities to move later on, so I just took it.
When you started at ISL sixteen years ago, the school was very small and all the students were in one building. How have you managed to deal with the challenge of running the cafeterias in such a quickly growing school?
When I started at ISL, there were only about 300 people (including staff) in the school. The cafeteria was smaller than it is now, and was divided in half – one side for the Upper School and the other side for the Lower School.
The first year was very difficult as the kitchen was very small and the equipment was not the best. The dishwasher was also downstairs and it was very awkward.
I had never cooked for children before either, so this was also difficult. I wasn’t sure about portions, nor what they like, and allergies were also a problem. It was very difficult but I was assisted by the nutritionist from Eurest and also from the school staff.
When the Hillside building was built in 2007, we had to think of how to manage the (Eurest) staff. Some members of staff were better adapted to working with small children so we placed them in Hillside. As the kitchen in the Upper School was still very small, we used the kitchen in the Hillside for cold food preparation, sandwiches, etc.
When we opened the Lower School, the Upper School kitchen was also renovated at the same time and Eurest was consulted during this process so it is a bit more adapted to the way we work. While the equipment in the kitchens is the same, I still feel the kitchen in the Upper School is better thought out.
As a chef, we would love to know what your favourite foods are! What do you cook in your free time?
I can’t really say I have a favourite food. But I like stews, fresh vegetables, international cuisine (Mexican, Chinese). I like to discover new things and am open to flavours I don’t really know. On Sundays I like to cook for myself.
What do you plan to do next, now that you retire?
First, I would like to rest for a while (no more waking up at 4h30!). My mother is elderly, so I need to go to Burgundy to help her for a while. She lives in a big house with a big garden so there is a lot to do there. My sister and brother both work, so as I have more time to help her now, I plan to do that. I would also like to buy an apartment in Burgundy and, of course, travel again – when I can!
What are some of your best memories from working at ISL?
After the holidays, when the children are so happy to see me after the break – I really appreciate that.
The big events that we have had – NECIS, special events, conferences, Oktoberfest – even though they were often stressful, I felt very good about seeing everyone together and happy.
What will you miss the most at ISL?
The people – the staff, the students, the parents. Everyone is very kind. I am going to miss everyone.
What advice would you like to give to your replacement Didier?
Be kind to everyone. Make sure you that the food is well cooked, that the quality is still high, especially in the Lower School.
If you could describe ISL in five words, what would they be:
It is hard in words. Definitely kindness, open-mindedness, and diversity.
But I would also say that it is like being in all countries at once, or in a country that doesn’t really exist except in a dream. A small perfect world, where everyone comes from different backgrounds, and you learn from each other. Une expérience formidable. I am going to miss it. I will never regret working here.