Impressive both in stature and nature, Val Cook is remembered with incredible fondness by those who worked with him at Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS).
Val passed away unexpectedly on Saturday, 26 August 2017. He was 74 years old.
Born as Valdis Christopher Cook in the south of England, 28 January 1943, his father was a publican; a career choice that came to influence his own.
At the age of 15, Val began his studies in Commercial Cookery at Westminster College London, gaining his City and Guilds qualifications whilst working at Grosvenor House which, at the time, had the largest conference facilities in the city. He went on to enjoy a varied career on several continents as a chef and hotel manager; Africa, Asia, Europe, and eventually Australia. One of the highlights of his career was opening the Commodore Hotel in Busan, South Korea.
After arriving in Australia in March 1970 and working at a variety of hotels, he turned to education, working for Regency College in Adelaide, before he was approached to become a founding member of staff at BMIHMS when it was established in 1991.
To those he worked with he was more than a colleague. As someone with 26 years of service with the School, Cookie – as he was known to many – was a mentor, friend and integral part of the unique community within our educational institution in Leura.
In short, Val Cook was family.
The role he most recently held at the BMIHMS was Alumni Ambassador, but as the longest serving member of our staff, it was only part of his wide-ranging connection with us. His time at BMIHMS began as a Chef Instructor, inspiring students with his passion for the culinary arts. Shortly after he took on his longest role within the company, that of Vice Principal. He was a leader with an unrivalled dedication to his students and the hospitality industry. For many, however, he was the personification of the school and its values.
While students often initially found Val a formidable character – one of his favourite quips was “You’re not a mate until you graduate” – invariably they came to love him by the time they completed their studies. This affection was mutual and found the perfect expression in his role as a champion of our School’s alumni.
Val managed to do what so many of us in this vocation strive for; he made a difference in the lives of those he taught, and had a positive, lasting impact on students, which for many resonate throughout their careers. He was a true educator through and through and his love of learning and teaching continued throughout his lifetime.
Outside of work, he was a keen golfer, enjoyed a hand of poker and a flutter on the horses. According to a close friend and fellow punter, he had a particular knack for backing the slowest horse in any race. As a youngster he was also a keen cricketer.
He is remembered within our tight knit community as a big, colourful character with a quick wit and great sense of humour, but Val was also a man with a global network of friends and colleagues in the hospitality industry. He truly was a global citizen who had alumni, friends and colleagues around the world; a network that will continue to grow as we all share the loss and grief on the passing of a leading light in our world.
While we mourn his departure, in time, we will also celebrate his life and legacy and toast him with his favourite drink; an unconventional but apt Chardonnay with ice.
In the words of the fans of his beloved Liverpool FC: You’ll never walk alone.
Mr Cook, we will love and remember you always. Rest in peace.