Speaking from his restaurant inside Channel 4’s Hotel GB, the chef told BigHospitality of his ‘embarrassment’ at the current UK unemployment figures, insisting that part of the problem is young people choosing to claim benefits over getting into work.
“It’s too easy for the unemployed today,” he said. “I don’t think it’s as tough as it could be - irrespective of going out and looking for work, they still get paid. It’s embarrassing that we’ve got two and a half million unemployed and I find it hard to accept.
“I have a member of my family who hasn’t worked for years and his response is ‘why should I go and work 50 hours a week when all I’m getting is 50 quid more than I’m getting from the Government’.
“The misconception about working today is that it’s all about the money, but it’s not It’s about becoming less insecure and being more excited about being given the chance to learn something.”
The Hotel GB ethos
Ramsay has this week been dishing out the orders as co-manager of Hotel GB, which sees two groups of famous names running the Bermondsey Square Hotel in London for one week, with paying guests. By the end of the week, the stars hope to have landed their unemployed trainees full-time jobs while raising cash for two charities.
The chef is also heading up the Hotel GB restaurant - a task which says has brought back memories of his own first steps in the hospitality industry.
“I was in the shoes of the Hotel GB trainees once. I had an upset early on when I thought I was going to be playing football and I got a massive injury.
“But I didn’t sit there on my arse and start getting bitter. Things at home were going really pear-shaped between my parents as well and I was going to become a victim of their turmoil, so I almost ran away from home because I was not prepared to sit there and be negative about it.
“When you overcome that adversity younger, it puts you in a good position to take anything going forward.”
Ramsay’s restaurant company, Gordon Ramsay Holdings, recently launched a new apprenticeship scheme which will put apprentices through a three-year programme; being monitored on a monthly basis and spending the majority of time gaining first-hand experience in the kitchen.
The Michelin-starred chef believes other restaurants should now be following suit, citing the influx of Eastern Europeans as one of the main reasons for the lack of young people entering what is now the fifth largest industry in the UK.
“I think that modern-day apprenticeship should come back and the hospitality industry should recapture that success that we had in the early 1970s, where they spent 90 per cent of the time physically working.
“If you look at the different restaurants now, from high street chains to gastropubs to five-star hotels, why are we so stupidly in this situation when you look at the amount of Brits that our not working in this country in our hospitality industry?
“The problem is that Eastern Europeans come in and work twice as hard for half the money and they get their foot on the ladder, they become talented - some of the best chefs in this country now are from other parts of Europe, they’re not British.
“The foreigners have snuck in and almost taken the wind out of our sails, which has created a vacuum and a huge void for the unemployed.”
“But we’ve got a chance to turn things around and show that the hospitality industry - it’s not glamorous - but it’s perfect for young people in terms of being ambitious, climbing the ladder and doing something pretty unique for themselves.”
Gordon Ramsay’s top tips for young people entering hospitality:
- “Get one solid year under your belt in a good restaurant and then travel. If you pick up a second language, whether you're fluent in Spanish or French, it creates a character.
- “Being vulnerable and going into that insecure world three or four times before you’re 30 strengthens your character."
- “From the age of 16 to 28-30, that’s your sponge period - it’s the same in law, the same in journalism and in medicine. You have to become good at what you’re doing. You need to be like a magpie, picking up all the little shiny bits of each and every restaurant that you work at, steel that knowledge and move into another situation.
- “Then, at 28 to 30, that’s where it really starts to take off, provided you become a little selfish in what you need to be.
- “No matter what successes you achieve, don’t become so precious that you don’t like that word ‘vulnerability’ - I think that’s what makes you what you are today.”