Introduce young people to the industry earlier, say experts

By Lauren Houghton contact

- Last updated on GMT

BigHospitality’s ‘Ending the talent drain’ debate at The Restaurant Show
BigHospitality’s ‘Ending the talent drain’ debate at The Restaurant Show

Related tags: Young chefs, Chef

Visiting schools and educating youngsters about cooking could help solve recruitment issues, according to a panel of chefs and industry experts.

The panel of experts at BigHospitality’s ‘Ending the talent drain’ debate at The Restaurant Show on 8 October included director of operations at People 1st Martine Pullen, chef and restaurateur Mark Hix, Swedish Embassy UK chef Antonia Morosi and chef de partie at The Ivy April Partridge.

Pullen said her number one tip for restaurants looking for new talent and struggling with recruitment was to ‘visit schools and colleges and talk’. Hix agreed and said taking on young chefs straight from school could help to teach work ethic as colleges weren’t always the answer.

“When I was in college no one came to talk to us about the industry,” said Hix. “We need to prime young people for working in restaurants; it’s all about work ethic.

“In some ways it’s best to take someone on straight from school and that’s what I plan to do now. Restaurants should even visit schools and teach kids to cook there.”

Partridge agreed: “If I’d had someone come into my school and give us insights into the passion of the industry, I might have realised it was for me far earlier. Giving out the information is the best way to get more people involved.”

X-Factor complex

The panel also debated the high 20 per cent staff turnover in the hospitality industry. They cited a lack of basic training and the fact that young chefs want to rise through the ranks too quickly to be possible causes.

Hix said: “Sometimes the catering colleges don’t teach chefs enough about what it’s like to work in the real world and basic training can be missed. I get sous chefs who turn up without basic skills as early training principles have vanished.

“Today the expectancy is higher as well; young chefs want to be sous chefs too young. It took me six years to get that far.”

Pullen said: “There’s a generation of young people with the X-Factor complex. They want to be stars tomorrow and the older chefs don’t like it. Colleges have to instil in students that they shouldn’t run before they can walk, but at the same time they shouldn’t dampen the students’ enthusiasm. They need to find a balance.”

Shift patterns

Another factor suggested for the high turnover rates in the industry was its long working hours, though the panel agreed that those passionate about being chefs often had to accept those. Still, Morosi suggested some ways restaurants could help chefs in this area.

“I remember visiting the kitchens of a restaurant in New York and wondering where all the female chefs were,” she said.

“I asked about it and was told they were all having a night out, they’d all been given the early shift that day to go out together.

“Maybe restaurants could try and balance out their shift patterns, perhaps someone could do a week of early shifts, and then a week of late shifts. That would make things fair and it’d be easier to know when you can plan to go out.” 

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