For Alaska Seafood, sustainability doesn’t just relate to fish. It’s about creating a sustainable workforce, attracting new talent and promoting the industry as a great place to work. Over the next four months, Alaska Seafood will be unearthing the future stars of the hospitality industry. In part two, we meet founding director of Ladies of Restaurants, Natalia Ribbe
What is your job title and what does that role entail?
I am the founder of LOR (Ladies of Restaurants), which is an open “club” for women who work in hospitality. We put on events covering different topics as well as training sessions to help further the hospitality education of women across the industry.
My role means constantly meeting new people and listening to what women want to learn more about. I also work in the communications side of the industry, working with restaurants and food and drink brands to raise their profiles, as well as heading up the restaurant partnerships for national
children’s charity Magic Breakfast. There’s never a dull moment.
How did you get involved in this industry?
My father was a chef turned hotel manager, so it was quite natural to fall into restaurants. In New York I worked for a couple of fine dining restaurants.
I loved taking care of guest requests and remembering people’s names and birthdays – just seeing their face light up when we made it happen. I definitely didn’t know what my path was going to be in hospitality; I worked my way up from waitress to manager, to marketing and events, to now running my own business helping women find their own way in the industry.
What do you love about it?
The people. I love meeting new people, hearing people’s stories and helping people. The social side of the job is definitely my favourite aspect. Most people might find it daunting attending events every night and having to make conversation, but I really enjoy it.
What do you find challenging?
Trying to appease everyone. We really try to cover all different topics that will reach women from each aspect of the industry, but we can’t always do that. As we grow, I am constantly asking for feedback and asking LOR members what it is they want to talk about or learn. We are also a start-up run by myself; juggling all my different hats can be very difficult and I have definitely seen projects suffer because of this. However, I really believe what we are doing is helping, so we push forwards.
Who was your biggest icon growing up that inspired your career choice?
Well, to be honest, I didn’t really have one because there weren’t many women in roles in hospitality to which I could look up to. Now I can see that you can start on the floor and work your way into the kitchen or into marketing. I definitely
took inspiration from both my father and godfather, who are just amazing hosts. They taught me how to work a room.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Hopefully travelling the world with LOR; helping women; hosting workshops and talks; and continuing to make the industry a positive and fun place in which to work.
What advice would you give those trying to break into the industry?
Work your way up. The best thing that I did without even knowing it was starting at the bottom. Never think you’re too big for the little jobs. If I work an event now, I will always be hands on, moving things, bussing tables and so on. It
makes for a more respectful environment that everyone is in it together. Also, go out to eat and meet people. Dining out is expensive, but to me it’s investing in my education of food and service. Sure, you can go to catering college, but that is not what is going to teach you how to think on your toes in the middle of service when the tills go down – get out and see how people are working, cooking, engaging with guests. That’s where you will learn the most.
• Look out for part three of Sustainable Futures in the 26 October issue
To find out more, head to www.alaskaforeverwild.com