We need to show the next generation why hospitality isn't just a job for now, it's a career for life, says Chantelle Nicholson.
With Covid-19 and Brexit having such a monumental impact, I do wonder what lies ahead for our industry and those who work in it.
My first job as a chef, in London in 2004, involved working 18-hour days, four to six days a week, for a salary of £13,000 a year. And I genuinely loved it. There was always so much to do, so much to learn, so much to see and just so much going on. There was never a dull moment and the adrenalin of service was pretty addictive.
Yes, 18-hour days are not cool, and I could list many other negatives within the industry, but sometimes it feels like that is all that gets the attention. And I am fairly certain that TV shows depicting aggressive and shouty chefs have translated into parents vehemently discouraging their children from embarking on a hospitality career. Thanks GR.
I asked my team (who are all a lot younger than me) what got them into hospitality in the first place and there were a lot of heartwarming responses. Some needed an income to support them through education, others saw the opportunities for transferable skills to be able work worldwide, others loved food and being around other people. All spoke of the confidence and knowledge it gave them, the sense of team spirit and of satisfaction, and the buzz that was missing in corporate roles. One of my favourites was: "It is a stimulating environment in which creativity, passion and curiosity are so prized".
We all know the positives – that's why we are in this industry – but how do we get the message out beyond our four walls? The message that any role in hospitality involves so many important life skills, and skills that are prized in any role, not to mention the myriad of other positives.
I also asked my team what they thought was important for the future. They mentioned wider public recognition of the good stuff the industry has to offer, and a celebration of the diversity of both its people and its roles. Also, a sense of being part of, and contributing to, a community, and the importance of both creativity and collaboration. Brexit was also brought up, and the need to forge a way forward with a pool of fewer people, both skilled and inexperienced.
I genuinely believe we all have a duty to inspire the youth to join our industry, and to be more collaborative with our wider communities. Once it is safe, I urge everyone to contact their local school and see how they can forge a relationship and get kids into their venues to experience the things we all pour our passion into.
I urge everyone to contact their local school and see how they can forge a relationship and get kids into their venues to experience the things we all pour our passion into
Hopefully, some of this will open young people's eyes and minds to what could be possible, and that a career (albeit short- or long-term) in hospitality can be interesting, rewarding and potentially take you wherever you wish to go, metaphorically and literally.
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