Jason Atherton, founder of the Social Company, says the industry should use the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to press the "restart button" on improving sustainability and staff training.
Atherton, who is honorary president of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts' (RACA) Annual Awards of Excellence, was speaking to RACA chairman John Williams in the second part of an exclusive video series for The Caterer to mark the Academy's 40th anniversary in 2020.
"It's almost like a restart button," Atherton said. "This is a real opportunity that we won't get again, to restart everything: our sustainability, are we doing enough with plastics, with our food waste, staff training and the environment."
Williams agreed: "It's so important that we carry on doing things like this because it will make the industry stronger. There's no better time than this particular time to be doing this kind of thing."
Atherton also called on young chefs to use the industry slowdown to work on improving skills rather than rushing to quickly climb the career ladder.
"Young chefs are more and more in a rush to be successful," he said. "I was very fortunate to take my time with my career and spent many years working for the great chefs. I'd like young people to ask the question: if I rush to be a head chef by 23 or 24, am I doing myself justice and do I really have the depth of knowledge, so when I become a head chef of the Ritz or the Savoy or my own restaurant, do I have that knowledge to pass down to 30, 40 or 50 cooks who are going to work under me?
"So when they come and knock on my door and say "hey, my souffles aren't rising" or "we've just had a carcass lamb delivered", can you really take that apart? It's a beautiful thing once you learn it and it'll never leave you, like riding a bike. You can have your ups and downs in life, but you'll always have those skills."
Watch part one of the video series, in which John Williams speaks to RACA president Brian Turner, here.