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  • Writer's picturegfmeade7


Hospitality is a lot better these days than when I started out forty years ago, legislation and welfare regulation is making what was a school of hard knocks profession more acceptable and the wages are not half bad either. Mental health awareness is also firmly on the agenda and staff can achieve a positive work life balance. Even with these gains the college courses are just not filling up anymore. I asked a few school age kids of catering business owners this year if they would follow in their parent’s footsteps and not one said yes. In bygone years it was a given they would keep the family show on the road.

The food sector was traditionally an easy option for anyone not suited to academia so they would be pushed towards apprenticeships or catering college. Lower exam results would not hinder qualification to train on courses that were practical work orientated and where you could start at an early age even before completing secondary education. I see so many dyslexic chefs for example as that was not really a diagnosis back in the day. They are some of the cleverest and most successful people I know in the trade now.

Other chefs could easily have gone on to study different college programmes having done well enough at school but were hell-bent anyway on a career in hospitality, like myself. I had the chance of switching to hotel management from cooking but stayed put. A couple of my fellow student chefs did take the offer to study management instead at the outset or after chef training and had a great catering career subsequently, one of them was recently awarded a national hotel manager of the year.

After cooking I went on to teach, write, inspect and consult in industry. The rest of my class went on to be successful catering business owners and head chefs and those that changed careers from catering altogether were equally successful in their other professions. So whether you do well at school or not this is an industry that will realize your full potential in life. The problem is we find it difficult to attract anyone at all to a sector that is struggling with a public image which has been slyly peddled online and on irreverent tabloid TV shows highlighting the negative side of hospitality.

Black market rogue traders, dilapidated hotels needing fixing up, sub standard food hygiene and industry substance abuse gets aired giving an unfair picture of a profession that is to be run a mile from if you were an aspiring young viewer or parent. Every industry has poor operators. With full employment we are desperately asking young people to consider a career in the delivery of good food and service to the customer.

We have to persuade a current generation that hospitality and tourism is not just a pocket money earning gig to get through college with while en route to a so called real job or career in another sector. Jobs do not get more real or rewarding than hospitality. New technology means not so much labour is needed in kitchens and ingredients are being delivered with less and less preparation required to get them onto the plate.

Visitors though still want a lovely meal cooked nicely with fresh produce and a pint pulled properly at the bar with a bit of banter thrown in for good measure. The locals still want a hotel or restaurant they can book for family occasions. You would also like a meal cooked in your work canteen and how about that takeaway on a Saturday night. Someone has to provide all this catering though, so who is going to do it? There needs to be a complete rethink of a recipe for success on future proofing the staffing of catering from everyone in society, industry, colleges and government.

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