Creating a More Inclusive Kitchen Environment: 7 Strategies for Celebrating Diversity

A fair kitchen is a place that welcomes diversity, where people’s voices are heard and their individuality is celebrated. 

This month we spoke to restaurant leaders, chefs and industry experts about ways to make our kitchens more equitable and representative workplaces, regardless of race, gender identity, sexuality, ability, nationality or worldview.


Flexible hours will allow for more diversity in the kitchen 

“I don’t think there is a fair representation yet. I think we have to focus more on diversity. Male, female, young, old and different ethnicities. So in order to include diversity we need to work on more flexible hours. , We need to implement this then people can have a family life or social life because this industry is very tough.  It will also allow you to have a lot of family time or social time so working on flexible hours is very important”

Mick Élysée, Executive Chef and Owner, 


Be intentional about diversity

“I think a great tip to find people and make sure you have a diverse staff, is to find them where they are. So don’t just go the traditional route of posting on whatever you post on, but go to that school and go to that neighbourhood. Post signs there, leave messages there. You’ll find people in different neighbourhoods, different villages, different schools, different areas who could help you in your business. Who could be a motivation, who could be inspirational in you being a diverse workforce and adding some spices and flavour to your menu. Go where people are, be intentional about it.”

Kimberly Brock Brown, National President 

American Culinary Federation

Value people for who they are

“I think it's important, in this day and age, to have a team that's got diversity.  Because it shows that you understand the way the world is going and that we're human beings. As human beings regardless of who we are racially, or gender or what our belief systems are, we value the person because we see what they are made of, the talent that we have.”

James Khoza, Executive Chef and President 

The South African Chefs Association

Women should be employed or hired on merit

“Women are not fairly represented in the hospitality industry and they struggle in their career progression. Women earn less and less frequently occupy managerial posts than men. So what can be done to create more diversity in the kitchen? Firstly everyone needs to be employed or hired on merit. We need to look at insufficient advancement or career development. For promotions, women are not asking for favors. But if I have capabilities, talent, skill, don’t be biased because I’m a woman. Being a woman does not mean disability. We are able beings, we have talent, we have skills. Only if we are given an opportunity.”

Pinky Maruping, Chef 

Unilever Food Solutions South Africa

We learn from different cultures

“Diversity should play a vital role in every kitchen, as it brings a different dimension to the team, makes the workplace more interesting and provides a chance for you to learn from each other. The importance of different cultures and genders teaches us to respect and inspire one another and that's how we become better human beings, professionally and personally. Cooking is one thing, but creating a team with shared values in a productive and happy environment is another thing.”

Meeran Manzoor, Executive Chef

Rare 1784

Beware of unconscious bias in hiring

“There is sometimes an unconscious bias around ethnic-sounding names. Studies show that people with ethnic-sounding names sometimes get fewer callbacks than mainstream-sounding names. So if you eliminate the name from the resume, this minimizes that bias. Also in terms of addresses, there is an issue around where some people live.  For example if a resume shows that the address is far from the job location, an interviewer may make the decision that a person may not be able to get to work on time, when this may not be the case.”

Michelle Robinson, Diversity Expert 




Allow your diverse team to have a space of expression 

“I think it’s important to have a diverse and inclusive kitchen, because it’s our responsibility as chefs not only to our staff, but to our customers. It’s actually another layer of hospitality. The job doesn’t stop just by hiring diverse people. It goes beyond, allowing them to have a space of expression. We like to ask different members of our team to make a family meal and share with us something from their heritage and many times that makes its way to the menu via a special, allowing our guests to experience our colors.”

Timon Balloo, James Beard Nominee and Executive Chef

The Katherine

Embracing diversity and creating an inclusive kitchen environment, can also bring exciting ideas to the kitchen. To start with, we can be intentional about our goal to recruit people from diverse backgrounds, whether that’s gender identity, race, ability, nationality, sexuality or religion. Treat people as individuals, nurture their talents and promote from within. 

To learn more about cultivating diversity and being a stronger restaurant leader, sign up today for our free online training.

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