Kitchens depend on young people, for the present as well as the future. In the US, restaurants already employ a third of all working teenagers and new recruits are desperately needed, with over a third reporting job openings that are difficult to fill, according to the National Restaurant Association’s figures.
At its best, cheffing can offer a fulfilling, creative career. So how can we attract young people into the kitchen and give them inspiring opportunities to shape their careers and encourage them to stay?
We asked members of the Fair Kitchens community to share their views:
“In my opinion the challenge these days is not to attract young people to industry, but to retain them.
Our profession has never been more popular thanks to all the culinary TV programmes and the publicity many of my colleagues receive from social media and young people are genuinely attracted to the industry. However, the number of young Chefs who burn out and leave the industry every year is high, very high.
At Le Cordon Bleu, we believe it’s important to give our students a realistic experience of the industry – that’s why our teaching encompasses our professional experiences, and why we encourage work placements in environments where we know our students will thrive.” - Chef Emil Minev, Culinary Arts Director, Le Cordon Bleu, London
“‘People embrace guidance’ is one of the first significant recollections I have of my mentor, who strongly influenced me when I was 21 years old. Having worked in kitchens since the age of 15, the early stages spent in a kitchen were crucial for me and the choices that brought me to where I stand today. If my initial experience had been any different, I would probably not be here now. This is why when I hire new staff I offer each one of them the same opportunity for development that I was given. I consistently encourage these professionals to believe in themselves and their invaluable creativity.” - Chef Markus Glocker, Owner and Chef, Batard Tribeca, New York
“If you want to create sustainability and engage younger staff, take the time to make them feel appreciated, safe, understood and heard. Listen to their needs and expectations, and treat them how you would have liked to be treated when you were in their shoes. I create time at least once a week for this. Remember each and every team member contributes to the outcome we want to achieve, and everyone matters.” - Mara Stylianoudaki, Transformational Coach to Chefs, Athens
"One of the biggest opportunities we have today is social media. It is a free and fast form of teaching. Our new generation of cooks are in instant gratification mode. They can pick up their phone and watch how to make a Sabayon on the Subway. We need to attract them by showing them we are keeping up with the trends ourselves. This builds into the teaching factor. Be the teacher they deserve that is always on your toes looking to be or discover the next trend." - Chef Ashleigh Wright, Executive Pastry Chef at Omni Barton Creek Restaurant, Texas