Nurturing the Next Culinary Stars: 8 Tips for Inspiring and Mentoring Young Chefs

Starting a journey in the food service industry is like following a recipe – you need the right ingredients, techniques and someone to guide you. The next generation of culinary stars is already working, and with the right mentorship, they can reach their full potential, even if they don’t always have formal training.

New chefs have a lot to offer this industry. They bring fresh energy and inspiration as well as their unique approaches. With nurturing and guidance, these ideas can shape the way we work for the better. 

Read on to learn about how to be an empowering mentor for newcomers in the industry by building trust and communicating clearly. We also share tips for up and coming chefs on how to develop your career. 

Look at the opportunities to learn

When you are starting out, don’t focus on what you don’t have. Look around for opportunities to learn and grow. Even if you start as a dishwasher, it is possible to own a restaurant one day. Watch the people working around you. If they don’t want to share their knowledge, you can still pick up skills by observing them carefully and how they cook. Work at a variety of restaurants and slowly make your way up the ranks. Each place will teach you something new. 

Kevin Chen
Owner and chef, Red Paper Clip

Aim for the top and keep working hard

As a young woman, it’s challenging to collaborate with a new team as everyone has a unique opinion and perspective. Open communication is essential. Discuss common goals so everyone works towards the same outcome. It helps people to collaborate successfully. Everyone needs personalised guidance. If you can cater to their needs, it creates a positive working environment. There will be unforeseen challenges, but if you want to keep growing as a chef and kitchen leader, you need to stay optimistic. 

Rachel Cooper
Head Sous Chef, Koloman

Trust, check in and repeat 

Building trust with the young members of your team is critical. They have to know you really believe in them, so let them see that every day. Check in with trainees. Ask them how they are doing, how their day is, how they are finding the new kitchen techniques they are learning. Show them you understand the journey they are going on. Repeat this process over time. Your team needs to know you are committed to them.

Cris Cohen
CEO and founder, FEASTED

A good relationship between mentor and mentee is essential 

Putting young chefs and experienced professionals together is one of the most important things to help them succeed. They need access to the knowledge and skills of more experienced workers. Students and trainees need to understand all the options available to them so they can make the best choices for their careers. A mentor and mentee have a very close, personal relationship. It’s important to find the right fit. Start off by being clear what you both want to achieve and the expectations you have of each other. 

Elsu Gericke 
Head of Education and Development, SA Chefs Association

Expand your horizons to succeed in the industry

Food is much more than just satisfying hunger. It’s a work of art. At the beginning of your journey, find a chef you are comfortable working with who can motivate you. Don’t be scared to make mistakes. You can analyse and correct them. Learn, read books – not only about cooking but also art – to develop your imagination. Travel and eat a lot of different food. Expand your horizons. It's the way to succeed in the industry.

Sofiia Druzhchenko
Chef De Partie, Park. Art of Rest

Give everyone a chance and help them to be the best they can be 

When mentoring apprentices, throw out the cookie cutter. Every person needs a unique approach. Get to know them, what they like, what they don’t, what they have experienced and what they still need to learn. Build a training journey around that. Treat them like everyone else. Check in on them, give them praise, show them how to improve. Work alongside them, even if it’s washing dishes. Always ask yourself if you’re doing everything you can to support a young chef and help them grow in their career. 

Ben Purton 
Owner and executive chef, Thyme & Plaice and The Clink

Keep learning to stay motivated

In this profession, there is always more to discover, from products to techniques. To stay motivated, be interested in cooking as a whole, not just the area you work in every day. There is so much to learn, especially if you find a chef to mentor you. It’s important for leaders to understand who they work with, as everyone is so different. The younger generation need to be inspired and encouraged in a new way. 

Maciej Pisarek
Pastry chef, The Savoy London

Be creative and consistent

Working in hospitality is demanding and challenging. Every day brings a new challenge, whether that’s staff, suppliers or customer complaints. Finding solutions makes this work so gratifying. If you are starting out and want to make an impact in this industry, be creative and consistent. As you learn, give back and help others grow. That’s how you build a name for yourself and develop your career. If you love your job, and your team members have become your family, you’ll always have a good time.

Ali Yazdi
Owner and chef, House of Slaw, Slaw and More

The next generation of culinary stars is already working in kitchens and they bring fresh inspiration and ways of working with them. The right mentor can be the secret ingredient to a successful career. They help new chefs learn and grow. The learning relationship goes both ways. Established professionals can get unique perspectives from newcomers, which makes this industry stronger and more interesting for all of us.

Want to be a better mentor and help people starting out in this industry? Sign up for our free leadership training today.

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