Encouraging growth in your team

Whether you’ve been in hospitality for 20 years or you’re just starting out, one thing is certain: you’ll never stop learning. By nurturing the talent and skills of their staff, employers can help them to build sustainable, long-term careers - and combat the increasing shortage of quality hospitality workers. We spoke to six chefs about how they cultivate personal and collective growth.

Hire for attitude, train for skill

“When hiring, I don’t look at skill alone. It has to be about attitude and drive. A skill is something that can be taught but the person, their mentality, you come with that. It's very hard to change the way someone thinks. I prefer when onboarding someone that they think in the same way, not necessarily at the same level but with the same vigour and passion. We will all teach each other.”

Chef Adrian Vigus-Brown, Executive Chef at African Pride Irene Country Lodge, Autograph Collection

Take a hands-on approach to learning

“Chefs are not classroom people. We like to smell food, we like to eat and taste the food, we need to play with food. We give our catering staff the chance to express themselves. If things go wrong, that’s a good way of us showing you how you can get them right next time. We also try to multiskill the kitchen - all the way from a kitchen assistant up to a head chef.”

James Clear, Hotel Services Manager at Care UK


Encourage staff to ask questions 

“Make sure people feel they’re in a safe environment, that they don’t have to work in fear of making mistakes or fear of asking questions. It’s just building this community of respect throughout the whole team. One thing I find often is when we welcome in new people and tell them they’re free to be open, they still don’t ask questions at first. It takes quite a lot of time to change people’s mindsets, if they’ve been on the receiving end of [a more negative management style].”


View mentorship as a two-way process

"I see mentoring as a marathon - we both run and we meet halfway. Just because I'm the Executive Chef it’s not all about me. As much as they learn from me I learn from young chefs too."

"When we came up we had mentors. Now the trend is we just leave young chefs to think for themselves, but that’s why they get despondent at times. Don’t expect things to come to you but don’t get trapped in your comfort zone either. Two heads are always better than one.”


Take time to reflect

“As a person in this industry, we put our heart and soul and energy into what we do, and that energy is felt through the food
that people eat. You can change somebody's life by cooking well and putting your own energy into it. I always say to the people
I train to stand here and look back at what you’ve achieved in the last week, in the last month, in the last year. You'll see how much you have grown as a person and in your talent.”


It’s important to focus on personal growth too

“I was a typical chef thinking, ‘Life coach? What do I want a life coach for?’. I really didn’t want to do it, but I embraced it and it was life changing for me. As a typical chef we go in both feet first but I actually walk away from things now, think about the situation and how I want to deal with it, then go back to it with a fresh set of eyes and a chance to calm down.”