Fresh talent, where are you?

Where are you, the talent of the future, the creative Pastry Chef, the out of box thinking chef or the hotelier that is more than just a number cruncher?

Looking back over the past few years I can’t get past the thought that we are lacking fresh new talent, in particular in the culinary area. Following a recent discussion with a long-time and much respected culinary trailblazer and innovator, I realize that what we are actually facing is a serious situation, and we are sliding towards a very average food scene across all sections of the hospitality industry.

In traditional hotels, including large and luxury hotels across Asia and the Middle East, todays kitchen is led by a Western Executive Chef who, in many cases, remains one of the very few trained and experienced Chefs in the Kitchen brigade. However, so often he is occupied with managerial duties and meetings that he is rarely in the kitchen cooking. In addition, the once so prevalent Executive Sous Chef has disappeared completely in many companies.

The days of young, highly trained and educated Chefs bringing fresh ideas to their trade appears all but gone and this is particularly noticeable in many hotels across the Middle East and Asia.

Have they all become victims to cost cutting and the ever so important push for improvements to the bottom line?

Where are the truly young and talented Pastry Chefs? Are they all staying put in Europe making their fine French Pastries and Strudels or are we just not training or attracting people to our industry?

Today, a hotel may have a Chef de Cuisine, but how many got to their jobs because of their longevity with a company rather than their ability, training (apprenticeships, hotel school, etc.) and understanding of what a ‘Chef’ is all about versus a ‘Cook’.

I refer back to a recent story I saw on LinkedIn about plate presentation and what a health and safety ‘minefield’ has been created by many, so called culinary professionals, serving food on wooden plates (full of germs) or using other presentation tools that are hygienically unsafe. It might look good (or not) but is a potential minefield in a world where health issues are serious matters.

Any serious and educated culinary professional would understand the all-important hygiene requirements needed in a kitchen and in food service areas.

Where are the days when hotels had a Chef de Cuisine for each of their restaurants, hired for their specific talent and knowledge to bring a creative and fresh touch that is constantly reinvented.

Maybe it’s time we invented a new job description to separate the ‘cooks’ from the ‘chefs’ and give credit to the people with the imagination, and high degree of formal training, to ensure the industry retains a respected name and reputation.

There is obviously a need for constant reinvention in the culinary field and ongoing training and education is vital to stay on top of the latest food trends.

The industry is undergoing some major changes, not only created by computerization, streamlining operational procedures and reducing overheads, but we also see the change in requirements when hiring new employees.

Different companies have different requirements but removing key stepping stone positions and tiers of management is all well and good if there is sufficient training at lower levels to enable the jump, but sadly this is often neglected, hence the inevitable decline in standards or service.

It would be interesting to hear from current General Managers to understand what their 5 most important positions are within the management team and which of them should have an assistant or be elevated to another level due to importance. Challenging current management models and the redistribution of manpower and resources to areas that are now of importance compared to the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Is the requirement of a Chief Engineer still the same today, compared to 30 years ago? How has the Housekeepers job changed over the years? Does the F&B Manager today still visit his outlets or is he chained to the desk entirely engrossed in his budgets? Today, more than ever departmental leaders need to be acutely aware of managing their human resources, but does this happen?

These are some of the many questions that come to mind, but it is not the changes we have seen in the past but the changes that we will have to face in the future, that will be significant for the hospitality industry. Can the industry develop and regain the reputation it once had as an important and skilled profession, or will standards continue to decline, making it more and more difficult to attract the high calibre people we so badly need…

Only time will tell….

About the author

rsz_karl_faux_ccKarl Faux is a veteran Hotelier and Managing Partner with Elite Search – a leading hospitality recruitment firm.
For more information about Karl and Elite Search visit http://www.elitesearch.com.au and The Elite Hotelier http://www.elitehotelier.net

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