I’ve been invited to a careers workshop day at my old school, and I’ve been allocated the slot of Catering and Hospitality!!
What a responsibility! How on earth do I encourage young people to enter a world of hot, sweaty kitchens, long hours, split shifts, demanding customers….a world dominated by corporate chains, industrially mass-produced food, standardised and stereotypical, a life of strict rules and regulations?
At 18 I would have by-passed this sector, even though back then, the world of restaurants was less fast-food and chain-oriented. I note that the school is not offering a workshop on music, performing arts or writing and design? Interesting, because this was my first love. A week-end audition at the Bristol Old Vic however, soon demonstrated that I wasn’t prepared to be unemployed for 90% of the time, but the desire to perform, to share music, to interact with people remained.
By clinging on to these passions, drawing them out slowly, after many years of family, friends, schools, teachers insisting that they would not serve me well, they helped my husband and I create a business within catering & hospitality!!
Running a restaurant is a performance. You are like a conductor of a wonderful orchestra, knowing the moment to up the tempo when customers start flooding in, as well as slowing things down to allow diners to enjoy each others company.
You artistically blend the spit and sizzle of the kitchen with the chat and jabber of the dining room. You are an artist!
Passion is the buzz word. Discovering ones own passions is the key to choosing the most comfortable life path.The catering and hospitality sector could desperately do with an injection of passion, emotion and human spirit to cut through the monotony and artificial corporate environment they have created.
So how about I remind these young people about the vital role of restaurants in keeping people healthy? A gentle reminder of their key role in providing a meeting place where food can be shared with others. This has become an essential social need in today’s technological world, one that is becoming increasingly important as we sink further into a solitary world of news-feed, messenger, and email, hiding anonymously behind a plethora of screens.But in order for restaurants to fulfil this role, the human touch has to be injected. I often eat out with my husband Stéphane, and the food is often beautifully designed and presented, the decor equally immaculately designed and thought-out, but we leave feeling a little empty, something is missing. After much discussion on this subject, we have identified the missing piece as the “human side”. Serving staff are polite, efficient but they are performing a task, like a machine. There is no story, no connection, no authentic sharing. This is the difference.
Of course the quality of the food provided is also important. A return to simplicity in the kitchen would not go amiss. Simple, honest, home-cooked fare in a human, warm, individual environment would go a long way to improving the health and well-being of our stressed nation.
If I manage to touch the spirit of one young person during my work-shop, then there is hope for the future of this mis-guided industry. As human beings we require the real thing – real food, real human contact, the personal touch. Let’s hope I can deliver.
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