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An interview with Evolve Hospitality on how to attract and retain chefs to work in the hospitality industry

032 NCOTY Mentor Day

How do we attract and retain chefs to work in the hospitality industry?

The National Chef of the Year is proud to work alongside so many fantastic sponsors who are all experts in their fields. At our NCOTY mentor day there was much debate about how chefs create their own personal brand and we were delighted to have Ed Vokes, from Evolve as part of that panel. We caught up with him after the event to find out more about his views on attracting and retaining talent and the importance of showcasing your skills.

Evolve is the official hospitality staffing partner for NCOTY, why is supporting the competition so important to you and the team at Evolve?

It is so important for Evolve to be involved in sponsoring and staffing the NCOTY competition in which we are now in our fourth year. It is one of the most respected culinary titles and it helps to develop and support emerging talent. We believe it is so important to invest in and nurture new talent and shout about what a great industry hospitality is and try to encourage a new generation to work in the kitchen and strive to achieve their dreams. It’s a great event for us to be associated with and its also great for our staff to be exposed to the event as a place to work.

Entering NCOTY can massively raise the profile of a chef, how does entering competitions have an impact on a chef’s career?

In my experience chefs enter the competition for a number of different reasons and they come from kitchens in a variety of sectors of the industry. Often the exposure that the competition gives chefs, especially the finalists can lead directly to them moving on to the next step in their career. For some it can be life changing. For others it is all about the personal journey and they enter purely to achieve something for themselves. However, it is not a competition to enter into half-heartedly. It is a real commitment and a dedication and desire to succeed is what will lead to success but there is no doubt that entering the competition will open doors for you to opportunities you never imagined.

What advice do you have for chefs, when using social media, to raise their profile in the industry?

Social media is everywhere, and it’s important for chefs to use it to project their talent and access new opportunities. Just like businesses in this modern world, chefs can’t afford to not use these platforms to demonstrate their expertise.

My advice would be to use the right channels at the right time, to target the right people. If you’re looking for highly skilled talent, then target them using professional channels with job boards, but if you’re looking for opportunities, you should push your capabilities and build your brand image through content on networking applications. The most important rule to follow is to put yourself in their shoes - who’s reading, viewing, or listening to your content - and think to yourself ‘what do they want to see’?

Why is it important for chefs to talk about their interests and aspirations when building their own brand story online?

Most importantly to inspire future talent. The users of social media are younger individuals who can be influenced by the power of online brands. Those working in hospitality will know the importance of recruiting and retaining experts in their field, so it’s important, more than ever, for chefs to motivate future talent to develop their skills and follow their passion. That is why it is so important for NCOTY and YNCOTY to get the coverage it deserves - to inspire and motivate more junior chefs to learn and grow.

Do you think using social media effectively can help chefs to attract the right staff to work for them in the future?

Absolutely. Social media is not only a fantastic tool to ‘grow’ your candidate pool, but one that can be personalised, and used to develop a relationship with future candidates. You can use different channels to target the very best talent, with the skills you need in your kitchen, rather than recruiting broadly and not attracting the right staff. It’s often very inexpensive too, and you can speak to candidates through video and live chat in real time.

We’re regularly hearing about the chef shortage in the news, what do you think is the answer to overcome this big issue?

That is THE hot question in the industry now and I wish I had the magic answer and we cannot just blame Brexit, it is far more complex an issue. There are a multitude of reasons that need addressing.

Events like NCOTY and YNCOTY do a brilliant job of highlighting the industry in the most positive light on a public platform and that’s what we need. We need to work to change the image of the hospitality industry. Becoming a chef should be viewed as a positive and well-respected career choice rather than a plan B. It’s the same with FOH, we need to change perceptions and inspire a new generation. Evolve Hospitality is heavily involved in supporting the Royal Academy of Culinary Art’s charity Adopt a School which was created to inspire and educate a new generation of hospitality professionals. 

How does the National Chef of the Year competition help attract and retain talent into hospitality?

The whole competition is inspiring and it’s great to see the winners go on and progress and reach huge levels of success. It is truly inspiring and the success stories that come out of the competition, not just the winners themselves but the pride in gaining recognition from people who are industry legends to these chefs is priceless.

The competition ensures that people are talking about the industry in the most positive light and it keeps it relevant and front of mind. Its also everything that surrounds the competition. The competitors back stories, they years of hard work that they have put in to get to where they are. There is an emphasis on produce and how chefs work as part of the wider industry from producers to FOH and the range of opportunities within the sector are in the spotlight which is great for the industry.

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