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Is the Media Affecting Chefs Aspirations?

Written on 19-Sep-2016

Almost all of us use the media in some form, it provides a natural feedback tool for ‘word of mouth’ reviews for employees, clients and potential customers. We live and breathe our opinions – boasting or criticising our experiences every day. We cannot ignore the impact this internet phenomenon has had on our lives.

But I have to question what this means for our Chefs and how the industry is perceived as a profession? Are celebrity chefs and reality TV changing the face of the industry?

Programmes like Masterchef dominate our weekly TV viewing and it’s no surprise that this has had a knock on effect on the hospitality sector.

71% of Hospitality professionals believe Celebrity Chefs make an impact on the industry!
(CJUK – Permanent Hospitality Recruitment Survey 2016)

Don’t get me wrong, the media has created a slight insight into our world and if it wasn’t for the effect of celebrity chefs our industry may not be as popular as it is today.

They have lifted the industry and had a direct impact on many who may have never considered a career in the catering world before now. These programmes create the impression of an exciting, fun and dynamic environment to work in – which it is! Budding chefs have been inspired to experiment with new and different ingredients and as customers we are learning to understand and appreciate the efforts that are needed in the delivery and presentation of food.

But does this portray a true representation of what a career in hospitality is really like?

chefs in media

So, what is the problem?

Television distorts everything but I think that’s true of all industries not just hospitality. TV influences can be both good and bad. What many are yet to realise is that the job isn’t 9-5 and if you want to get to the top then you have to put the hours in. These shows glorify chefs and put them on a pedestal, bringing aspiring chefs into the industry for all the wrong reasons.

It doesn’t show that these Chefs have slogged for years to get where they are today. In this line of work the days can be long, serving a huge number of guests at any one time, the length of time and preparation that really goes into running a restaurant is incredibly arduous. The one hour pressure round on reality TV to make 2 dishes is no reflection on the true 12 hours+ in the kitchen, 5 sometimes 6 days a week.

What we see are well-established Michelin star Chefs who make up less than 1% of the industry. The confrontational nature of television definitely has a negative impact on emerging hospitality professionals; it doesn’t allow a true reflection to be made of what the industry is about and the reasons why we enter it.

Another problem, Michelin star restaurants make up such a small proportion of establishments in the industry. The talent of young people coming through is barely recognised and there’s not enough recognition of the diversity of the sector.

What needs to change?

We should be using the media to show the diversity of the industry – not just high end restaurants, but pub dining, informal restaurants and contract catering to show that there are options if you don’t make it at the top end and also to give an overview of where youngsters will begin their career. You can be as equally successful and respected in any level of environment.

The media needs to show the realistic expectations of what it’s really like ‘behind the kitchen doors’. Perhaps an honest review from a well-respected chef will educate youngsters coming through the industry, as to what to expect when they join the industry. Or maybe a show on the ‘day in the life of’ and have it based in a very fast paced, busy kitchen, so that the false façade of an easy kitchen life is smashed.

It’s definitely food for thought. The industry needs to change how it is perceived in order to conquer the chef shortage that we are currently going through. Aspiring Chefs need to know exactly what to expect when they join the hospitality industry, so that they are fully prepared to take on the long hours, hard shifts and get stuck in to a buzzing atmosphere.

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