To further expand on my letter, printed Saturday 1 April 2017:
It was disappointing to read the article on hospitality on 18 March 2017. The reaction to it that I saw and received from people in the industry (across all levels) felt personal – people were hurt and upset.
Yes, this industry like many others, has its issues, and yes, this piece was compiled of a handful of first person accounts; but, when a platform such as a national broadsheet chooses to publish only negative experiences they are creating a narrative that becomes representative of a whole industry – a representation which is untrue. It’s an outdated narrative, pulled straight from the 80s or the pages of Kitchen Confidential, a book we love but know not to follow.
This project aims to supports those up and coming in the industry, and over the last two years we have worked with 40 young chefs, over 20 restaurants, Front of House individuals and held industry focused talks tackling subjects such as ‘Do we need Female focused awards?’. The consensus I have from this perspective, and the 15 plus years of being in the industry, is that it is full of, and run by, deeply passionate, talented, creative individuals that thrive on working in teams and with each other. I have had many men and women (pronouns are deliberate) who have encouraged and supported me; you just need 30 seconds with Chantelle Nicholson (Chef Patron Tredwell’s) before you’re desperately thinking of how to immediately become a chef just so can work on her team!
Of course, we need to do more work on diversity, gender equality and support for mental health; as does theatre, publishing, law, banking… But we’re trying. The likes of Hospitality Action that are championed by prominent leaders in the industry, is something we should all be proud of (not just hospitality).
It is a tough, relentless business and in this country with its class history and attitude to serving and service, the last thing it and its people need is an article that is quite frankly, patronizing and demeaning. Those that feel proud of being part of hospitality felt attacked by the Guardian’s choice to only highlighting a few negative experiences without a counter balance. All professions and industries have their tyrants, bad managers and terrible work places, this piece gave an impression that the restaurant world was the worst, if not the only place for this.
To tarnish a thriving industry, as this piece seemed to do, does a disservice to the whole economy. The UK culinary scene is a leader in the world, it is growing and adding to the cultural fabric of contemporary Britain. I firmly believe we will look back on this time with pride at our contributions. We need more people to join the industry to continue growing. The tone of this article does not help the growth of our industry, particularly when we will face huge challenges in the aftermath of Brexit. Why rip us apart when you have a platform to create growth and positive change, and are in a position to help develop a place where people can belong, grow and succeed?
Ps. If you want to read or share some positive examples from the industry:
I have a Front of House column in At The Table. Through interviews with those in the industry you can read about the joys and opportunities that this industry can bring
Or try my features in CODE Quarterly for critical but positive analysis of where the industry is now.