2011 resolution: Be a mentor

2011 resolution: Be a mentor

I met a bright young culinary student just before the holiday break that so impressed me with her enthusiasm for hospitality and food, it brought back all the reasons why I got into this crazy business in the first place. Each year thousands of energetic and passionate students enter our workforce, yet the industry still needs more. Inspired by chef reality shows, slick magazines, the allure of running their own restaurant and a love of food, these students are the future of our business. But what happens after they graduate and are faced with the reality that stardom is fleeting and in fact this is really a pretty tough business?

Sarah, the aforementioned Johnson & Wales student, has experience typical of many students: a few stints on various restaurant lines, shift management when a supervisor vacated the position, culinary internship in Europe and a love of cooking. These are all great beginnings, but taking the wrong job after graduation has derailed more than just a few enthusiastic grads. 

My advice to Sarah: 
  • Be selective on her first job out of school, and stick with a quality organization.
  • Find a mentor, someone who will take an interest in her future.
  • Reach out to inspired chefs, market vendors, farmers and “foodies.”
  • The business is tough; get tough, but stay positive.
Nobody made it solely on their own; we all have had someone along the way to help us see the way to success. Our roles, as the veterans who have weathered the storm of building a career, is to go back in time and remember what it takes to start out in the hospitality business. Most important, be a mentor to the Sarahs of world; find the time to inspire and help these bright individuals to excel and exceed. The food world is a vast and exciting career path with many opportunities for anyone with a passion for people, but it can also be a struggle for those without a guide.

I don’t make resolutions, but I will make an exception in 2011, and that is to spend more time encouraging and inspiring those who have chosen the same career that I did. We have amazing things to offer in this business — global travel, interesting flavors, innovative service and the one thing that everyone can relate to: food. Let’s help Sarah and her classmates by ensuring they have the same support we did when we were just starting out.