For many, the global pandemic has been a catalyst for change, not least in the restaurant industry. According to the results of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy Monitor 2021 survey, improved business models for restaurants is the number one change chefs would like to see in the industry, post-Covid.
Almost a quarter of chefs (23.1% of ‘young chefs’ aged 18-34, and 21.8% of ‘senior chefs’ aged 35 and above) want to see this change above anything else. Better training opportunities, and better unemployment and health benefits also scored highly.
The inaugural Monitor survey, produced in collaboration with Fine Dining Lovers, went out to hundreds of high-calibre chefs around the world in November 2020 via a mailing list of current and previous S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition applicants, and via online platforms, including FDL, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Identità Golose, Alma and Gronda.
The result ties in with some of the developments we’re already starting to see across the industry, which FDL has been reporting on in recent months, including numerous pivots and the idea of co-op restaurants.
The survey found that, despite a turbulent year, many chefs, particularly young chefs, feel optimistic about the future. Over 56% of those young chefs that are currently out of work (22.1%) or working on a reduced salary (6.4%) are hopeful about finding a new job soon. What’s more, close to 73% of young chefs are confident about working in the industry in the coming years, and almost 60% would like to open a restaurant.
This is informing their perceived training needs. Restaurant finance, business and management, and marketing and communication are the three areas young chefs would most like to improve in. This may be a smart move on their part: early in 2020, legendary Spanish chef Ferran Adrià, spoke about how restaurants need to be run much more like businesses, in order to stand a chance of being pandemic-proof. Young chefs also view new cooking techniques as an area for improvement, as well as strength.
Interestingly, according to the survey, senior chefs observe that some young chefs have an aversion to authority, and are not always willing to heed the suggestions of their elders. They feel young chefs need to improve mainly in new cooking techniques, waste reduction and team management – the areas young chefs identify, conversely, as their main strengths. Senior chefs themselves would also like to improve in restaurant finance, and marketing and communication, as well as new cooking techniques. Both groups agreed, however, that lifelong learning needs to be continuously updated, and that cost is prohibitive to more regular training.
Both groups also believe that the pandemic will have a significant impact on the role of the chef in the future. 47% of young chefs and 50.4% of senior chefs identify it as the second most important factor impacting the evolution of the chef, behind the rise in environmental consciousness and the demand for sustainability, and ahead of consumers becoming more demanding.
The results of the survey were discussed in two online seminars in December, available exclusively to members of the academy, via its private Facebook group. As well as Fine Dining Lovers’ Editor-in-Chief Ryan King, the seminars featured some of the world’s top chefs.
Referring to the disparity in the strengths and training needs of young chefs in the opinions of young and senior chefs, chef Clare Smyth (Core, UK) suggested it could be due to a lack of communication. “It’s about us [senior chefs] learning to communicate with young chefs and be real mentors,” she said. Gavin Kaysen (Spoon & Stable, US) echoing Smyth’s sentiment, said the survey results represent an “opportunity for senior chefs to look at what young chefs are seeking to learn and find ways to teach that to them”. Meanwhile, Mauro Colagreco (Mirazur, France) said experienced chefs had “a responsibility to steer the new generation in the right direction.”
Meanwhile, Manu Buffara (Manu, Brazil) advised young chefs that “It’s more important you listen, than talk,” while Enrico Bartolini (Enrico Bartolini, Italy) emphasised the importance of “respecting positions and sharing ambitions” in the kitchen. Andreas Caminada (Schloss Schauenstein, Switzerland) said he had “very good experiences” of working with young chefs.
Given the recruitment methodology the survey was not designed to be statistically representative, but rather, provide an overview of the professional status of young chefs, their training needs and sentiments about the future. It was also an opportunity to quiz senior chefs along similar lines, while also gaining insight into their expert opinions of young chefs.
Close to 62% of the respondents were young chefs, (just over 42% of whom were at executive or head chef level), and had worked in the industry for an average of 8.6 years, compared to 21.8 years for senior chefs.
The Monitor will be run periodically in collaboration between the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy and Fine Dining Lovers. The Academy, which was launched in late 2020, aims to be a global community. It will be committed to nurturing the next generation of game-changing culinary talent, through an extensive educational program, and networking and mentoring opportunities that will connect young chefs with some of the biggest names in gastronomy.