The pandemic has hit hospitality hard and upset the classic career path through the kitchen. How are talented young chefs dealing with this upheaval and what advice can experienced chefs offer? These were some of the issues discussed at the S.Pellegrino Talent Day in Berlin on 19 April. On the panel were three of Germany’s most influential chefs – Tim Raue (Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin), Christoph Kunz (Restaurant Alois - Dallmayr Fine Dining, Munich), and Steffen Sinzinger (Good ‘n’ Vegan delivery), while the audience consisted of 10 of Germany’s brightest young culinary talents. Here are the key points.
Part of the whole
For top chef Raue, this is a critical moment. "If we don't shape the next generations, then what we have achieved so far will be lost,” he said. The important thing now, he believes, is to help them develop as both cooks and people by not only encouraging them but challenging them, in healthy work environments, and making them feel part of the whole, part of something bigger. After all, said Raue, "They lack a year of learning by doing. A year to develop themselves." Kunz agrees development is key. "You have to give someone the chance to grow. And not only in terms of cooking, but also as a person,” he said.
These first professional stations need to be well chosen, however, as audience member Sonja Schlanstedt pointed out. She specifically chose a hotel that is currently still open. “I didn’t want to end up doing nothing for a year due to the pandemic right after my traineeship,” said the up-and-coming chef.
For all three experienced chefs, one positive aspect of the crisis is that they sense a stronger togetherness among colleagues, more individuality and less rivalry. "The pandemic has shown us how valuable every link in the kitchen is. It made me realise how much employees should be valued," said Sinzinger. Kunz added: "It's a joint effort. It doesn't help if I just pretend everything and the people are just machines. They need a bond with the restaurant."
From chef to all-round talent
According to the panel, young chefs now need a much more diverse skillset. "Social media and other areas are becoming increasingly important alongside traditional cooking. In order to have a good public image, the young talents should be taken by the hand there as well," explained Sinzinger.
What counts today is no longer just a good product. "There are many new ways that lead to a table," noted Raue, while Sinzinger, as an entrepreneur, added: "20 years ago, it was possible to stand out with good quality. Today it is not. Today, storytelling is part of a well-rounded product."
Nowadays, it was argued, guests are hungry to know more about the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’ and want to know more about the person behind the product. "In the future, there will no longer just be the one model of being a chef. We have to make sure that young chefs have expertise and a perspective that will bring them something," continued Sinzinger.
But, in order for that to happen, training curricula must be adapted, and expertise in vegan and vegetarian cooking, and social media, for example, taught. So far, this has been neglected. "Many teachers are older. I missed younger people who could show and explain the current gastronomy," said one member of the audience.
A positive outlook
Overall though, the panel was positive about the future. In fact, the pandemic does not have to be a setback at all. Rather, it may offer young and senior chefs entirely new opportunities. "The pandemic has given people the time to reflect on themselves. We now have the chance to learn new things again," explained Kunz. People have also reflected on what a restaurant is and its value said Raue. "The restaurant inspires us not only because we eat there, but because it has life.”