Here we present the results of the first edition of the survey that aims to monitor the professional conditions and sentiments of ‘young chefs’ aged 18-34 around the world. This observational activity, in collaboration with Fine Dining Lovers, will be run periodically in order to highlight the needs and hopes of young chefs, the game-changing culinary talents of the future.
In November 2020, the first S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy Monitor was sent, via email, to all current and previous S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition applicants. It was also made available to chefs at large, via online platforms, including Fine Dining Lovers, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Identità Golose, Alma, and Gronda.
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’ aged 35 and above 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 results of the survey were presented in two seminars in December 2020 in the Academy’s private Facebook group, featuring world-renowned chefs such as Andreas Caminada, Clare Smyth, Enrico Bartolini, Gavin Kaysen, Manu Buffara, and Mauro Colagreco, as well as Fine Dining Lovers’ Editor-in-Chief, Ryan King.
THE CURRENT WORKING CONDITIONS OF YOUNG CHEFS
Unsurprisingly, the global pandemic has hit young chefs hard: just over 30% are receiving their usual salary while 22% are unemployed, largely due to the crisis. What’s more, over three-quarters are concerned about losing their jobs because of it.
OPINIONS ON THEIR PROFESSIONAL FUTURE
However, young chefs are optimistic: 56% of those that are unemployed or working full time with a reduced salary are hopeful of finding a new job soon. Over 70% are confident of working in the industry in the coming years and close to 60% hope to open a restaurant in the future.
What does that future look like? Environmental concerns, the pandemic, and increasingly demanding consumers are the top three factors that will affect the role of the chef, say young chefs. Post-Covid, improved business models for restaurants, and better training opportunities and employment benefits are the changes they want to see most.
PERCEIVED EDUCATIONAL GAPS
Although more than 64% of young chefs say they need to develop new skills (see further up), 54% train infrequently or not at all. This is largely due to cost. The top three points of strength they recognise in themselves are team management/leadership, waste management, and new cooking techniques, while the main areas they would like to improve in are restaurant finance, business management, and marketing and communication. They also view new cooking techniques as an area for improvement, as well as strength.
YOUNG CHEFS ACCORDING TO SENIOR CHEFS
The survey revealed discrepancies in the strengths and training needs of young chefs in the opinions of young and senior chefs. The latter observe, in the young, a certain aversion to authority and senior chefs’ suggestions, and believe they need to improve mainly in new cooking techniques, waste reduction and team management - the areas young chefs identify, conversely, as their main strengths.
Speaking in the second Academy seminar, Clare Smyth (Core, UK) suggested the disparity could be due to a lack of communication between young and senior chefs. “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,” while 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”.
But, if opinions about the training needs of under-35s diverge, both young and seniors chefs agree on a few fundamental points regarding how the industry must change after the Corona crisis and how the role of the chef will evolve. Both agree, for example, that lifelong learning needs to be continuously updated.
1. Despite the impact of the pandemic, chefs under 35 are optimistic and see a future in the industry, with many looking to open their own restaurants.
2. Improved business models are the number one change young chefs would like to see post- Covid, a sentiment shared by senior chefs. Better training opportunities came in second place for both groups, though cost is a prohibitive factor.
3. Under-35s are eager to improve their skills outside of the kitchen, particularly with regards to the business of running a successful restaurant. Senior chefs, sharing with them the value of having a wider view, stressed the importance, for a young pro, of being very good with cooking techniques and waste reduction.
Results presented come from 932 completed questionnaires out of more than 1800 answered worldwide.