Saturday, 26 September 2009

Ageism - a real blight...

A topical subject in light of the directive with the BBC to find a female newsreader that is a touch older!!!

I feel so strongly on this subject I felt it was about time I wrote something on this to highlight some of my own experiences.

I have recruited chefs now for circa twenty years and I know it has been a longstanding issue within the Hospitality industry.

I thought I would recount the following story. A pretty high profile owner operator of an up market business that needs to recruit a new Head Chef recently approached me.

The brief was they needed someone with not only strong culinary skills but, equally strong management skills as since the opening of their business they had struggled to get someone with the good all-round skills required.

In fact they had one - as they put it- disastrous episode with a chef who could cook like a dream but failed to mange their resources or brigade. A tale I often hear…

I duly submitted some candidates one of which was local to this operation and the candidate had an impeccable background… they had worked in high profile establishments for most of their career and had cooked to a high standard… they had not held a Michelin star but they cooked to highly respected standards and more importantly they knew how to make money.

The clients own admission they would love the accolade of a Michelin star but realistically it is purely for vanity and not for business reasons! It is also unlikely the business would ever attain it, as they are not of that ilk or style!

Well they begrudgingly saw my candidate as I persistently felt they should because of this person’s locality to their business. Something I felt was a big plus as in these difficult times – relocation can be a greater challenge!

They then decided a couple of hours before the allotted interview time to see the candidate to leave a junior manager in charge to then interview for them.

They had no CV or been properly briefed so understandably the candidate was quickly on the phone to me bemoaning the fact they had taken the trouble to attend the interview but felt let down the owners did not deem it important enough to be there themselves.

I worked hard to then placate the candidate and the only reason I got from the clients for their decision not to attend was it was the last chance to spend some time with their child before they went back to private school!
A further interview trial day was set up with the candidate keen to meet these owners and tackle what was becoming clearly a prejudice against them based on age!

Well they met and the candidate felt the day had gone well and they had got the message across they were keen and eager to be considered for the role. They also felt there was much they could contribute to this business and could see no obstacles…

The client however was totally non-communicative apart from the quick “one liner email” to say they still had others to see. No feedback or thoughts as to how the day had gone from their perspective.

Eventually some six days later only after yet again my own chasing for feedback I was duly informed they felt my candidate was not suitable as he would not fit into their team…

“he was a bit slow and they would not be able to cope with the pressure”…

The candidate informed me the owner had not even read their CV properly or was fully aware of their background.

My candidate rightly pointed out to me with regards to pressure he had to deal with that every day in his far bigger current role where resources had been cut and demand increased for their very keenly priced product/offer that meant they would be doing three times the volume with a similar brigade size.

They declined to take the application further and I felt these owners had done nothing more than prejudge the individual and demonstrate an incredible arrogance that in light of their profile seemed totally incredulous

In comparison to this I had a new client gladly employ a fifty something old chef in their business – the reason they wanted them was they felt the wealth of experience they could bring was pivotal to their success and needed to fulfil the role effectively.

I live in hope that one day employers will wake up to the fact that past a certain age does not mean the lack of desire or ambition. Harnessed the right way can contribute greatly to their business and ensure a brighter future.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Keith Floyd R.I.P.

It is with sadness to think a legend in terms of TV/Celebrity Chef has passed away.

I had the pleasure of meeting the man a couple of times but I am sure he would not have remembered me.
Once was at a luncheon with my fellow inspectors from Egon Ronay Guides at Marco Pierre Whites restaurant “Harvey’s” on Wandsworth Common. We were all having a pre Christmas lunch and Keith was sat in the corner at another table slowly getting more sozzled.

The next occasion was when working for Egon I was asked to inspect his Pub/Restaurant in Totnes, South Devon in the late 80’s. The Malsters Arms that he then cleverly renamed - "Floyd’s Inn".
I vividly remember having booked a table for lunch in the restaurant arriving to be told sorry but the restaurant was now closed as Mr Floyd was entertaining a personal party therein.

I then had my lunch in the busy bar with Keith popping his head around the room working the tables and lapping up the adulation from the guests, resplendent with red wine glass in hand… my only lasting memory of the lunch was the selection of pates served for my starter were all "bought in" from France – they were good as he had obviously sourced a good supplier but a bit disappointing to think they had not been made in house!

When I then revealed myself on settling my bill I was whisked down stairs to meet the man and was introduced to his then wife Shaunagh and the guests with whom he was lunching – He proudly introduced them as “His Bank Manager”, “His Lawyer”, “His Agent” etc… a bit daunting as no names were given.

He was a gentleman personified and passionate about the food, but as was later revealed not the best at “business” as he ran up huge debts.

His legacy of cookery programmes will have inspired a generation of cooks and chefs and I also remember his talent for spotting a good chef. Although he had departed by the time I inspected the Malsters Arms Jean Christophe Novelli was his chef here when he first arrived here in the UK.

He inspired many of our "celebrity chefs" of today and his penchant for a glass of wine was legendary… I will certainly be raising a glass to him.