It is no myth that working in a kitchen is physically demanding, and those who devote themselves to the industry lifestyle are passionate about presenting the best food, cooked the best possible way. The ramble of trying to communicate emotions through food, the desire of excellence, the aspiration of culinary perfection drive chefs to succumb to a particular way of life.
A few weeks ago, a picture of chef Kirk Westaway in the kitchen sitting on a trash can be grabbing a quick meal. For those who work in the industry, that image may seem like a regular stamp. The picture went viral and got to particular websites such as Reddit and Imgur, opening a heated debate. Cooks and chefs from all over the world commented and shared their particular stories.
The academic journal Jurnal Teknik Industri of the Petra Christian University published an article on their June volume on Job Burnout and Employee Performance in Hospitality Industry: The Role of Social Capital, professor Dhyah Harjanti, Faiz Akbar Todani affirmed that: “The hospitality industry is known for its labor-intensive and intense interpersonal interaction characteristics. The high rate of burnout in the hospitality industry has been escalating and become a crucial issue for management.”
The Spanish Chef Pablo Aranda Moreno shared his story in the kitchen in the first episode of Dying on the Pass a podcast about the food and beverage industry from a cooks perspective. Hi was a lead cook when the restaurant he worked at obtained their first Michelin star. In the interview, he affirms that those days were the happiest yet the saddest of his life, the long hours and the lack of social interactions led him to become depressed and lost the desire of cooking. What once was his passion has become an obligation to pay bills.
After a search on any social media platform the #kitchenlife, scenes from different aspects of working in any food and beverage operation start popping up, videos and photos across the internet reflect the reality of working in a kitchen. As part of the debate, stagiaires are another latent situation in gastronomy. Most culinary schools require their students to comply with a certain number of practice hours.
Traditionally, if someone was interested in becoming a chef, the order was to get an apprenticeship with a chef would concede the opportunity, unpaid, and devoted to hard work culinary careers started developing.
Sadly, that tradition got affected by greedy and stingy restaurant and hotel owners. In order to reduce labor costs and achieve the desired profit, practice students, culinary interns, and apprentice (also known as stagiaires) started being a valuable resource, exposing kitchen staff to the unprepared professionals who are starting to develop their careers. This article is the introduction of a series of articles and multimedia content that reward the lifestyle of stagiaires on fine dining restaurants.
Culinary internships or apprenticeships are an essential part of the formation and development of the kitchen staff. By conducting a google search, there are multiple pages with thousands of opportunities for cooks, pastry chefs, sommeliers, and waiters. Some offer remuneration, stipends, others offer the house, most of them offer a meal plan (they assure the participant 3 hot meals a day), and others do not. This tradition has become part of the curricular requirements of almost every culinary school. Students must complete a total of hours in order to obtain their degree. As the first job experience, these internships are an excellent opportunity to start building a resume and a curriculum vitae. Hotels, restaurants, and other food and beverage operations see the chance to develop future professionals by leading them forward on their career paths.
The Toronto Star recently published an article about the emotional impact, and professional development culinary practices or internships have on the up and coming cooks and chefs, in a particular community. As their many options worldwide, these apprenticeships are the first glance at the food and beverage industry.
Ruth Escribano is the head of Human Resources at a company that manages hotels for Melia Hotels International in Alicante, Spain. She affirms that interns are vital for the daily operations of the hotel. “We provide them with the right tools to start developing their careers, and they always bring fresh new ideas to the operation.”
The opportunity of getting an internship abroad led Margarita Garcia, a Peruvian Food and Beverage manager, to move to Spain and pursue her master’s degree in Innovation and Restaurant Management. “After the nine months of in the Basque Culinary Center, the Melia Villaitana offered me an opportunity with a six-month internship, and I have been here working almost three years.” Like Margarita, many migrate to study abroad and look for better opportunities to develop their hospitality management careers.
For big hotels and restaurants, having interns on their staff reverberates directly on the labor cost. Managers and chefs know that with proper guidance and with the right profiles, interns are indispensable for high and low seasons.
On the other hand, these internships have a downside, restaurant group, and other food and beverage operations seize the opportunity to cut down labor costs and demand much more out of their interns.
In 2009, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated 353,000 job openings across the leisure and hospitality sector. As of 2018, with the travel industry surging, that number swelled to 1,139,000. This statistic ensures massive growth in the hospitality industry and how management has assimilated this phenomenon. According to the 2019 US Travel and Hospitality Outlook published by the consulting firm Deloitte: “While a multifaceted problem, rapid industry growth and an evolving workforce remain key drivers. Furthermore, the problem does not just center around unskilled labor”.
Many journalists have openly reported these conducts and conditions some interns have experienced. The industry is moving on an innovative path and becoming more aware of mental and emotional health. Is this the moment to abolish a tradition? Are there any laws that protect interns?
As part of ancient culinary tradition and what some may call a rite of passage, apprenticeships have been the go-to move if you wanted to succeed in the food and beverage industry. Multiple colleges around the globe, in their undergraduate and graduate programs, require students to complete a set of practicum hours to achieve a minimum of experience in the field. With time internships have become representative of a generation and are the connection between graduation and the first job.
Felipe Palma a Colombian cook living abroad, sharing his culture with the world.
Felipe Palma is a 28 years old Colombian cook, living in Benidorm, Spain, working on a major hotel chain. He started as a culinary intern in Columbia after obtaining the two years superior diploma in Culinary Management from the Escuela Superior de Hosteleria de Bilbao. Then moved to Bilbao, Spain, to study for a master’s degree in Culinary Management, was entered as an intern for Melia Hotels International. He has worked in several restaurants in Colombia, Germany, and Spain, to become an F&B Director someday. He describes life as an intern as a sacrificed one and the toughest but gratifying. “I have met the most amazing people throughout several internships” Luckily for Felipe, he works as a food and beverage manager for a big hotel chain in Spain.
Felipe affirms that the industry is continually evolving, and there are a lot of more opportunities now that when he started working in kitchens 12 years ago. As for advice, he exhorts every up and coming chef to work hard and serve the best possible food they can. During the interview, one of the words that Palma continuously repeated was excellence, and his constant strive to achieve perfection and present the highest standards of excellence to the guests is one of the things that makes him get out of his bed.
“As Latin-American, I want to share all the amazing qualities of our food.”
Like Felipe, there are millions of young cooks who want to travel, learn from other cultures, and share their own with the world.
In the last three decades, major food chain restaurants and hotels have developed internships programs, to train and develop their employees and future leaders. It has become a sort of tradition in Europe and the United States that the first labor experience is an internship. For many who love and devote their lives to serve others in the food and beverage industry, an apprenticeship is a way to pave the career path.
Every day more and more hospitality college programs are requiring their students to complete a certain number of hours in order to obtain the degree. As the firsts entry-level job experience, internships allow students to start developing and investing time in their careers. The number of hours attains the reality, and the truth behind the hospitality industry spent side by side the customers and guests. Fabien Drogue is the Sub Director of the Melia Villaitana in Benidorm, Alicante (Spain), and he attributes his success to the balance between work and academics. With more than twelve years of experience, he affirms that his career developed by putting in practice what he was learning simultaneously in college.
Major hotel companies and restaurant chains have developed training programs and internships for students from entry-level positions to management and corporate. Pages like Simply Hired and Hosco are useful databases where students can browse, research, and find the appropriate internship opportunity to kickstart their careers. Drogue advises everyone who wants to work in the hospitality industry to find the perfect balance between college and work. Internships are an excellent opportunity to come close to the industry and start applying all the concepts learned at the university.
Culinary schools across the country have implemented in their curriculum a mandatory number of hours to be completed by students who want to graduate the program. The intention behind these university programs is to provide the proper preparation and training to students so that they would enter the job market with an unquestionable advantage and experience.
In joint efforts, some of the significant hotel’s groups across the globe have their training programs as part of the career development plan for students and employees, these types of opportunities have much weight on the resume and make a particular and unique candidate. Drogue affirms, within his expertise in the hospitality industry, that candidates with internships in their curriculum have a punctual advantage, among others who do not. “They are trustworthy and have a better idea of how the industry works.”
Harjanti, D. (2019). Burnout and Employee Performance in Hospitality Industry: The Role of Social Capital. Jurnal Teknik Industri, 21(1), 15–24. doi: 10.9744/jti.21.1.15-24
Langford, G., & Guy. (2019, January 10). 2019 Travel, Transportation, and Hospitality Industry Outlook. Retrieved October 12, 2019, from https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/consumer-business/articles/travel-hospitality-industry-outlook.html.
Park, D., Krishnan, H. A., & Ha, J. (2019). Understanding Hospitality Industry Supplier Selection: A Cross-Cultural Study. Journal of Marketing Thought, 5(4), 1–8. https://doi-org.oclc.fullsail.edu/10.15577/jmt.2018.05.04.1