January 10, 2018
This week our current Culinary students got to learn from their predecessors at the Culinary Alumni Panel. This event gave our budding chefs the opportunity to pick the brains of professionals who were in their shoes before.
Our alumni panel was stacked with grads who have excelled in their fields, whether they have been working at it for the past five months, or the past 15 years. The panel included: Marie-Ange Konan from Mildred’s Temple Kitchen; Rajesh Chamoli, owner of Queen City Pizza; Rob Yu, Executive Chef at Blacksmiths Bistro; Michael Jensen, Director of Food and Beverage at Sheraton Toronto; Adam Lafleur of Hexagon in Oakville; Justin Logar, Junior Sous Chef at Oliver & Bonacini and Shanika Perera of Delta by Marriot.
The panel answered questions about topics ranging from the importance of social media in the industry to the doubts that come along with choosing a career path. Here are some of the highlights and responses from our guests:
Q: How important is social media in the culinary business?
A: Extremely important – especially for small businesses who want to start being discovered and engaging with their audience. Additionally, you can now post ads on social media and allow people to search for you. Many chefs are now being recognized even more for their social media following and that is elevating their businesses.
Q: What are the steps to take if you want to open your own restaurant abroad?
A: First begin by consistently applying for Visas so that you are ready to go when an opportunity arises. Starting by working on a cruise is a great idea because there are lots of these jobs available and it provides excellent experience. Finally, work as hard as you can and always leave your jobs on good terms, because you never know who is connected, no matter where they are located.
Q: Have you ever second guessed your decision to work in this industry?
A: There are people and jobs in every industry, including the culinary industry, that will sometimes make you second guess your decision, but you can’t allow that to make up your mind. The more positions and the longer you work, the more confidence you will gain. Even when it is hard, stay passionate and you will always gain that passion back. Just because you feel this way right now, doesn’t mean it is the absolute truth.
Q: What is the most challenging part of the industry and how do you overcome that?
A: The culinary industry can bring with it long hours and difficulty with work life balance, especially at the beginning when you are trying to work your way up in the industry. Having hobbies and things you enjoy doing outside of work can help offset this, as well as remaining passionate about cooking in general.
People also often don’t consider this, but the culinary industry requires good interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence. You have to be able to work well with people and build positive relationships with your colleagues. This will serve you well throughout your entire career.
Thank you to our Culinary grads for joining us and sharing their wisdom! You are always welcome back at the School of HRT.