Simon Boyle is an award-winning chef, author and social entrepreneur who has worked for hotels, restaurants, cruise ships and as a culinary consultant for major consumer brands. He’s best known for his charity work with the London-based social enterprise businesses that he founded – Beyond Food Community Interest Company and the Brigade Bar and Bistro restaurant, which, through training and coaching, inspire vulnerable people to gain employment in the hospitality sector. Ahead of mentoring at this year’s Fresh Careers Fair, Simon offers his viewpoint on working in hospitality.
Why did you get involved with The Fresh Careers Fair?
The idea of having one room where students and those looking for work can walk around and talk to a load of good employers is fantastic. Driving recruitment is about making sure there is an opportunity to talk. We’ll all be there to represent the [fresh produce, retail, foodservice, hospitality, and wholesale] industry. Beyond Food will bring some of our graduate apprentices who are looking for work, and be there to give advice to others looking for work as well.
What are your tips for anyone considering a career in hospitality?
Be prepared to work hard, get stuck in and be open-minded. It’s a great industry! Remember, hospitality is all about giving people a good time. With a smile on your face, a courteous manner and good ingredients you can make people happy whether you’re working in a hospice kitchen or a fancy restaurant. But you’ve got to have a good attitude. It’s not always about the skills. Of course, for some jobs you need certain skills but with the right attitude you can enter the hospitality sector pretty easily.
What does a career in hospitality have to offer?
You can travel the world and meet lots of people. I don’t think there’s another industry that can get you in front of so many people. I’ve worked on ships [P&O Cruises, Minerva, V.Ships], in hotels [The Savoy, Chewton Glen], and even for a Prince in Saudi Arabia. Or you could work in a little café that serves people locally, and get as much from that as working abroad. It’s a service industry, so if you don’t mind helping and serving people you can be very fulfilled. It can be wonderful but you’ve got to be prepared to work hard and apply yourself.
Considering your own eclectic career path, what advice can you share?
The world is your oyster, and opportunities really are out there! If you want to work on a yacht in the south of France, you could probably do that. You’d need to learn your skills to get there, but through working hard and applying yourself there’s no reason why it can’t happen. Really think about what you want to do, keep it wide and be ambitious.
How can you get a foot in the door?
The easiest way, if you’re at school, is to go to your local careers advisory service or local college. There are some amazing college courses out there. The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts has a specialised chef apprenticeship, and they are looking for really passionate young people to join. Also, I’ve always been a big supporter of finding a local restaurant or café and working on a Saturday or in the evenings to get stuck in while you’re still at school. A lot of people in the industry have started that way. You could even go through the back door of a kitchen. Go to or write to a restaurant that you aspire to cook at or work in and offer your services – you’d surprised at how many will bite! There are not many chefs out there currently, so it’s definitely a buyers market with lots of opportunities.
What message do you want to drive home as a mentor at The Fresh Careers Fair?
That hospitality is a fantastic industry which presents a great opportunity to be very happy in your job, to earn money and to be involved in a sustainable industry that will give you a long-term and meaningful career. Remember, you’re going to be working for 40-50 years potentially, so doing something that makes you happy is very important. Being unhappy is no good for anyone.