A chef by training, Simon Esner has worked in the hospitality industry for more than 40 years. Moving from the kitchen into a front-of-house sales role more than 25 years ago, he later joined the BaxterStorey family in 1997. In the run-up to The Fresh Careers Fair on 8 March, PBUK asked Esner to give the youngsters preparing to attend the recruitment event a taste of what the foodservice sector can offer.
Why should one consider working in foodservice?
Firstly, ask yourself whether you have a passion for working with great people and great food. If you do, then sign up because the rest you can learn. You’ll have the opportunity to work with exceptionally gifted people from all around the world. It’s a global business where you can experience different cultures and even learn different languages. The foodservice industry also represents 10 per cent of the UK’s economy – that’s bigger than many other industries. So, whichever role you choose you’ll be contributing to 10 per cent of the UK’s revenue.
Can foodservice be a lifelong career?
I’ve never worked in any industry other than catering and hospitality, which proves it can be a career for life. Even in a rapidly advancing technological age, this industry is risk-free because it still needs the one key thing that technology can’t give you – people. When I was training to be a chef, my Dad said people will always need to eat good food and receive great service. Just like any other industry, as your career advances you’ll also create opportunities to raise your salary. A career for life where you could earn a lot of money, how cool is that?
What variety of roles are on offer?
There are hundreds of jobs in hospitality. It’s not just about being a chef or a waiter. You could be the head of supply chain procurement, working out the very best way of sourcing amazing food and ingredients. You could be the head of operations, looking after many hundreds of colleagues and staff. You could be a product manager or a nutritionist. You could even be part of the team that guides how we deal with sustainability and our impact on the environment.
How did you get into foodservice sales?
I worked my way through all sections of the kitchen from commis chef to entremetier, to chef de partie and sous chef. At the age of 23, I became head chef of a restaurant in North London. After seven years, I left to open my own restaurant, which was great fun. Then my kids were born and I missed seeing them. A brilliant company called Hobart was looking for chef demonstrators and sales people, so I took the chance to join and to learn about the business side of hospitality.
How easy is it to progress into a managerial position?
Everything is possible if you have the drive to want to succeed. All the skills you learn along the way are absolutely transferrable to the next opportunity in hospitality or foodservice. BaxterStorey’s Head of Sustainable Business, Mike Hanson, started as operations manager, and now he’s guiding us on how we can make less of an impact on our planet. And, like me, my colleague Richard Bull started as a chef, then moved into operations before working as BaxterStorey’s IT Director. If you work within an organisation that has training and skills at its heart, the ability to transfer them across the industry is made easier.
What training does BaxterStorey offer?
We have various in-house programmes and academies with fantastic training. There’s a graduate programme, a management programme (or leadership academy), a chef academy and a barista academy. Our graduate programme is enviable. We have one young lady who four years after completing her training is running a £1.5m contract in London Docklands with a staff count of 40. She has great drive and passion. Via our management programme you can gain career skills that are completely transferrable within hospitality or to other sectors, like healthcare or education. We set you up to be fantastic future leaders of our business.
Are you looking for new talent at The Fresh Careers Fair?
Yes! Three or four members of our People Team are going, as well as myself. We’re looking for entrepreneurs. We look for individuals who want to be different, who are innovative, and who are able to think on their feet. I see opportunities for really passionate, talented people to join our company. We always want brilliant people and we’ll help you to identify your skills and strengths to place you in the right job.
How can people join BaxterStorey?
We want people to join us at any time of the year. Go to the ‘Join Our Family’ page on the BaxterStorey website. Our People Team can contact you to meet over Skype, in person or at one of our open days. Sharon Daniels, who heads up our graduate programme, often meets with young people to identify their skills and to open their eyes to many great opportunities. We always suggest you have a go at a role because you might find you really love it. If not, then we can always find something else that’s right for you.
How should students, graduates and jobseekers approach The Fresh Careers Fair?
Go with your eyes open very wide, and have a positive attitude. Let an employer see your enthusiasm because the rest you can learn. Don’t forget that your career can last over 40 years, so don’t expect to know everything in the first five. When I started, I just wanted to cook but your skills and interests develop as you progress, and you find new opportunities along the way. Let us see your passion, and the rest we’ll work on together.
The Fresh Careers Fair is the recruitment event for the fresh produce, retail, foodservice, hospitality, and wholesale sectors, plus their related service suppliers.
Any organisation looking to attract the next generation of food and drink professionals by taking part in the 2018 edition on 8 March in London at The Kia Oval, should email Linda Bloomfield.