Today we’re going to briefly set out the pros and cons of two of the main places chefs are likely to find work: in restaurants and in hotels. We’ll give you a brief idea of what each of these types of establishments offer to give you a better idea of where you would like to go once you’ve got your culinary qualification. The earlier on you choose, the better stead you are in to grow your career. That said, don’t let yourself become trapped in an environment that does not fulfil you, and never let the fear of failure stop you from trying something new.
As we all know, the main focus of a hotel is lodging. Many restaurants do not rely on their kitchens to turn a profit, but others use their restaurant as their main source of publicity. Think The Altitude restaurant in Sydney, Bourgainville in Amsterdam and Waku Ghin in Singapore.
The kitchens in hotels are often better equipped (due to more funding), better staffed and can offer more stable shifts. Due to the size of many hotel operations, there are more opportunities for advancement, more job opportunities available and certain hotel chains are able to offer transfer to another country. Due to the size of restaurant operations in hotels they often have a full suite of kitchen staff from classic cook, sous chef, executive sous to executive chef. There are even positions available which don’t involve much cooking- executive chefs manage the process and the staff who themselves carry out a wide variety of duties. You can even move beyond just working in the restaurant kitchen. Hotels after all provide many food orientated services; room service, banquets, conference, catering and seasonal events. There are plenty of opportunities to chop, change and grow.
Because larger hotels tend to be more corporate, they are also more structured. That can mean more predictable scheduling that seems more like a “regular” job, as opposed to the long and unpredictable hours often associated with working in standalone restaurants. Hotel restaurants may also be more financially stable and run by professional management, offer benefit packages and retirement plans. Larger operations are more likely in hotels, which means better benefits. Hotels mostly offer jobs straight from culinary programmes in order to train their employees in the style of that hotel. That’s good news for you culinary students, you’re prime candidates for hotels.
Working in a stand-alone restaurant offers an exciting pace with lots of creativity and variety in your responsibilities. If you love the rush you will likely embrace the high level of craftsmanship, but you’ll also work evenings, holidays and weekends and work overtime most days. You’ll work along-side high powered individuals with great drive. It can be exhilarating for those who thrive under pressure.
The flip side is that many restaurants live on the edge of financial stability, which could be considered exhilarating, but does threaten job security. There is however often more social equity in a restaurant than in a hotel. There are fewer employees and there does not exist as a definite a division of labor. Another plus, the owner is often working on his own property and has a personal stake in its success (i.e in your success).
In a restaurant, the chef is always looking for ways to create new dishes and compete with other restaurants to draw guests. You get to think outside the box and explore a lot of regional fare as well as authentic recipes to add to your culinary mastery. You’ll learn how to pair ingredients and flavour combinations and explore food in a new way.
How to choose?
The question, ultimately, is what fulfils you? Do you strive for creativity, excitement, thrive under pressure and aren’t looking for a massively hierarchal structure? If yes, you’ll probably do better in a restaurant setting. It will be difficult, will include long hours and will be challenging, but you’ll be pushed to your limits and feel accomplished in a way you otherwise wouldn’t. You’ll also be in the trenches along side co-workers experiencing the same thing, which creates bonds other environments don’t.
Or does that sound like too much pressure? Do you want the promise of input=output, steady room to grow and defined responsibilities? You may be more suited to a hotel environment. While still high pressure, it’s not as taxing as working in a restaurant, and you will generally know exactly what you’re expected to do accomplish from the get-go.