The current talent shortage has proven that hotel industry professionals’ aspirations and desires have changed. But how do you know if your hospitality business is doing enough to invest in and retain young talent in the post-pandemic world? One recent panel discussion that took place at the Worldchefs Congress, held in Abu Dhabi on May 31st, 2022, provides deep insights on what motivates and deters talent looking to get into the hospitality sector. The discussion was moderated by John Lohr, Hosco’s director of Strategic Partnerships and Innovation, and featured the following guest panelists:

  • Elvin Chew, Worldchefs Young Chef Mentor & Director of At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy
  • Rebecca van Bommel, Worldchefs Young Chef Ambassador & Sous Chef of The Townhouse Brewpub & Eatery
  • Christophe Megel, Master Chef, Chevalier, and Executive Director of Q Industries Group
  • Marcus Hallgren, Culinary Educator and Head Waiter of the Swedish Culinary Team

This article illustrates the factors young chefs value when choosing a job, what they want to achieve in their role, and the type of opportunities they prefer. You can use their observations to make your hospitality job offers and career plans more attractive to the talent you’re seeking. Feel free to watch the panel discussion replay (only available in english) or read our summary below!


Can You Describe in One Word What Young Chefs Are Looking for When Entering the Hospitality Industry?

Christophe: Young individuals today have aspirations. They’re looking for something greater than themselves. It’s not about knowledge and skills anymore: that is a given. The question is why. Explain to me the value of what I do every day. If you can explain that to me, then I will engage.

Another statistic is that employee engagement is currently at 10 percent. This means

that for every 100 employees, 90 come to work to do the job and only ten are engaged. These are the ones that get intrinsic satisfaction. I presume these are the talented ones. We hear about the idea of talent management and talent acquisition. But what is talent? Do you have a scientific formula whereby you can identify talent? 

All This Talk About Talent, Sustainability: Is This Just Corporate Talk?

Elvin:  Young chefs think of what value they’ll get if they stay with you, and what kind of opportunities they will be exposed to. A lot of times - when they join a hotel or a restaurant - they are told they will become a cook.  Other opportunities are never mentioned to them. So, they get bored with what they are doing. Youngsters nowadays actually do research beforehand. They know too much before they can actually learn something. They want opportunities where they can learn, see, and experience more.

Rebecca: I think young chefs are looking for the value in every opportunity, so if they can’t immediately see the value in what they're doing, they're not going to be engaged. They don't see the value in day-to-day activities. They don't see the big picture in the long run. Are they enjoying what they're doing at this moment? They want to see its direct value.

Do You Buy Into the Mantra, Which Has Been Present in Our Industry for Such a Long Time, That You Have to Work Long Hours, During the Weekends, and You May Even Have to Sacrifice Your Family Life to Get Where You Want to Go? 

Rebecca: They warned me about that on my very first day of culinary school. This kind of thinking was accepted because it's how it's always been, but it doesn't have to and shouldn't be that way.

Marcus: You need to create a purpose for young people. If you don’t create purpose, people will have no ambition, no motivation to join you. Our people are purpose-driven.

Does Purpose Equate to Money?

Christophe: Purpose has nothing to do with money. Every human being has basic needs. Whether you like it or not, you have to make a living. The second fundamental need is, we like to be loved. But we are not a very loving industry. We are in the hospitality industry but we are very harsh and brutal. People also want to learn. They want to grow. They also want to leave a legacy, and I think that’s the fulfillment of any human being.


If You Have Two Job Offers:  One Is, You Can Live, Love, and Learn in a Nurturing Environment and Have a Standard Wage, While Offer Two Is the Old-School Way but Three Times More the Wage, Which One Will You Take? 

Rebecca: If this was one of my first job offers and I didn't know what I know now, I would have picked more money for sure. But having been through it and knowing what I know now, I would pick the more nurturing environment for a better quality of life.

From an Educator’s Point of View, When You Hear All of These Insights From the Younger Generation, How Do You Think That Affects the Way You’re Educating Young People?

Marcus: We need to be more effective and more modern so we have the basic skills to provide the students. We need to listen to the young people.  I see too many educators who are doing the same thing year after year, decade after decade. We need to be more professional.  We would also like to learn more. I did it. I worked with my students in the practice kitchen and I also developed myself as an educator.

Let’s Go Back in Time and Assume You Didn’t Choose Hospitality or Culinary, What Would You Choose and Why?

Rebecca: If I'm being honest, and this sounds bad, but probably something that makes a lot more money.  I have the passion that's why I'm in this industry. At the end of the day, passion doesn't pay the bills. Especially with rising costs and how things are today, it's essential to be able to pay your bills.

This Is a Unique Industry That Can Allow You to Have a Global Career. Will the Opportunity to Travel Be Enough for You to Take a Job That Wouldn’t Be as High in Terms of Salary as Well as Work-Life Balance?

Elvin: A lot of young chefs nowadays want to go overseas because they want to experience something different that they can't get back home. They already know a lot, so for them to understand it, they have to experience it for themselves.

Rebecca:  It definitely worked for me. I did my internship in Ireland and I was willing to accept that I would not be paid, and I will be doing it just for the experience. Luckily, I did get paid but yes, traveling is such a rewarding and valuable experience and it's worth way more than its weight in pay. So, I absolutely think that would entice young chefs.


Do You Think a Unique Selling Point to This Career Is That It Can Give You a Unique Global Mobility That Being a Doctor or a Lawyer Could Not?

Marcus: Yes, I think so. I think what Worldchefs provides is fantastic.  Also the AEHT organization in Europe. I think that it's really good.

Christophe: Yes, I believe that Culinary Arts may be one of the major trades which enables a young individual to be able to travel the world. The hospitality industry has served that purpose for me. I worked on almost every continent and it has done me well. So yes, I believe that it is a unique value proposition.

John: Overall we need to understand that people who enter this industry are risk-takers. There is a lot to entrepreneurship and risk-taking that schools and the industry can say to young people: the reason you like this field is because of who you are. I wanted to travel the world, and I chose hospitality for that reason. This industry is the conduit to that kind of life. But it also needs to be a financially sustainable career. We can balance what the industry already has, which are global opportunities, and adopt our policies to meet the trends and needs of young people.


→😎 Want to know what hospitality talent is looking for, and how you can make candidates gravitate towards your company? Read our latest talent trends report here to find out now!