If you can stand the heat, get into the kitchen
Posted October 13, 2011, by Josie Chun
With the success of shows such as MasterChef and My Restaurant Rules, the hospitality industry has been put under the spotlight – and it seems that people like what they see. No longer the province of students, backpackers and aspiring actors, the hospitality industry is attracting people of all ages and backgrounds as a viable career path.
‘In Australia there has been a growing acceptance that hospitality is not just a casual income source for students and part-time workers, it is a genuine career path. Hospitality is a very challenging career, particularly at senior management level – to succeed you need to be an outstanding business person and an outstanding people person,’ says Jo, Manager of Manhattan Group in Melbourne.
The nature of the beast
Hospitality is a dynamic industry of high turnover, long hours, high pressure and demanding customers. If you like routine and regular hours and don’t like people, this is definitely not the industry for you!
However, hospitality is also full of camaraderie and interesting personalities, and is ideal work for energetic extroverts. Even better, hospitality skills are highly transportable so you could take your skills overseas, work on an island resort or in the snow if you want to chase a bit of fun and adventure. ‘Working in hospitality is the easiest way to work your way around the world,’ says Dougal Newman, Assistant Manager, Heron Island Resort.
Many jobs in hospitality don’t require specific qualifications other than excellent people skills, a willingness to work hard and an ability to stay calm under pressure, and it’s an industry where experience will count for more than education. There are no essential qualifications for most front-of-house jobs (dealing directly with customers), though some qualifications can give you a better shot at the best gigs.
Some roles, such as chefs, cooks, patissiers and managers, may require special training and formal qualifications. Those who aspire to management roles can also benefit from courses that teach them business and accounting skills.
‘Studying a hospitality degree opens so many doors and gives graduates a broader choice of employer, career path and career specialisations. When employers look at a graduate resume they see a person who is committed to a long-term career in the industry and recognise that they have the “whole package” – business knowledge, skills and experience,’ says Leanne Baker, Internship Coordinator, Southern Cross University.
An RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) certificate is also required for anyone working at licensed premises, and an RCG (Responsible Conduct of Gambling) certificate is required for workplaces with a gambling (pokies or TAB) room.
Hot jobs in hospitality
We’ve all been to our local bar or pub and may think pulling beers and mixing drinks looks easy – but there’s a lot more to being a bartender than meets the eye, such as setting up the bar, writing cocktail menus, liaising with alcohol reps and ensuring immaculate taste and presentation of everything from the perfect martini to a mean mojito.
You will need an RSA and possibly an RCG to work as a bartender.
‘I like meeting new people every day, pouring drinks for customers and suggesting new drinks to try. Being part of their night out, seeing them enjoy themselves – it’s a great thing to be a part of. Coming to work each night is pretty similar to going out each night, minus the hangover the next day.’
Alex – Bar supervisor, Sydney
With MasterChefs, Iron Chefs and celebrity chefs dominating our screens and bookshelves, chefs are the new superstars. But it’s not all fame and glory – there’s a lot of grunt work and pressure, with hours spent on your feet in a hot and sometimes volatile kitchen. But for those who are passionate about food and cooking, it’s a great career with opportunities to work in different locations and types of establishments.
Qualified chefs require a four-year apprenticeship or Certificate IV in commercial cookery, while cooks don’t need formal qualifications. The standards for Australian chefs meet global industry requirements, so once you are qualified in Australia your skills are recognised worldwide.
‘It’s such a special thing to do and it can bring so much happiness. I like making people happy with my cooking. Then there’s the freedom, the autonomy of working in a kitchen, particularly when you’re the head chef, you’re your own boss. And of course, there are the opportunities for travel. In the last five years, I have lived in five different countries, working in good jobs and earning good money because of my trade.’
Ludovic – French-born Sydney chef
Patissiers are fast becoming the latest hot celebrities – just ask Adriano Zumbo, aka ‘the patissier of pain’, who shot to national fame after his appearance on MasterChef and his diabolical croquembouche and macaron challenges. His business has been inundated with drooling customers and his creations have inspired a whole new generation of aspiring patissiers.
The best part of the job? ‘Customer response, travelling the world, creating new concepts and pushing the boundaries of my customers’ perceptions of cakes.’
Adriano Zumbo – Patissier
Behind every good party is a good caterer, but providing an endless stream of delicious, perfectly turned out meals and hors d’oeuvres is no easy task. Once you have mastered the organisational challenges, it’s a fun and exciting career that can take you around the world.
You don’t need formal qualifications to become a caterer, but you need to be an expert cook and server, and hospitality training and business skills will come in handy if you’re running your own show.
‘Catering is quite difficult as it demands both food skills and organisational skills. On busy days the quantities can be overwhelming and the logistics complex. But I love the food and I love the moving around. I am in a marquee in the middle of a field one day and in a boardroom or someone’s house the next day. I love this constantly changing scene and enjoy seeing people enjoy restaurant-quality food in so many different spaces.’
Miccal Cummins – Owner, award-winning catering business Gastronomy
The café and restaurant business is one of high turnover as new businesses come and go in quick succession. As any restaurant manager or owner knows, it can be a difficult industry to survive, but the thrill of creating a great dining experience and seeing satisfied customers makes it all worthwhile.
Formal study, such as certificates in management or hospitality management, can help with the business side of running a restaurant. Many skills are cemented with on-the-job training and experience.
‘Customers smile when they leave the restaurant because they’ve had a good time, a good meal. That’s a great feeling.’
James – Restaurant manager, Alice Springs
Coffee has become the new wine, and baristas are in increasing demand to cater for the swelling number of coffee connoisseurs. A barista is an expert in making espresso and espresso-based drinks and must have an understanding of everything from beans and blends to grind, pour, and how to test and fix an espresso machine. It’s a job that requires training and precision, as well as artistry.
There are many barista training courses available, and some skills can be developed on the job.
‘A barista is an artist – coffee is their art. When they’re making coffees, they’re not just working, they’re perfecting their craft. To become a barista you need to learn/understand the science of coffee, things like emulsification, which produces the “crema” that appears on the top of a freshly poured coffee. You also need to understand how a coffee machine should work, how to maintain it, how to test it. There’s a lot to know.’
James – Head barista, Sydney café
A sommelier is a wine specialist and advisor, someone who understands everything that goes into wine – different grape varieties, blends, wine production techniques, fermentation styles, vintages, regions, and matching wines with different foods. Their job is to advise chefs, managers and customers on food/wine combinations, construct wine lists for restaurants, order wine from wholesalers and vineyards, manage stock and train restaurant staff in the essentials of wine service and basic wine knowledge.
Sommeliers Australia offers a range of courses to move into this dynamic area.
‘You’ve got to develop wine-selling strategies, solve storage problems, train staff and keep yourself up-to-date with a very dynamic product. For me, the mental challenges, the strategic thinking, the problem-solving is part of the fun and satisfaction I get from being a sommelier.’
Grant – Sommelier, Melbourne