I recently listened to an interesting Freakonomics podcast about mentoring.
They spoke about a study that focused on troubled youths who were mentored during school. The kids didn’t understand the benefit of it at the time, but when they were in their 40s, the researchers got in touch with them and asked what they remember about their mentoring experience, their memories were overwhelmingly positive.
The researcher said people made comments like: “It was one of the best things that happened in my life…If it hadn’t been for those guys, I would have never been as good a person…” All kinds of different positive things they attributed back to their mentors and experience.
I resonated so much with this podcast because I dropped out of school at 15, hated school and spent the majority of my time outside the classroom. I wasn’t an easy kid.
Dad was a Bank Manager, tough as nails he was, but worked bloody hard to put food on the table for me and my six brothers. I learned work ethic and good discipline from him.
Mum on the other hand was very loving and encouraged my love for food when I stared showing interest as a young boy pulling at her apron. She says I use to hover around her in the kitchen and ask, “what’s this mum? How do you make that? Can I do It?”
Mum was patient, showed me step by step how to make cakes and let me get my hands dirty. She was the queen of the kitchen and it’s because of her I stayed out of trouble and got into cooking.
I got my first job at Herman Schneider’s Two Faces and spent my days there washing pots and peeling potatoes… He was like Gordon Ramsey in the kitchen!
I hated it and wanted to quit so bad but dad was firm and threatened to throw me back into school if I didn’t finish my apprenticeship.
I stuck it out at Two Faces for 4 years and from there went to London to work for Michelle Roux at The Waterside Inn for 3 years.
While I didn’t realise it at the time, my parents and Hermann instilled discipline in me, Mr Roux taught me the classical French techniques I needed to become a good chef, and later on, I got business skills from Mr John Hemmes who asked me to be his Head Honcho at hotel CBD.
It took a big path to get to where I am today but it wouldn’t have been possible without the many mentors who guided me along the way. I thought I knew everything back then and never really appreciated the mentoring I got until I got a bit older and matured.
For young people in the workforce who might have a lot of confidence when starting out, it’s important to accept that people who have been in the industry longer than you know more than you.
Learn from them respectfully and soak up as much information as you can, because while you may not realise it now, it will benefit you so much in the future. And you never know, maybe one day you’ll become a mentor to someone and impact their lives in a way that’s profound.
Being a chef, the hospitality industry has been a big part of my life, so for me I think it’s important to give something back to the industry that has given me so much. That’s why we set up the Inspired series in partnership with TAFE and Australia’s industry leaders, to help educate, inspire and support our young up-and-coming chefs.
We hold a handful of Q&A style events throughout the year, so far in Sydney and Melbourne, and they’ve been a huge success and had great responses from students.
They’ve had the opportunity to hear from international icons like Richard Branson, some of the world’s best chefs including Massimo Bottura, Daniel Humm and Brett Graham, and Top Aussie legends like Guy Grossi, Tegan Ezard and Perter Gilmore to name a few.