From dishwasher to master of culinary arts

Bleak prospects for restaurant staff? Not in the least! Hospitality has some amazing career success stories and a wide range of professional opportunities. But how do you get to be a head chef, hotel manager or café owner? Entry routes range from initial and further training to degrees and lateral entry.

From dishwasher to master of culinary arts

Careers in hospitality are as varied as the HoReCa industry itself – and there are some astounding examples. Syrco Bakker is Dutch and actually started out washing dishes. By the age of 27, he had worked his way up to Michelin-starred chef. At the age of 14, Julia Komp from Germany discovered her passion for cooking during work experience at a hotel and later made a name for herself as Germany’s youngest Michelin-starred chef. And Nadia Santini from Italy first studied political science and was self-taught in the kitchen. Over the course of her career, she has been awarded the coveted 3 Michelin stars and earned the title World’s Best Female Chef.

Soulmates not staff

Heiner Raschhofer

Heiner Raschhofer, fouder of the Soulkitchen Academy 

Austrian Heiner Raschhofer has also had a stellar career. He grew up in his parents’ hotel in Bad Gastein and was supposed to follow in their footsteps. But his sisters took that role while he preferred to start his own hospitality business. After finishing school, he completed a 2-year training programme at the tourism college in Bad Hofgastein, comparable with a hotel management college. As a young man, he was drawn temporarily to Italy, where he had casual jobs in bars and restaurants before laying the foundation for the Soulkitchen Group in 1995. Today, the Group employs around 400 staff in 25 venues in Austria and Bavaria, and was named Employer of the Year in 2021.

Raschhofer wants his restaurants to be popular spots full of energy and joy – both for guests and for his employees, who are referred to in the business as ‘Soulmates’. In 2013, he established the Soulkitchen Academy to promote the culinary and personal skills of each person in the best possible way. In the struggle to overcome staff shortages in the sector, he firmly believes: ‘The more professionally we design initial and further training and run our businesses, the easier it will be to find staff.’ One thing is clear to him: ‘There are few employment fields as varied as the hospitality industry. And those who really have the will to achieve something can climb the ladder quickly.’

Naked Indigo concept
Soulkitchen's Naked Indigo concept is a new restaurant concept that completely rethinks fast food, with the motto: 'No Animals Killed, Energizing Dishes only', and comes entirely without flavor enhancers, flavors and artificial additives.

There are few employment fields as varied as the hospitality industry. And those who really have the will to achieve something can climb the ladder quickly.

Heiner Raschhofer, founder of the Soulkitchen Academy 

New bachelor’s in culinary management

Alexander Aisenbrey
Alexander Aisenbrey, Hotelier of the Year 2021 and Director of the 5-star superior Hotel Öschberghof in Donaueschingen

Alexander Aisenbrey, Hotelier of the Year 2021 and Director of the 5-star superior Hotel Öschberghof in Donaueschingen, Germany, also champions good initial and further training. Together with other hoteliers, he founded the initiative Fair Job Hotels in 2016. Its aim is to create fair working conditions and attractive prospects for apprentices, lateral entrants and skilled workers. But that’s not all. Quite incidentally, the committed hotelier has completely revolutionised culinary training. To make the profession more attractive for school-leavers, Aisenbrey has worked with the IST Hochschule für Management [University of Applied Sciences] in Düsseldorf to establish the new bachelor’s degree in culinary management. The degree is designed as an incentive for school-leavers to enter the world of hospitality. Courses teach cooking skills as well as knowledge of business administration and personnel management, thus offering school-leavers appropriate job training. 

Aisenbrey’s own career path began in 1991 with his initial training as a server, and led via hotel management college to a bachelor’s degree in hotel management and leadership. Added to this were various stints abroad, including in the Hotel Montreux Palace in Switzerland. He also completed the further training programme at Cornell University in New York to qualify as a general manager. ‘I’m currently completing my master’s in business transformation management alongside my work,’ the 52-year-old adds. ‘I’m an enthusiastic lifelong learner; in our fast-paced world, it’s important to keep up-to-date.’

6 classics become 7

The traditional entry route into the hospitality industry in Germany is and remains the programme that combines an apprenticeship with a course of study. Currently, over 45,000 young people have chosen one of 6 hospitality professions, the most popular being hotel manager and chef (see info box). From August 2022, things will be changing. For the first time in over 20 years, professional training is being reformed – under the watchful guidance of Germany’s Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB). Now there is a 7th option for skilled kitchen workers. People in this field support chefs in their work and prepare simple dishes and meals themselves. The reform also introduces new training content, such as sustainability and digitalisation, as well as vegetarian expertise for chefs. 

‘To some extent, we are unusual here in Germany with the apprenticeship/study system,’ says Hans Schneider, Chairman of the Federal Committee for Vocational Education and Training at DEHOGA, the German Hotel and Restaurant Association. Similar systems exist only in Austria and Switzerland. ‘Many other countries try to copy elements of the apprenticeship/study system, with varying degrees of success. However, academic courses of study like hospitality management are widespread internationally.’ Schneider sees the apprenticeship system as the ideal basis for a route into a career in hospitality. In his view, those who want self-employment success should definitely learn some business basics. ‘These can be picked up through an advanced course or the DEHOGA Unternehmerbrief [entrepreneur qualification] . The newly organised programmes, which start on 1 August , already integrate some of these skills into the initial training,’ he explains.

At a glance: apprenticeship/study system

In Germany, the apprenticeship/study system for vocational training plays a vital role in meeting the demand for skilled workers. Training takes place in 2 learning environments: in the business and in the vocational school. From 1 August 2022, there will be 7 apprenticeships rather than the 6 previously offered in the hotel and restaurant industry. These include as chefs, specialist hotel workers and hotel managers. Added to this are skilled staff for the hospitality industry, for chain restaurants, for traditional restaurants and for events catering. The newly created training programme is for skilled kitchen staff.

The most important things for a successful career start in the hospitality sector are the ability to work in a team and the motivation to be there for guests. A certain resistance to stress and a talent for organisation are an advantage day-to-day. Everything else can be learned.

Hans Schneider, Chairman of the Federal Committee for Vocational Education and Training at DEHOGA

New nationwide standards 

First and foremost, Hans Schneider is a restaurateur. He runs the Landgasthof-Hotel Riesengebirge in Neuhof an der Zenn. He became self-employed for the first time in 1986 and remains so – in different roles – to this day. His career began in 1981 with initial training as a chef in the Michelin-starred restaurant Bammes in Nuremberg. His first skilled job was as a sous chef, and in 1995 he took the examination to be a head chef. He continues to take great pleasure in training others, taking apprentices under his own wing. ‘The most important things for a successful career start in the hospitality sector are the ability to work in a team and the motivation to be there for guests. A certain resistance to stress and a talent for organisation are an advantage day-to-day. Everything else can be learned.’ 

Schneider’s voluntary involvement with DEHOGA includes the new initiative TOP Ausbildungsbetrieb [training company] , which provides a nationally-recognised quality seal for a high standard of training. Certified hotels and restaurants must adhere to 12 principles, such as nominating a mentor to look after each apprentice, enabling a work-life balance and preparing intensively for examinations. What’s special is that the apprentices themselves check and confirm whether the quality principles are being upheld.  

From taster course to master class

For chefs, waitstaff and hoteliers, one thing is clear: learning never stops. During the coronavirus crisis, many employees turned their talents to other professions. But other HoReCa businesses and their employees  used the time to adopt new culinary skills. The spectrum of further training opportunities is almost inexhaustible and ranges from crash courses to postgraduate studies. Specialisations and additional qualifications as barkeepers, dietary chefs, wine sommeliers or beer sommeliers  are just some of the options. Other possibilities are seminars on specialist topics like marketing, employee management or controlling.

Institutes like the Umwelt-Bildungszentrum Berlin [Berlin Environmental Education Centre] offer retraining and further training with a particular focus on sustainability. Not to mention the various opportunities around the world to discover new things, for example at famous cooking schools like Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Here, the workshops range from The Art of Boulangerie to Advanced Culinary Techniques. In short, people who choose a career in the HoReCa industry will find that the world is their oyster.

Skills boost for gourmets: METRO Academies

At its training academies in many countries, METRO invests in initial and further training for people interested in hospitality, for example in Bulgaria, Germany, France, Italy, Poland and Romania – and also in Turkey, where the academy is known as Gastronometro. Each academy is a unique mix of an education and training centre, cooking school, show kitchen and event location – each catering to the local food culture and catering scene. Both METRO employees and METRO customers, as well as up-and-coming culinary talent, can attend seminars and workshops here, where the motto is: learning by feeling, tasting and doing it yourself.

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