Close

Jackie Cameron, an award-winning chef and owner of Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, says that there are a lot of misconceptions about the hospitality industry and its opportunities for young chef graduates.

“To be honest, when I announced my intention to study to be a chef, my mother was anxious about her “sweet” daughter’s ability to cope in an industry that, to her mind, was about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll,” says Jackie.

Many parents of Jackie’s cooking diploma students express concerns about the working conditions in the industry, but things have changed and the stereotype of working a gruelling 18-hour day in hot kitchens is no longer the reality they will experience.

“The fact is that firstly, hot kitchens today tend to ensure fair and reasonable working conditions for all staff. They certainly are intense environments where perfection is key and skills and teamwork are essential, but at the same time, respect for every person at every level is a reality, overtime is recognised when possible, with time off in lieu of time worked, and hours are manageable if one has the correct mind-set from the get-go,” says Jackie.

 “To be honest, when I announced my intention to study to be a chef, my mother was anxious about her “sweet” daughter’s ability to cope in an industry that, to her mind, was about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.” – Jackie Cameron

This isn’t to say that long hours are not expected – 15-hour working days are common for a junior chef. But this is better managed and staff happiness and health is considered.

She also highlights that there are a wide range of career possibilities for chefs today, each of which can suit their unique set of passion, ambition, family circumstances, and lifestyles. These include: hot kitchen, pastry, catering, cake icing, wedding cakes, food styling, private cooking classes, product development, teaching in a chef school, food photography, food production in a TV show, consulting, upliftment, food magazine – to name just some opportunities. And changes between roles are possible during one’s career; no one is bound to stick to one niche.

“My advice to young chefs is based on my experience in the industry and includes: stay true to yourself and focus on your personal growth, remember respect is earned, put your head down and work, don’t follow the money, always be learning or move on, embrace opportunities, be loyal and respectful, be humble and kind and know that arrogance is the biggest form of weakness, and never forget that you were a student.” – Jackie Cameron

Jackie adds, “My advice to young chefs is based on my experience in the industry and includes: stay true to yourself and focus on your personal growth, remember respect is earned, put your head down and work, don’t follow the money, always be learning or move on, embrace opportunities, be loyal and respectful, be humble and kind and know that arrogance is the biggest form of weakness, and never forget that you were a student.”

You can hear Jackie’s inspirational story of her journey and her advice to young women entering the industry in a panel talk in the IndustryLIVE! Theatre at Hostex 2020. She will be joined by industry greats such as Karen Short, founder of By Word of Mouth; Candice Philip, award-winning chef from Grei at The Saxon; and Nadia Barnard of Capsicum Culinary Studio, among others. The ‘Power Women in Hospitality’ panel discussion takes place on Monday, 2 March from 11h00 to 11h45 at Hostex 2020, Sandton Convention Centre.

For more information on Hostex 2020, visit www.hostex.co.za.