Do we still need culinary associations?

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th November 2014
Culinary associations have always been a place to get advice and meet contacts in the culinary industry, but with the advancement of the internet and social media, do we need these professional associations anymore? We take a look and find out what people think. Peter GriffithsIf you need advice or new ideas what do you do? The most common answer recently is to check online. So if this is the case, what do we need culinary associations for? The British Culinary Federation’s president Peter Griffiths thinks that associations are a good way for young chefs to develop their skills, compete and gain culinary contacts. He said: “I feel that organisations such as ours help cement the industry together, from working with and supporting young students through to supporting leading companies. We encourage and support young chefs to strive for excellence within their chosen profession.” The BCF was formed in 2005 from the Midlands Association of Chefs and the Chefs and Cooks Circle. They provide scholarships for students and trainees to study, compete and work abroad. Peter said: “Competitions, which are a strong part of our industry, help those who enter and their mentors to raise their game, offer healthy rivalry, cultivate friendships and help set benchmarks. We organise the English National Culinary teams, who represent the country while competing at global events. We also organise three of our own major culinary competitions.  Our events calendar encourages professional networking and socialising across all sectors of the industry.” Membership of the BCF gives the member automatic membership into the World Association of Chefs Societies (WACS), and events including annual dinners and awards evenings.www.afws.co.uk Another association is the Academy of Food and Wine Service, the professional body for front-of-house staff. It aims to improve the status of food and beverage service as a viable career choice. They offer advice and training to anyone who has a career in or is pursuing a career as a sommelier, wine waiter, waiter, bar manager or restaurant manager. The events and membership manager Daniel Moriss-Jeffery, said: “Belonging to a professional organisation has many benefits, including the opportunity of further training, career guidance and the chance to network with your peers in the industry.” AFWS offer courses including ‘licence to work’ starter training, performance improvement programmes and product tutorials. They also offer Academy Centre of Excellence accreditation programmes, an industry recognised standard for front-of-house training. Daniel explained: “AFWS runs well known competitions including the Moet UK Sommelier of the Year and the UK Restaurant Manager of the Year. Entering these competitions is a great way to learn, meet some of the top operators in the business and raise your profile and that of your establishment if you do well.” Neil_Thomson - www.7daysscotland.co.ukThe focus for associations looks to be on encouraging young chefs and providing training to develop, maintain their skills and develop the industry. Neil Thomson, from the Federation of Scottish Chefs (FSC), said: “In recent years there has been a greater emphasis on training and development. The federation have been very active in this area via our Scottish Culinary Academy and chefs@school initiatives.” The FSC’s Scottish Culinary Academy offers training, work experience and field trips. The FSC also fund and run the two Scottish culinary teams, senior and junior. “Culinary associations provide a valuable link and support to members," explained Neil. "They provide a range of opportunities including networking with other colleagues, contacts and employment opportunities both nationally and internationally.” The Welsh Culinary Association’s North Wales regional chairman Toby Beevers also thinks that training and mentoring young chefs should be the most important aim for a culinary association. He said: “We have strong links with trying to develop young chefs coming through, we have been supporting an initiative called AAA, a new work based qualification, for the past four years and it is finally coming into fruition. I think being at the forefront of people coming into the industry is really important to us.”Toby-Beevers-1www.wemadeithappen.co.uk The WCA support the national culinary teams, with the senior team currently ranked seventh in the world. Membership brings with it automatic membership into the WACS and access to information and knowledge from other members. The WCA has seen a decrease in new members recently, but Tony thinks this has more to do with the association having not been proactive enough in recruiting new members. He said: “We just relied on the members we already had in the past few years, but we have had a bit of a change at the top of the organisation and we are now proactively going out and getting members. We have about doubled our membership recently.” It is not only the associations themselves who think they have an important role in the industry.  Paul Hood from Social Eating House, London, thinks that they are an important part of the recognition and development of culinary staff. Paul12BW-300x210Paul said: “Associations share a commitment to achievement, training and quality. They promote culinary skills throughout the industry and support the interests of members. I am not involved personally with an association yet, but I would join one to help the ongoing development of the industry.” Canadian chef and blogger Henry Prontnicki contacted us via Twitter to express his views. He joined the Canadian Culinary Federation as a young chef 25 years ago. He said: “I believed that joining would provide me with the contacts and resources to become a proper chef. “With the advent of the internet such associations, in my opinion, have lost some of the allure of membership, since we can now communicate with our peers around the world. Membership these days benefits the members by being able to mentor the young people just beginning their careers, as the practical can’t be replaced by anything else.” However, some chefs think that associations are out-dated and that the focus of such associations must move to accommodate the changes to the industry. Oliver Stewart, head chef at Ripley Castle Estate, Harrogate, said: “Culinary associations are very old hat, any culinary group that gives each other medals and likes to spend money on entertaining each other are far too self-important.Oliver Stewart “Chefs and the industry do benefit from some of the work they do with training, the traditional things that are missing in most colleges. But a more modern group of thinking between chefs is needed, not strutting around in tall hats slapping each other on the back.” Lionel Strub, owner of Mirabelle, Harrogate, has been a member of associations in the UK and in France for over seven years, and is disappointed with the amount of support given. He said: “Beyond a certain point, for example if you don’t live in London or have a Michelin star, then they don’t care. Talented chefs living in the north of England don’t get a look in, young chefs don’t get the help they need in the north. “I’ve seen it through my own eyes that only certain people get the support they need.” PPhil Thomas, head chef at Rosewarne Manor, agrees with this view that associations are archaic and biased, but thinks that clubs could benefit the industry. He said: “Guilds still portray a stale environment where things are based around competitions and ‘the old guard’, but clubs are great for socialising and building contacts as they are more informal.” The UK Pastry Club is a free, non-membership association which looks to develop the pastry industry. Benoit Blin, executive pastry chef at Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons, chairman of the UK Pastry Club, said: “Our club is a gathering of good willing pastry chefs who are basically setting an objective to move forward the pastry industry, to develop the skills that are not there yet, and to bring pastry chefs together. “We use competitions to promote the art of pastry and to inspire more pastry chefs of tomorrow. Alternatively, it should become less difficult in the future to find pastry chefs in our industry because we will have developed their pastry skills to come and join us.” Simon Martin, development chef at Nature’s Way Foods LTD, thinks that the main problem with associations is too much advertising and not enough information for members. He said: “Associations seem in general to be a platform for advertising, for example the amount of mail the craft guild sends out for product endorsement. Also what useful information is in the association magazines? From what I can see, there are no pressing issues, no trends, and no reference to articles that could benefit the members.” We did a poll to find out people’s views, and 68% of those asked think that associations do play a role in the culinary industry today, whereas 32% think they are no longer needed. What do you think? Join the debate on Facebook, twitter or simply comment below! By Samantha Wright  

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th November 2014

Do we still need culinary associations?