By James Khoza, Hostex 2020 Ambassador, President of the SA Chefs Association, Executive Chef of Sandton Convention Centre. James Khoza, undoubtedly one of South Africa’s most inspirational chefs, has made his mark on the local culinary landscape with strong leadership, insight, and a passion for excellence and opportunity in training and education in the industry. In this article, brought to you by Hostex 2020, Khoza addresses the need for chefs to develop skills beyond culinary.
Consumer behaviour in relation to food and beverage choices is changing at an increasingly rapid pace, making it imperative for us as chefs to stay ahead of the trends, to be learning continuously, and to be prepared to adapt our product delivery.
Remaining relevant in today’s world means we must wear more than just the coat of cooks, and add the coat of entrepreneurship. Cooking is a business and must be treated as such. Chefs need to be encouraged to learn leadership skills to manage the ever-changing cooking landscape as their responsibilities increase to include managing people and their behaviours, products and procurement, as well as finance. Chefs must know how to manage a skilled and intelligent workforce and how to get the most out of their people; they must know how to effectively use new intelligent equipment; all while creating dishes of all types according to consumer expectations.
The culinary industry of 2020 demands that entrepreneurship and management training must be compulsory in chefs’ schools to enable chefs to be the leaders they will be expected to be. Additional training that is of value to trainee chefs includes thought leadership, how to design and drive new strategies, how to lead change, how to enhance customers service, and how to drive team performance.
Chefs are vital business decision makers who represent their organisations to the outside world, and they are agents of environmental sustainability.
Climate change is forcing people to relook at how they conduct their affairs in the context of the effect their actions have on the overall environment. The issues of waste, drought, fish shortages, health connotations of the increasing imbalances, and the probability of repairing the damage must all be addressed – and chefs as leaders must play a role in their areas of influence to contribute to a collaborated effort to remedy the situation. Sustainability must be the first question that chefs ask themselves before they create a menu, switch on a stove, decide how to cook a product – and that knowledge and understanding must be shared with the brigade.
Our chefs have the potential to have a strong positive impact on the organisations they are employed by – they can improve revenue, optimise talent identification and retention, drive creativity and innovation, grow business through market share, deliver exceptional service, and manage a broad portfolio of products and services.
The need for chefs to be leaders has never been more vital than now.
On being a Hostex 2020 Ambassador, Khoza says, “Hostex is the flagship event for the hospitality industry and to be associated with it means I must be at the top of my game, delivering innovative ideas that speak to the people now and into the future.”