How Passion4Hospitality can shape your career

Here’s a little feel-good story worth sharing about a Management Graduate with a promising future in the world of hospitality. We finally said Hello at SkillsLondon when we both represented


in our roles as Springboard Ambassadors 

(see picture)

Full Article Here:

"Participating in the Institute of Hospitality's P4H Student Debating Competition and Careers Forum led to Simrian Kaur finding a job that she really loves.
Having worked all through university, Simrian had a choice of more than one graduate position…"

Simrian Kaur and Thomas Kilroy: Meeting at the P4H debate led to an exciting new job opportunity...

If you are a student or (or even a lecturer) in the field of Hospitality, I can only urge you to get a team signed up. This is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate your leadership potential… and who knows what doors you might open?

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A simple question to help you find your dream job.

Last week I put a simple question to an audience of 150 management graduates at Oxford Brookes University during their annual 'Focus on Careers' eventFor me, it is one of the most powerful ways to evaluate your career and life goals, and since the answer constantly changes as our dreams and aspirations do, it is worth revisiting every now and then whether you are starting out, stuck in a rut or responding to changes of circumstance.

"If you couldn't believe you were being paid to do a job - a job you loved doing so much you would do it for free - what job would that be?"

This conundrum was first put to me a couple of years ago by BaxterStorey's Director of Sales, Simon Esner, who was my business mentor at the time. It was a proud moment to see Simon being crowned UK Sales Director of the Year in the National Sales Awards last week, so for me he embodies the very notion of what it means to have that elusive 'dream job'.

The question caught me off-guard at the time and consequently my answer to him was not a wholly satisfactory one, but not for the reasons you might think. The truth is I've had all of those jobs. The so-called dream job has been ticked off my list so many times, it's ridiculous. In any case, it was for this reason I had sought out his advice in the first place. Over the last three years I have been on a personal journey of introspection to find that elusive next one - the one job I'd do for free if money was no object! - and I needed his help in uncovering what it might be.

Of course you might be wondering why so many, if each one was such a so-called dream job. The thing I've learned about landing a dream job is that it's the journey to get there that makes it special, not the destination. Every time I felt I had 'arrived' (perhaps even getting slightly too comfortable in the role), I knew it was time to dream up another and go chase that. 

As I looked out across my audience, I couldn't help but notice the sheer abundance of potential that illuminated those fresh-faced management graduates. Each of them no doubt has a compelling idea of what their road to success might look like, but many will face setbacks and disappointments along the way. When (not if) this happens, they will feel the worst possible frustration, but I have found that these situations arise to point us towards new avenues of opportunity. And very often we find ourselves in a far more exciting place than if we'd planned for it.

Networking with some great people during the 'Focus on Careers' event at Oxford Brookes University

So consider again the question: if money was no object, what job would you do to fill your day?

If you think of a compass as showing you true North, then your answer to this simple evaluation will point you toward your true happiness and long term success. I've recently landed my new 'Dream Job' and can't wait to get started.

If you are doing what you feel is your dream job, please share your story in the comments below. If you're still looking, then I wish you every success in finding it and hope you can appreciate and enjoy the journey it takes you on. 

Please feel free to leave a comment. And if you enjoyed reading this you may like other related posts listed below. To receive future posts don't forget to subscribe via email (just enter your email above), or by RSS, or why not follow me on twitter @mykitchensync.

Beating hunger with fund-raisin' cookies.

Today I am feeling very proud for some of my Leadership Academy colleagues who are seeing the results of their course project come to fruition in a very bold and rewarding way.  By sharing the story of Miriam's plight of starvation (pictured right) , they galvanised BaxterStorey and HolroydHowe to get behind a giant cookie sale to raise thousands of pounds for Action Against Hunger to coincide with today being World Food Day.

Using ingredients sponsored by food supplier Brakes, our chefs across the UK have been busy baking cookies for sale, while the service teams have been raising awareness out front of our initiative to help the hungry on World Food Day

To further encourage staff to show their support, we have been invited to donate an hour of our salary through a salary-sacrifice scheme set up through payroll. I personally like this initiative as it has given me the option to donate without buying loads of cookies, as I continue my endeavour to cut out sugar from my diet.

It is hoped that about £40,000 will be raised through cookie sales all over the UK. That's an astounding result for a team of talented managers on a training course and I applaud their entrepreneurship and ambition.

In a separate initiative which ties in nicely on World Food Day, UNICEF UK have started a hashtag campaign on social media called #emptyplate where you share a photo of your empty plate before eating to help raise awareness. It certainly made me stop on think about how lucky I am just as I was about to pour out my muesli this morning.

Here are some actions for you today that will MAKE A DIFFERENCE:

  • If you are lucky enough to have our BaxterStorey or HolroydHowe chefs cooking your lunch today, then please buy a cookie for 75p - all of which goes to helping the hungry.

  • Share a photo of your empty plate on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #emptyplate. Also add in the following suggested text so your followers can share the message. "Not every child will get the  they need today. Join me and speak out about child malnutrition. Snap an #emptyplate #WFD2013"

Together we can make a difference.

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Don't wait for National Waiters Day: Get involved now.

“Anyone can cook and anyone can serve, but it takes time to nurture that into a talent.”

These were the words of a very smartly-attired waiter from The Landmark Hotel as he nervously addressed the gathering above a post office in Baker Street at the Continental Chef Supplies showroom for the launch of National Waiters Day. In attendance were a number of guests representing the Hospitality industry, the Springboard UK charity and some of the sponsors who have helped in getting the venture off the ground, not least our own company BaxterStorey since our Chairman Alastair Storey has personally supported the initiative from day one.

The team from The Landmark Hotel who really demonstrated what good looks like in our industry.
The brainchild of Fred Sirieix, General Manager of Galvin at Windows, on the 28th floor of of the Hilton at Park Lane, the event due to take place on Sunday 23rd of June is to raise the profile of all the brilliant Front of House people who work in Hospitality and often get forgotten in our rush to pay homage to the Celebrity Chefs gracing our screens these days. Think about it; without the waiters, the chefs would just oversee buffets!

There are lots of fun events booked all over the country in the lead up to the big day culminating in a hugely entertaining Waiters race around Brunswick Square
Matt Johnson, MD, Bunzl Catering & Hospitality Division

I went along in my capacity as a newly-minted Springboard Ambassador to support my colleagues. There was certainly great interest in our BaxterStorey version of Fred's board game 'The Art of Servicewhich we use as training tool.

It would have been great to see a few more attendees at the launch itself, but these are early days and already it has captured the collective imagination of some of the biggest names in the industry. In any case, by live-tweeting the presentations (search for #nationalwaitersday), I was able to involve lots of people who couldn't be there in person. Certainly it generated lots of replies and retweets. The magic of Twitter! 

Well done Fred on a fantastic initiative. You may be at Galvin’s, but you’ve actually galvanised the entire industry around a noble idea: that waiting tables is a profession just as much, if not more, than cooking is.
The Art of Service, the fun role playing board game by Fred Serieix

Please visit the National Waiters Day website for inspiration on putting on an event or to take part in the race itself. You might want to put a special table in your canteen or workplace cafe that offers a 'posh' service. Or if you're more upmarket, then why not invite your senior management - or chefs! - to get involved in serving some of your customers. Any activity that raises the profile of our industry is a step in the right direction.

Borough Market: The Demonstrator's Tale

My colleague Hayden Groves, Executive Chef with BaxterStorey, gave a MasterClass on English Asparagus at Borough Market recently. Here's a little guest piece he wrote on the Borough Market Blog about the experience.
 As my session grew to a close I was loving engaging with the audience, keeping my cooking tips relevant and simple but most of all sending out regular samples to taste. Apparently I also got a first in the three year history of the demo kitchen, an uber polite Japanese gentleman asked to buy one of my dishes, I think he must have been very hungry!
I'd say he was onto something Hayden. Nice one Chef. 

Nine inspiring quotes from Springboard Ambassadors

Thinking about those two days with my BaxterStorey colleagues while we were training to be Springboard Ambassadors, I can't help but be inspired by some of the things they said during their presentations. Here's a few of my favourites:

Presenting to a group of women returning to the world of work:
"Leaving my son with someone else to care for him while I returned to work was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. But I wanted to do the best for him and I needed to continue my career. Soon after joining BaxterStorey, I began to feel valued for being me and not just because a nappy needed changing."

Presenting to a group of 16 year olds:
"As a young lad walking into a kitchen for the first time, I was feeling very nervous. A Sous Chef came over and introduced himself with a firm handshake. We went on to become lifelong friends and he was best man at my wedding."

Presenting to a group of 16 year olds:
"I joined BaxterStorey as an assistant serving coffees. Seven years later I am a Manager in a prestigious law firm in charge of a team of 20 staff."

Presenting to a group of 16 year olds:
"We'll dress you, we'll feed you, we'll pay you. All we ask is that you turn up with bags of enthusiasm and we'll teach you the rest."

Presenting to a group of women returning to the world of work:
"I know as mothers and ladies you are multi-taskers who will do anything for your children and your families. You make them tea or coffee, you give them a cookie and you clear up after them. If you can do that, then I know you will be excellent at Hospitality."

Presenting to group of unemployed people at a job centre:
"For me, this was the first job I had where I didn't feel like a number. We called our new payroll system 'People Matters' because to us, people matter."

Presenting to a group of women returning to the world of work:
"When I re-visit a unit or site where I've helped out before, I am welcomed back with hugs from the team. It's like being part of a family."

Presenting to a group of 15 year olds at school:
"You might prefer to be revising for that dreaded exam coming up. Or maybe you want to put that off for as long as possible so you came to hear me. Well, if you give me 10 minutes of your time, it just might change your life."

Presenting to a group of undergraduates in their final year of college:
"Why do so many great companies choose BaxterStorey to provide their catering? Because I believe you get out what you put in. And we cook amazing food. Food for intelligence. Food for performance. Food for health and wellbeing. The recipe for our success is very simple. And you can be part of that."

So many great reasons to get into Hospitality. For me, it took only one and it has rewarded me ever since.

Shared Excellency, Springboard Ambassadors

Over the last few months, I have been mulling over how best to use my talent and passion for this industry to somehow 'give something back'. After sounding out some ideas, I was delighted to get an email saying that BaxterStorey was committed to recruiting a number of Springboard Ambassadors from within our business across the UK who could support some initiatives such as National Waiters Day and spread the word about what we do best and the Hospitality sector in general. That seemed like just the ticket for me and promptly signed up for the two days training on offer.
Springboard Ambassadors: (L-R) Scott, Cynthia, Renaud, Joanna, Ewa, Hannah, Kevin, David

Finally, on Tuesday morning we arrived at the gorgeous Blue Fin Building in Southwark. I guess one of the advantages of catering for some of the most prestigious companies in the UK is that you get to visit some stunning venues for your meetings and training. It was great to catch up with my friend (and fellow alumni from the Leadership Academy) Hannah who had travelled down from Nottingham. She's now expecting a baby. Luck girl. Meeting new colleagues within the business is always special and this was no different. Renaud for example was a very suave Frenchman who coaches kid's football on the weekends and David who is a part-time Police Community Support Officer go some way to demonstrating the calibre of professionalism in this roomful of Springboard Ambassadors-in-waiting.

Eventually Eileen, our warm and friendly trainer for the next two days, began the session with two simple questions: Who is our audience? and What effectively 'float's their boat'? If you identify those two aspects at the outset, you will build a very absorbing presentation that will really engage your audience. As Springboard Ambassadors, our target audience groups could be 15 and 16-year-old school children; unemployed people at a job centre; women returning to the world of work or perhaps undergraduates in their final year of college. Each group will be looking for different motivators. For example, friendship and feeling valued will appeal to women returning to work (very much part of our ethos by the way), whereas the potential to meet or look after celebrities might appeal to school leavers. (Some might laugh at that idea, but I still find that to be a huge attraction within this industry and was very honoured to be looking after the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago.)

During that first day, we had to make a five minute presentation to the group with Eileen giving us feedback, encouragement and guidance on areas of improvement. It was amazing to see nine totally different presentations based around just one set of audience/objectives criteria. Then we were given the dreaded homework: our task was to put together a ten minute presentation aimed at a different sector to be delivered to the group on Day Two. I don't like commuting if I can help it, but on this occasion I was happy to work on my slide deck during the two hour bus ride home and and again on the way back in the next morning. By the time I arrived back in that room, I felt I had something reasonably presentable.

One by one, my colleagues got up and made hugely compelling presentations that reminded me time and again of all the good things we do as a company and what our industry has to offer on the whole. Kevin for example described how he had considered being a van driver when he was leaving school, but his father counceled against it with the immortal phrase: You've heard people say; 'He's a great Chef', but who's ever said; 'He's a great van driver!'?

With this in mind, Kevin went on to catering college, but found he preferred the role of Waiter instead of cooking. Working his way up the career ladder, he now looks after the Executive Dining Rooms within the headquarters of a very large bank. And then Kevin said something very powerful.... "When the Chief Executive of the Bank is sitting down to lunch, he needs to present an image of responsibility and care on behalf of the Bank. Therefore the manner in which the lunch is served must reflect that. During those few minutes, the waiter presents the image the bank wants to convey to those guests. Professional and caring." Now that carries a lot of responsibility.

Eventually, we finished up our course and set off back home with aspirations of encouraging lots of new people to join our great sector. My enduring thought for anyone considering a career in Hospitality, is to remember Kevin's story. He chose to be a Waiter who delivers a great guest experience every day instead of just a van driver who simply makes deliveries. That's a journey worth taking.

If you want to get involved in volunteering as a Springboard Ambassador, contact Kerry Mabbley, Head of Ambassadors at Springboard UK on 07916 758775 or email her:

Looking Back, Looking Forward

I haven't checked in with you in a few weeks, so here's a catch up with what's been happening. Every now and then a few things come along like proberbial buses that just tie up your diary putting life on hold for a while. In my case, they have all been very worthy projects or commitments and I will be sharing those with you in the next few posts. 

In any case, here's a few:

  • Applying for a Savoy Educational Trust MBA Scholarship at Cranfield University.
  • Training to be a Springboard Ambassador with Springboard UK on behalf of BaxterStorey.
  • Speaking at Conference Oxford about the benefits of working with a Foodservice Caterer and using Twitter to promote your venue or event.
  • The Professional Speaking Association continues to be a fantastic journey of discovery. The monthly meetings I attend in Reading never cease to amaze me in terms of inspiration and sound business advice from the best Speakers in the country.
  • Social Business: I have been really lucky recently to be invited to a couple of brilliant events that promote the benefits necessity of implementing a deeper level commitment to digital media within your organisation if it is to thrive.

A double rainbow on my walk home from work last week.
My running took a back seat as a result, ony managing a few half-marathons in the last few weeks. However, since I am now signed up to the Ealing Half Marathon in October and hope to get into the Oxford Half Marathon, I don't want to put it off too much. (And that weight-loss goal of 72Kgs still beckons.)

Which just leaves my day job! Well, this continues to be very rewarding with lots of events and intiatives to provide a rich pallette of challenges and rewards. My team have been so fantastic at what they do, that they have allowed me the confidence to put myself way outside my comfort zone with some of my other commitments. (Nothing like the prospect of a five minute presentation at an MBA panel interview to get you hopping out of bed in the morning.)

I guess at this point I really should say a big thank you to my Clients (you know who you are!) for being so generous and supportive. My three years at St. Cross College have been absolutely fantastic so far... and long may it continue. My line managers too have been hugely supportive. It really does make a difference.

Of course none of the above would be possible without the love and support of my wife and our beautiful daughter who turned 12 last week. Even now as I type, the wonderful aroma of a Full English breakfast under the grill is wafting through from the kitchen on this Bank Holiday weekend. A long time ago, it would have been to cure a hangover. Ha! How times have changed....

We're not looking for anyone too ambitious right now.

I couldn't help going over to shake hands with a senior Director from a rival Catering Company who I spotted in the crowd at the Savoy Hotel yesterday...
"You probably don't remember me, but you interviewed me for a job about three years ago."
"Don't tell me I didn't hire you."
"You didn't hire me."
"Who do you work for now?"
"Eh, the chap about to give the lecture. Just celebrated three years with BaxterStorey last Friday." 

I'll never forget his summing up of me in that interview:
"Thomas, I can see you are so ambitious, that whatever I do offer you, you'll be banging on my office door within eight months demanding a newer bigger  project."

Savoy Lecture: Our country needs us to be strong

What a great evening at The Savoy Hotel last night. As expected the service was impeccable, the food delicious (Oreo Cheesecake, who knew?) and the conversation very stimulating. After checking in coats and checking out some familiar names, we were ushered into the imposing ballroom. Recently refurbished, it was set out theatre-style with regimented rows of chairs facing one solitary lectern that loomed over them from the stage above, rather like a general facing his troops.

Naturally the BaxterStorey clan congregated and welcomed one another in from the bitter cold. As we chatted we caught ourselves stealing a glance now and then across the room towards our Chairman who was sat quietly near the front collecting his thoughts. With the atmosphere building, there was definitely a swelling sense of pride in our group, but this was tempered with nervousness as we willed our man at the helm to go out there and show these people just why he commands such loyalty and respect from the 10,000 strong team in his organisation. 

As the people-watching continued, we took our seats…. “That’s Alastair’s Sales Director talking to him just now..” said one prominent CEO nearby in a whisper to his wide-eyed young companion. I won’t repeat what he said to her next, but let’s just call it professional envy. Let’s face it, if we’re not irritating our competitors in the sales arena, then we’re doing it wrong.
The Lectern looms large as Alastair takes a call before the Arena Savoy Lecture. 

Up first was Jan Matthews, Chairman of Arena, who called the distinguished gathering to order and made the brief introduction of our speaker for the evening. Etiquette over necessity I imagine, but it helps to set the tone. Finally, as his name was called out, Alastair rose to his feet to thunderous applause and gingerly climbed the few steps onto the stage. His big moment was upon him and in that rich Aberdonian accent which we have come to appreciate, he opened with his trademark quip “I love this business”. And boy does he mean it when he says that phrase.

Now you might recall in my previous piece that I was looking forward to seeing 'how' he delivered almost as much as 'what' he delivered and I found his presentation to be a masterclass in remaining calm and assured despite the overwhelming nature of the occasion. Yes he did appear slightly flushed which I put down to the humility in his character (personally, I’d be beetroot red by now), but his composure quickly took shape and within a couple of minutes we found ourselves being invited into and challenged by his vision for the future of our industry. 

It’s easy to dwell on the meteoric rise and astronomical success of WSH Ltd’s track record over the last ten years, but instead he focused on a couple of proposals, or challenges perhaps, that he put to his audience of “friends, colleagues and competitors”. Each was a rallying call, not only to this esteemed audience, but to the wider industry as a whole:

  • He urged us to support our farmers and artisans through ethical procurement and a sustainable supply chain, even if it means paying more. And yes, he referred to the culprits of the recent horsemeat scandal as ‘fraudsters’. 
  • Given the mammoth contribution, totalling 8.5% of annual GDP, of our industry as a whole (from airlines to public sector to contract catering) we should command much more bargaining power in the political arena. Supporting the BHA will help achieve this rather than reinventing the wheel. 
  • He laid bare his "burning desire" to make Front of House service a more attractive proposition to our young talent - in the same way Chefs have done with cooking.
Janie Stamford at the Caterer and Hotelkeeper has picked up these points in more detail here.

In conclusion to a very thought-provoking and inspirational message, he left us with these impassioned words:
“Our country NEEDS us to be strong. 
NEEDS us to be ambitious. 
NEEDS us to be good employers. 
To be great trainers. 
To search for excellence. 
To care about our farmers and our producers. 
If we can rally around this concept, we can work together to articulate the many concepts that will make it a reality. 
As business leaders, you know that the initiative can only come from us.”
Long after the applause had died down, the discussion continued in the bar and over a sumptuous dinner afterwards. At one point I found myself reflecting on those words and I couldn’t help but notice the flawless service of our meal in that great room at The Savoy. The professionalism of the young staff serving at our table simply exemplified the very thing that Alastair was trying to articulate in his lecture. I believe his vision for the future of service was present in that room last night. And it will be tonight. And tomorrow night, whomever the guests might be. Getting school children, young people and Ministers to understand that is where the real work lays ahead. And that’s a journey full of opportunity. 

Congratulations Alastair on a truly inspiring lecture, thank you Arena for a memorable event, and thank you to The Savoy Hotel for reminding us of why we got into Hospitality in the first place. I’m sure my colleagues who attended last night will agree..we really do love this business.

For a fantastic Twitter timeline of events as they unfolded, you can read this Storify article put together by @DigitalBlonde: