Springboard caught up with Gareth Billington, Executive Head Chef at Everton Football Club, to find out how he first got involved with FutureChef, and why he continuously chooses to add the programme's alumni to his staff.
How did you first get involved with the FutureChef programme?
"It all started many years ago, back in 2008, when I was introduced to The Springboard Charity – and quickly became an ambassador for them. "I’ve always loved teaching in the workplace, but like many other chefs, I wasn’t sure of the best way to go about it. Springboard taught me how to teach people, got me involved with FutureChef and put me in contact with schools and colleges – and I’ve not looked back since."
What are some of the challenges that the cheffing industry faces right now, in the current uncertain climate?
"Currently…? It’s a shortage of skilled chefs. In the future? A greater shortage of skilled chefs. "The industry knew that this problem would arise many years ago, but unfortunately, many chose to ignore it. However, there were some companies who did identify the issue, and are subsequently dealing with it well – with those who didn’t scratching their heads, trying to resolve the problem."
In what ways do you think the FutureChef Programme could help with the chef shortage?
"It’s simply the best and easiest way to recruit chefs into the industry. I regularly get requests from employment agencies to see if I can supply them with chefs, and FutureChef is the best platform through which young chefs can get started, filling the pipeline. "FutureChef helps by inspiring these budding chefs into the industry when they are young, thereby providing a clear path into the profession. I can’t think of a better, easier way to recruit chefs."
As someone who hires a large number of FutureChef Alumni, how do you think the FutureChef programme is beneficial for businesses?"I never know how to answer that question, because the list is endless. Firstly, it’s about quality. When you have a full team of regular chefs, it provides consistency and high-standards, which results in great business interactions with very happy customers, who get their food delivered as it should be. FutureChef provides this. "Following on from this, having a full, regular team means that none of your staff are overworked. They work cohesively as one unit, getting on well with one another, which is something that’s difficult to ensure when you use agency staff. Also, constant changes in staffing means that chefs aren’t always trained to the right standard or know enough about the food they are producing, which can be a problem when dealing with allergies and food hygiene. FutureChef ensures young people are fully trained, which reduces risk immensely. "And these are just some of many the reasons why FutureChef is beneficial for businesses!"
What are the advantages of hiring young people who have come through the FutureChef programme?
"They have already had a taste of the cooking environment. They have experienced a little pressure, having been through the cooking competition… so when it comes to working in this great industry, they have a solid idea about what it’s all about."
In what ways do you feel young people can benefit from the programme?
"It doesn’t just teach young people how to cook, but also how to be organised. All FutureChef stars we have had here at Everton were originally shy, reserved and nervous. We helped them to become skilled, confident and knowledgeable young adults, who have a zest for life in general, and are ready for the industry. Many go on to working at top establishments and have very good careers. The world is their oyster, and it’s all down to FutureChef."
How have you improved, as a person, manager and a chef, by becoming a FutureChef mentor?
"I have learnt patience, which has made me a better person. I manage my team better, by giving more time to them. My financial results are better, mainly down to the team working more efficiently, and we have received many awards in the catering industry – something which gets noticed. It’s great to see the FutureChef Alumni moving onwards and upwards in their careers, and makes me feel proud that my team and I have helped with that. The whole team believes in FutureChef and what it does for the industry – and a happy team is an easy team to manage!"
Think FutureChef could be beneficial to your business? Head over to our website, where you can register your interest.