“To me hospitality is an industry that has always been about people, and bringing people together”
I guess this is an extended 'About Me' post...
I guess this is an extended 'About Me' post...
I’ve mentioned before that’ve worked in hospitality, so I thought I should probably break down what I mean by this. And it seems appropriate to discuss it after I posted about working in hospitality over the December/Christmas period.
I am hugely privileged that two years after graduating I got a good part-time job at a global, corporate law firm that just covered my rent, travel and basic foods. This meant that I could be choosey about the freelance work I took on. This meant I wasn’t taking lots of crap jobs to cover living expenses, and therefore leaving no time for writing, directing and being in theatre and art. Basically it meant that I could work on great projects for free, or little money if I needed to. It meant I could work on my own work. I meant I could build up a creative career and, meant I could go back to uni and do my PhD!
Don’t get me wrong, to get that part-time job I had to do training - teach myself how to build websites, manage databases, learn excel, word document formatting and a bunch of things they don't teach you in Uni when studying arts. Plus I had to work two long years in a recruitment office, pushing myself to learn as much as possible and what anyone would teach me. I also learnt some hard truths about the City - some ugly facts about business that are racist and sexist, but that’s another story (not the recruitment company - I met some AMAZING people there, who are still very close friends of mine).
But every now and then I do need to top up my bank account with other non-arts work, which for me has been hospitality work. This has mainly been behind the bar, but of course also waitressing. I could have got other theatre or arts related work, but I gravitated towards food and drink because I know it, but mainly because I love the industry. My closest friends have been made through working in hospitably, I have learnt how important it is to be a team player, I’ve learnt how to work hard, I’ve learnt how to push through levels of physical and mental tiredness that I never knew I could, and I’ve had the most fun and also some pretty tough times. I think in restaurants and bars you see people at their best, and their worst - colleagues and guests. And of course, I love food and drink.
Throughout my undergraduate I worked in various pubs and restaurants, part-time in term time, and full time in holidays. When I graduated I worked for a further six months full time at The Last on Shoe Lane. After leaving The Last I use to still go back for Friday night shifts at the bar, and I’ve since worked at various places throughout the years, often in December or the height of summer - as friends have opened places and needed a hand, or I’ve needed money. Mainly I’ve needed money.
Over the last year or so, I have been working for Chateau Marmot, a temporary dining/pop-up that is run by my friends Theo and Zoe Cooper (brother and sister). This December I worked for CM, at their joint venture in Brixton ‘Beehive Place’.
With all this in mind, it has made sense that my different career strands (corporate, arts, hospitality) are beginning to find away to converge. I guess I always knew that they would, which is why I have been so keen to have separate strands in my career. You learn different things, and soon that learning pays off. It’s beginning to do that now, and I hope it will continue, as the strands still seem somewhat separate!
It is not a surprise that my PhD involved food; cooking food on stage, feeding an audience, but also creating a space where people drank and relaxed, and slowly became part of the show. To me hospitality is an industry that has always been about people and bringing people together. I love to create a party, I love to see people hanging out, being part of a community, being part of something other than themselves - theatre, arts and hospitably are industries that do just that. So to me, it all makes sense to have a toe in each. And the corporate world has toughened me up and is teaching me how these worlds can run as a business, how I can not just survive, but live off these careers/industries/worlds - cos we all have bills to pay!
Now I’m involved with producing Chefs of Tomorrow, which is an amazing opportunity and venture, that taps into all the things I’m interested in - supporting new talent (check out my theatre company, which does the same thing for theatre); creating spaces for people to come together and be part of something special; amazing food; business and marketing strategy (although it doesn't make any money for those involved, we need to be finically viable, and the project needs to grow if it is to achieve all we think it can); and it is incredibly creative (including, but not exclusive to, the filming work) and taps into my producer talents and desire to create documentaries.
I also have a new play in the pipeline, which will be showing in Penang in August for the Arts Festival. It's about a Malaysian women who moves to London and starts to a maker stall - there will be cooking and eating involved with this show too! I hope there will be a a London performance too.
And that's where I am now... Still at the law firm, still writing plays, still in working in the hospitality front line (I think CoT is the front line ;) )