Currently I am in my mid-twenties, a millennial trying to figure out who I am and what I want with my life. Plenty of questions that pop-up in my mind like mosquitos on a hot summer evening on a terrace, and sometimes even just as annoying. Perhaps one of the first things many of us discover quite early is passion for a certain thing. The only thing I do know, is the thing I am passionate about; Hospitality.
Hospitality is a specific industry which, people might think, you do not need a lot of skill for to execute, I am here to tell you the exact opposite. We need to be team players who have a positive mindset, work long hours, who smile, are nice and hospitable and preferably know what guests want even before they do (WOW, what the chocolate-fudge, you are a mentalist as well now!).
At the beginning of my career I had the pleasure to work for Ramon Beuk, famous chef in The Netherlands, in a very large event location. I had my job interview, and on the same day I received the call; They wanted me as an addition to the team! Without any experience, I was nervous for my first working day, never even held a tray, never polished glasses or cutlery… I thought I would face a ginormous baptism of fire being the ‘noobie’. Nothing was the way I expected it to be.
An outstanding welcome
I remember arriving on the large, modern event location, and one of my new colleagues was already waiting for me. She introduced herself and with her glorious smile she made me feel comfortable right away. She took me upstairs to show me the dressing room, I changed clothes and we were ready to go. She walked me through the entire location, we started at the office, shook hands with all employees working there. I was surprised, never did I expect to see the back-office like that. Then she said; “Come on! We have to see the rest as well!” We proceeded our tour to the people working in the operation. Everyone introduced themselves in the most happy, genuine way you can imagine. We also walked into the kitchen and the pantry. Nobody was left unseen!
This introduction had set the tone for, well, I do not want to exaggerate, but pretty much my entire passion for the industry. During that day the operational colleagues showed me everything; the materials, how to carry plates, trays and how fast they could walk with a smile on their face… When there was time in between, the chefs told about the food they were making, we could even try some if we wanted to. The girl who took care of my introduction as well, it was just the way they did it there. I was stunned.
During the evening we were cleaning up, and I remember that the girl and I were throwing out the trash. One of the head chefs walked up to us to great us goodnight. It was customary to give everyone one kiss on the cheek, and so he also did with me. I remember I felt so welcome to that team.
During the weeks that followed, we were working large parties and hosting several events. It took a while before I had seen the entire team, but everybody was exactly the same, and had the same working mentality. The positivity, the attitude, the hospitality, it was all so real and surreal at the same time. Creating such a working environment for your staff and for your business requires talent and dedication, which is exactly the reason I find this place one of the most inspiring ones I have ever worked.
Working in the event location, it felt as if our team was capable of moving mountains. And guess what?! Because we all believed so, we could. We served, we built, we set-up the rooms, we dragged over 300 chairs per night, up and down, and we did it with pleasure. (I also sincerely believe that I have never been as fit in my entire life as I was back then, but that’s a different story.)
Inspire before you expire
Looking back at this, this was the moment I learnt about basic skills, but perhaps even more important; how to inspire the people you work with, and how an employer can set a tone for the total internal culture. The vibe that the staff is sending out is such a large reflection, and mutual inspiration for both employer as employee. In the recent blog of Wouter Verkerk, he talks about the hospitality being too cheap and underrated. I definitely agree with his vision, especially on the aspect of keeping your employees happy and taken care of.
I think we all need to have an experience like this, a defining moment in your career or an occasion where you are inspired by the people around you. It could be the start of something very beautiful, and even turn out in a passion for a life-time.