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Female chefs Network "Sheffy" - Interview with Milda Burn - Account Director, Bartlett Mitchell

We recently sat down with Milda Burn, Account Director at Bartlett Mitchell. With a wealth of experience in a variety of roles in hospitality and a passion to enhance the diversity within the industry Milda is championing a positive shift in people landscape of the kitchen. Bartlett Mitchell believe in walking the talk and headed up by Milda - their “Sheffy” program is trying to establish a support network and ensures fair and equal opportunities– regardless of gender.

It was both inspiring and refreshing to see such care and positivity being directed at the human side of the kitchen. We really enjoyed speaking with Milda – we hope you enjoy reading about it as much as we did doing this interview.

1. Hello Milda, lets start by understanding a bit about you. How did you come to work in the hospitality industry and what is it that keeps you in this sector?

I came to the UK as an exchange student while I was studying to become a teacher. During my studies, I had to find some extra work, so I got a job in a high street restaurant as a waitress. Soon after that, the restaurant offered me a job as an assistant manager.

As I was still studying and uncertain of my own capabilities, I rejected the offer and decided to try something different. Together with some friends, I went to work in northern Spain for the summer. It was an amazing experience, as I had to learn not only the job but also a new language. Once I came back, I worked as a bartender; a receptionist in a hotel; and a wine waitress in a high street wine bar.

None of these jobs were completely satisfying and once I finished my studies, I decided to try B&I catering and got a job as a sandwich maker in the kitchen.

From then on, I was committed to this industry. I soon became a barista, then a till operator and then a hospitality assistant. This then led to supervisor, assistant manager, and now I’m an account director.

I have experienced so many roles in our industry and been part of most departments, which makes it easier to understand the struggles and challenges our teams are facing on a daily basis.

2. Working in a kitchen can be a tough environment and it’s true that it can be a struggle to attract and retain female chefs. Do you have any personal tips and tricks you would like to share with us that might help aspiring women in the industry?

Appreciation is the main thing. We need to learn how to value our teams, regardless of where they work in back or front of house. We all face struggles during the day, but if you have a manager who cares about you, not only your work, and is genuinely interested in you and your life, that makes a massive difference. Someone that asks about your sick dog or young child or your flatmate can be all you need that day to motivate you to give your best.

3. Why do you think more women are not high profile in the cooking world?

Women are as passionate, as professional and as strong willed as any male. I believe the main difference is that sometimes our female chefs require a little extra encouragement. They need to feel empowered and know that we believe in them.

4. Tell us about the contract catering sector and why it is a great destination career areas for aspiring female chefs.

B&I has had a huge impact on me, especially having worked on the high street prior to coming into the contract catering world. Firstly, working hours are very different. For me, also being a mum, my work-life balance is really important. We have enormous opportunities for training, learning and progressing. Secondly, B&I service delivery is at the same level if not higher, as we serve the same people most of the time who are keen on innovation, so we always need to be on the lookout for new, exciting trends.

Lastly, I believe contract catering is so much better connected and networking is much more valued and appreciated. We can empower others and get support if we need it so much more easily.

5. Bartlett Mitchell have been very outspoken in the fight to level up opportunities for men and women in the hospitality industry. Tell us about ‘Sheffy’ your female attraction program in B&M

I started by holding one-to-ones with female chefs in our #bmfamily. I wanted to find out about their day-to-day working experience. I realised that we were all similar in striving to do the best we could. I got to know our incredible chefs and understand their struggles, which we don’t always see. As a result we created a network – Sheffy, to support one another. We were loud and proud about the great food we were creating. And we started to mentor each other, including on ways to have difficult conversations in the kitchen.

Sheffy has built incredible connections within our business already. We have created a network of professionals who work hard and want to achieve the same things as male chefs. Regardless of gender, we are all capable of running a kitchen. Sheffy will ensure that everyone has fair and equal opportunities.

6. What does it mean to you personally to be leading this program?

For me personally, having come up through the ranks of a hospitality career, supporting and empowering other females to do the same feels like an achievement on its own. I know we all are capable of doing so much more if we believe in ourselves, try to give 110% every day, and be our personal best, regardless of what life throws at you.

It makes me very proud watching these incredible chefs gain more confidence and striving to better their future careers. They are all so talented and passionate about food!

7. Finally, do you cook at home? And what is your personal signature dish.

I love cooking, especially with my girls. Our main cooking day is Sunday, when we are responsible for Sunday dinner dessert. We put a lot of planning into our menu and of course we have the most fun decorating cakes and cupcakes or whatever dessert we choose for the day. I would say our favourite is chocolate cake!

Thank you Milda

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