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Interview with Max Brent - Director of the Chef Partnership

Hello - my name is Max Brent and I am a Director of The Chef Partnership. I passionately believe that we all have the right to expect our working lives to deliver experiences that positively build us as both people and employers or employees.

With the years of experience working in that fast-paced environment helping to identify the personal growth catalysts, I got a real passion for capitalising on the triggers for engagement that turns employees into ambassadors for their places of work. Specifically I found that by ensuring people have the ability and environment to grow. Not just professionally but personally - they naturally form better teams, enjoy their work and produce better results.

For restaurateurs retention is a huge issue, in the post Covid industry investing in your chefs development and wellbeing has become a great way to ensure you keep the talent you have, and nature future talent from within.

So, who are you?

Well I am a Director of the Chef Partnership, which is a business striving to increase awareness and investment in personal development and wellbeing for chefs. I am passionate about good food and people's wellbeing. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by foodies, chocoholics and good cooks and suppliers to restaurants growing up. This has all given me a real foundation of respect for the industry, however it's clear to me that the wellbeing and development side of things could use a hand.

Professionally I have spent the past 7 years in communications, specifically developing loyalty and commitment from employees. Working with strategy, social channels and internal platforms to increase employee engagement and retention at all levels. And for the past few years I've seen the downward trend in the restaurant businesses with chef retention, engagement and skills development. With the skills we have in The Chef Partnership I am hoping to plug that gap and bring Chef wellbeing and personal development a de facto part of their employment. This in turn fosters a better environment to grow in the kitchen, produces better chefs, better food and increases revenue for restaurants.

What's the ambition of The Chef Partnership?

Our aim, really with The Chef Partnership is to help to make working in the industry as attractive as possible to secure the future of good food, with a drive to create a better working world for brigade and bring diversity, care and wellbeing to the forefront of the kitchen. And I really believe looking after your chefs wellbeing, development and skills are the key foundations of a successful kitchen. I am really looking forward to sharing our ideas with you and hopefully together we can have happy, motivated chefs doing what they do best.

My real driving passion though has always been food. How it's made, who's making it, where is the best place to get it and of course, eating it. And with the industry suffering as it has in the past couple years, I feel we can really make a difference to a lot of people working in the industry, and perhaps maybe even make it better for the future generation of chefs and restaurateurs.

Why is wellbeing and development important to you?

One of the things I took out of my experience working with Talent was that the need for a balanced working life, a positive environment and the ability to speak openly is universal.

We are serious about well-being and we have partnered with an Employer Assistance programme provider - Wellbeing Solutions. So we are lucky to have access to specialists in stress management, addiction, finances and just someone to listen to you. We are also passionate about inclusivity so we offer well-being solutions with multiple language options - as the language of kitchens is international.

We all need to feel that we have the space to speak, and contribute, be able to speak to someone and feel that we will be heard and more importantly – listened to. I want to put practical processes and develop chefs to ensure we create the best kitchen environment to excel, fostering new ideas, questions and awareness of our own physical and mental wellbeing.

Why restaurateurs and chefs? Why not just make this a generic offering?

Well two reasons really. Firstly, we know the catering industry is struggling, and in the post-covid world people are looking to their own wellbeing and personal development more and more. We have all seen the classic scene of the angry and shouting celebrity chef. The thing is – that’s not all just for show. There is serious pressure in a kitchen; constant tight deadlines and perfection for every dish is required. This creates its own pressures, and I along with my team want to help.

The second reason is as I said, I am very passionate about food. Not just eating, although that’s a big plus but where it comes from, different chefing styles and the different people who make the food. The quick glimpse of the white hat you see as wonderful creations emerge through the kitchen doors. That noise, the controlled chaos and hustle and bustle that produces something so sublime - It’s always fascinated me.

Why are you doing this now?

I think it's actually more a case of if not now then when? With the inception of covid – restaurateurs are finding that they are having to offer their top chefs more than just a pay rise to come back to chefing. It's more about offering a full package – the catering industry has been behind on this for many years. Looking after your brigades now goes beyond the payslip – ensuring that they are happy, that they are growing as people, leaders and mentors as well as chefs and that the next generation in the kitchen has a place to learn, to ask questions and to elevate British cuisine to the next level.

Who would you say The Chef Partnership is for?

Restaurateurs and Chefs. We provide a full circle support platform for restaurateurs and chefs to level up their personal skills and create an environment to excel. Mentoring courses and accreditation as well as bespoke in-house strategy and solutions we find are key elements in helping our customers make efficient kitchens.

We also have different partnership options for restaurants of all sizes, we can provide sessions for our partners and chefs online and on site. We have also invested in a brand new cooking school in Looe, Cornwall – where we provide in person and through the medium of cooking sessions and courses in leadership skills, stress management, mentoring skills and much more. We also provide sessions for our partners and chefs online and on site. If you are a restaurateur want to invest in your chefs and improve retention or an individual chef looking to skill up reach out! We would love to speak with you.

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