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One thing I’ve learnt about hospitality

Lessons from the Ozone family

Illustrations: Christy Oakenfull

Roaster, NZ

Emily Zielinski

You can have an amazing career!

When I got my first job in Hospitality 13 years ago, I never imagined the opportunities that would go on to afford me. Hospitality was an industry I hadn’t really considered for a typical career path, rather, an easy way to earn some OK money and obtain jobs easily while travelling the world (people everywhere need food and drink!)

6 years ago, I landed my dream job as a barista and realised my true passion for hospitality. I gained more exposure and a greater understanding of what goes into running a great café. From there, I was able to progress my career to being a part of a Roasting and Sensory team, including gaining my Q-grader certification.

My love for this exciting, progressive and forever changing industry is what has seen me switch my mind-set to see hospitality as a challenging, exciting and rewarding career.

Head Chef, UK

Joe O'Connell

Don’t be a chef.

It ain’t easy. When I first stepped into the hospo world 12 years ago as a stagiaire/KP/general dogsbody, the chef took me aside and said “if you want to be a chef, don’t be a chef. If you really want to be a chef, don’t be a chef. If you have to be a chef, be a chef.” Understandably, this hit me pretty hard as a young fella starting out, but it’s held me in pretty good stead.

A hospo environment is akin to a professional sports team in many regards. It requires a group of dedicated people all striving towards a common goal. No single position is more or less important than another. Across the board, everyone has an essential role to play and, if you remove one role, the whole thing starts to fall apart.

While at times it can seem a thankless job, for most of us it’s the only thing we feel truly comfortable doing. We take a lot of personal pride in our work ethic and ability to cope under pressure. There’s a reassuring and unspoken camaraderie within the hospitality scene, regardless of position or background. And that’s pretty unique.

Barista Trainer, NZ

Nico Refiti

Taste Everything.

It all started with a conversation with a Master Sommelier about a wine that tasted like apples. “What kind of apples? Is it granny smith, red delicious, crab apple? How ripe is the apple? Is it apple peel, apple flesh, apple core? Are the apples raw or cooked? How are they cooked, stewed, poached, baked in a pie?” I delved my nose back into the glass of white wine and found the courage to pipe up, “It’s like Fresh Up Old Fashioned Apple Juice concentrate.” He chuckled lightly, “that’s almost a perfect descriptor for this Chenin Blanc.”

Of all of the advice I gleaned from my time with professional tasters there’s one phrase that’s stuck with me – “go to the markets, smell the produce.” It’s something that can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. Personally, I take my time. I find out exactly what variety, I think about previous encounters with this fruit and I build a prediction of what I’m about to experience. Bringing it close to my face I inhale deeply, assessing the intensity, diversity and similarities of the aroma. Give each and every fruit the chance to be the best I’ve ever tried. Digest the information and file it away into my flavour database.

It takes time and diligence to build up a robust flavour database, but it makes every bite an adventure.

Client Coordinator, UK

Vanessa Martin

The customer is not always right, but they’re always the customer.

A colleague said this to me a few years back and it has stuck with me. It may be a cliché, but it is forgotten far too often in this industry. Once you start to forget that the customers are the reason we get up in the morning, it’s time to hang up your apron.

Customers can be rude, demanding and at times arrogant, but it’s important not to take things personally and stay focused on the customer’s needs. We, with the caffeine, have the ability to make that person’s day a little better – compassion is how relationships and networks are formed and many friendships I now treasure were born from chatting with a customer over the coffee machine.

We are lucky to work in an industry where we have the opportunity to meet new characters. Learning to keep your ego in check, by prioritising the needs of another first, opens your heart and mind to people – a lesson I have learnt from hospitality but should be adapted in all aspects of life.