Celebrating International Women's Day: perspectives from 11 inspirational women in hospitality

To honour International Women’s Day, we caught up with 11 inspirational women in the industry to discuss what it’s like to work in hospitality, what they love about it and how they’d like to see it improve. 

Hospitality and food media has historically been too much of a boy’s club, focused on male bravado and rockstar chefs. Whilst great strides have been taken recently to level the playing field, there is still a long way to go and a lot to work on.

We want to celebrate the many talented women across the hospitality industry, and beyond the confines of the kitchen. Restaurants are built by teams of incredible people, by chefs but also front of house staff, runners and sommeliers. Together, we can help change the industry we love for the better.

Zoe Adjonyoh

Chef, Writer, Speaker - Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen

What do you love about working in hospitality?
Connection - I love the connection with customers and the team dynamic of a good busy fun service - it's the people in food that make or break your experience and I've mostly been lucky enough to work with great people. 

What inspired you to work in hospitality?
Then universe pulled me into hospitality - it was not a career I intended for myself, it was my passion and love for Ghanaian food and sharing my love of the ingredients, flavours and culture that became addictive. 

What challenges have you faced during your career?
There isn't enough room...! My career can be documented through many instances of resilience, courage, fearlessness and doing things differently - when you're a black queer woman you need to make moves no one ever thought of. 

How would you like to see the industry improve?
I would like to see more black and brown faces in the boardrooms and at managerial level of hospitality groups, research and development, awards programmes, investment funds and food brands, and publishers and magazines. I would like to see publications that allow racist narratives and cultural appropriation throughout their food writing to be sanctioned and made accountable - enough already of supporting that bull****.

Follow Zoe: @zoeadjonyoh

Ravinder Bhogal

Chef, Business Owner - Jikoni, Food columnist - FT Weekend

What do you love about working in hospitality? 
I love that at the heart of it, it's about community service - about giving something of yourself to make someone else happy. The work we do is transformative and the instant gratification of seeing someone relax and unfurl as they eat your food, drink good wine and are taken care of is extremely rewarding. 

What inspired you to work in hospitality? 
The many maternal figures who cooked for me, nurtured and pampered me and made me feel as though their priority was the pleasure I got from eating their wonderful food. I wanted to make people feel that when they come to our restaurant - that their pleasure and enjoyment is our absolute priority.

What challenges have you faced during your career? 
I think the pandemic might be a unanimous answer to this one. 

How would you like to see the industry improve?
Government support for what I think is one of the most important industries - a reduction on VAT, doing away with outdated business rates. 

Follow Ravinder: @cookinboots

Sandia Chang 

Sommelier and Co-Founder - Bubbledogs & Bubbleshop

What do you love about working in hospitality? 
The laughter, the joy, the happiness and the memories created all around food and drink. 

What inspired you to work in hospitality 
I told father when I was very young that I want to help make people happy. He said I could either be a doctor or work in hospitality. I chose hospitality because I’m not smart enough to be a doctor. 

What challenges have you faced during your career? 
First challenge I faced was finding the right place in the hospitality industry. I went from hotel management, to chef, to finally finding my place in restaurant FOH and wine. Second biggest challenge was working with my husband. When you put two very passionate and driven individuals with a very personal connection together on the same project, it’s never easy. But it has pushed me to be better than I ever was. Third challenge was becoming a mother. I now have to face the challenge of letting go of my past life and find a new balance of career and motherhood.

How would you like to see the industry improve? 
I would really like to see the FOH taken more seriously and respected as a career choice. Hospitality has never been a high regarded career path but the chef world now seems to be more and more attractive. The FOH, I believe is lacking that professional respect. I want to see more education focused on FOH training.

Follow Sandia: @watermelonchang

Melissa Fergus

Restaurant Manager - Trivet Restaurant

What do you love about working in hospitality?
I love being part of creating memorable experiences for guests who come through our door. There is also the instant gratification you get in return for providing good hospitality, which we achieve when we have the perfect synergy between the food, service, ambience, and timing. 

It can be very intense achieving this, but I love the teamwork aspect of the operation. It is a really creative, ever-changing environment, from the chefs developing recipes and dishes, to the front-of-house staff finding ways of connecting with guests and executing the service. 

I also love that it’s an industry that allows you to learn on the job, grow and develop professionally, as well as personally, with many skills that can be applied across different fields. 

What inspired you to work in hospitality?
Growing up in Melbourne, I saw this industry as something that could take me anywhere in the world. I also saw it as an industry that is ever growing, ever changing, and always has a place in culture/society which I really wanted to be a part of.  

I knew the diversity of each day would be something that would keep me driven. I saw it as a profession that had a clear path and one I could see myself working in for quite some time.  

What challenges have you faced during your career?
The first transition into a management position, which entailed learning to change my view of the operation as a whole, as well as my approach to the team I had been a part of, was a challenge. It was challenging, yet very rewarding to move into a role that requires you to not just identify problems but to be the one to offer the solutions and own the outcome, even when it doesn’t go to plan. 

How would you like to see the industry improve?
I would like to see hospitality considered as a stable and prosperous career choice rather than simply a ‘job’. I’d also like to see entry level, front-of-house positions classified as skilled positions, as learning on the job is the best way to progress. For this to happen, we need more people to join and welcome younger members, including young women into the team and train and invest in them.

I think what is needed is a shift in perspective from staff needing to work longer hours than most industries, to having a greater work-life balance.

Follow Melissa: @melissafergus

Image credit: Max Hamilton, The Telegraph

Ravneet Gill

Pastry Chef and Judge on Junior Bake Off

What do you love about working in hospitality?
I love the people part of hospitality and getting to meet so many different people, the hospitality world in London is small and it feels like you always cross paths with the same people at some point, it's brilliant. I also love the aspect of using brilliant seasonal ingredients at their best and transforming them into dishes. Seeing people enjoy the food you make is always a joy. 

What inspired you to work in hospitality?
It was definitely to begin with, my love of food and cooking/baking. I wanted to learn more and keep growing! However I soon started to really love the work and what comes with working in the hospitality industry, which is the people side of it. 

What challenges have you faced during your career?
Working your way up the 'ladder' as you may put it in a hierarchical sense in kitchens hasn't been the easiest. It's full of challenges and difficulties, especially from a leadership perspective. Mismanagement from disorganised shift patterns to receiving the wrong pay or late pay, conflict in the workplace, physical exhaustion from long hours. They are all big challenges but lessons learnt in disguise I guess. For each challenge there's potential to learn and improve so you're better equipped to face the next challenge.... next!

How would you like to see the industry improve?
I love the food world, first and foremost I can't wait to see it all back up and running. I'd love to see more support for small food businesses and compassion for those who are backing themselves both from the Government and from the consumer. Equally, working environments are becoming a much bigger primary focus for us all and there has already been some excellent change and awareness here. I would love to see it pushed even further so people who come to work in the food world love it and want to continue working in it.

Follow Ravneet: @ravneeteats

Anna Higham

Executive Pastry Chef - The River Cafe

What do you love about working in hospitality?
I have always loved the community nature of the hospitality industry. As much as there can be competitiveness, there is so much warmth in the people. I love coming to work and getting to spend my day with people who get just as excited about a new season approaching or talking about something delicious they have just eaten. 

What inspired you to work in hospitality?
I worked in a cheesemonger's deli/bakery and then a wine shop whilst I was at art school. I loved the people who worked there. Those jobs showed me a different side to creativity. One that was more immediate and where you got to directly see people’s reaction to your work. I loved making people smile from eating something delicious, it felt a far better career fit than the architecture degree I was studying for. My family (particularly my mum) loved hosting and cooking for as many people as could be squeezed around the table, it turned out to be the thing I loved too.

What challenges have you faced during your career?
Apart from the physical toll from lack of sleep and standing for days on end I think the biggest challenges have come from making sure I didn't lose the person I wanted to be. Kitchens are high-stress environments and it's easy to get swept up in that and become an angry or mean person. The challenge for me has been to recognise when a work space is no longer healthy for me, no longer making me feel like the best version of myself and finding a new kitchen that will get me back to my original goals. I've been really fortunate to work in some amazing teams because of those choices. 

How would you like to see the industry improve?
I'd like to see a wider range of voices given bigger platforms. I've always learned the most in kitchens when the team has had a big range of experiences different to my own. It makes for a more dynamic, more creative workplace. I guess the big steps that need to be taken are about access and how we help the next generation get a foot in the door. Then how do we provide the routes for them to move up, how do we support them to achieve? 

Follow Anna: @anna.atthetable

Lily Jones

Business owner - Lily Vanilli, Baker, Co-founder of the YBFs

What do you love about working in hospitality?
I have always enjoyed hospitality - from waitressing and pulling pints to running my bakery. I think at heart it's a generous act, to make someone their food, or bring it to them. And baking cakes means you're always a part of someone's celebration; there's a lot of joy in this business.

What inspired you to work in hospitality?
I always worked in pubs, restaurants and diners growing up, but it was when I was in my early 20s that I started to get a sense that working in a kitchen could be creative and fulfilling. I fell in love and never looked back.

What challenges have you faced during your career?
Coronavirus presented a very real challenge, it felt like the bottom dropped out of everything, with all events and weddings for the year being cancelled, but I was able to give the business so much more love and focus and it ended up being a really fulfilling year, and I'm very grateful the business survived.

How would you like to see the industry improve?
I'd love to see more young people and diversity, more businesses with social enterprise built into their planning. I'd love to see more creativity and bravery in people's ideas. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens after coronavirus - I've been so impressed with how our industry adapted and survived and I'm looking forward to seeing what people do next. 

Follow Lily: @lily_vanilli_cake

Selin Kiazim

Chef & Business Owner - Oklava

What do you love about working in hospitality?
People! The industry draws people from all walks of life, with different beliefs, skills levels, passions and pet peeves. It brings everyone together to form a second family, which in some instances becomes more dear to you than your actual family. My most dear connections in life I’ve made through hospitality. Friends that I call my family.

And also, people! As in the customers. Hospitality has never felt like a job to me. It feels like a calling driven out of pure passion for giving joy to people through really delicious food.

What inspired you to work in hospitality?
To be honest, TV cooking shows. This was the late 90s, and I was a young girl completely obsessed with daytime TV cooking shows. It helped that I love to eat and come from a long line of women that are excellent cooks, my nana chief among them. But it was seeing it all play out on the TV in front of me that solidified my dream of becoming a chef.

What challenges have you faced during your career?
Casual sexism is 100% a thing, and it doesn’t seem to want to go away. I keep running into it, especially these days. I think this is a challenge shared by other women in the industry too.

Fortunately (or unfortunately? As in, I was a bit naive to it all) I was quite oblivious to it all for a long time. I grew up in Peter Gordon’s kitchens, which were pretty all-inclusive. 

But owning and running my own restaurant has really opened my eyes to casual sexism. It is so obvious sometimes it is laughable. The contractors who walk into the restaurant and head over to the nearest man they see. The front-of-house trial who felt the need to comment on how many women worked in my restaurant (needless to say, he wasn’t hired). At one point it was no longer surprising to me when customers looked over my head at the male chef standing behind me to thank him for the food. Quite remarkable really, considering if you read anything about the restaurant (at all) you would know it’s owned and run by women. 

I have found that this casual sexism intersects with (casual) prejudice as well. People have very set ideas about what ‘good’ food is, what is ‘real’ cuisine and what is not. I see this in the preconceptions that people have about Turkish food. They don't really consider it to be modern or sophisticated. You could throw all the 'fine dining' techniques in the world at it and it probably still wouldn’t end up on the awards list next to a restaurant doing similar things with ‘British’ or ‘European’ food. People often think it’s post-drinking food (think: Döner kebabs), and that’s all it is. All I can do is try to change people’s perceptions of what Turkish food is one meal at a time.

How would you like to see the industry improve?
Obviously, staffing is a massive problem and has been for the past couple of years. I think that we need to fundamentally change the way the outside world, and young people, see the industry. If we can show them that there are restaurants out there that do it different from the ‘classic’ boy’s club kitchens - restaurants that are all-inclusive, safe working spaces and that prioritise mental health and work-life balance - we may find that more young people, and more young women, are keen to become a part of this amazing industry. 

Follow Selin: @selinkiazim

Nokuthula Mbambo

Sous Chef - Rosewood London & Head Pie Maker - Holborn Dining Room

What do you love about working in hospitality?
- It’s a vibrant, multicultural environment, a great place for innovation and innovators. Each day is unique and encourages me to develop myself.
- The structure is not set in stone, so I create pies and dream of new ways of making the dining experience more enjoyable to our customers.
- The flexibility of the industry is global. I can be in Holborn Dining Room yet be able to go to the USA, Canada and Sweden for example and still work as a chef.
- It is so rewarding and the job satisfaction is great. Seeing the smiles and appreciation of our valued customers once they receive their food is so overwhelming and out of this world.

 What inspired you to work in hospitality?
- It’s a world of opportunity, culture, lifestyle and endless learning. 
- Cooking with my father in the kitchen, his creation and combination of flavours. He always shared his food with the community and to those passing by. 
- The joy and smiles that I get to see whilst people enjoy food.

What challenges have you faced during your career?
- One of my biggest challenges was balancing my family life and work role. It was very hard to balance my time with my family, arrange child care and the demands of a busy kitchen.
- Being the only female in the kitchen and women of colour was very intimidating.
- Working on a company work permit which felt unstable and having no support.

 How would you like to see the industry improve?
- Achieve gender equality.
- Invest in schemes that will fund training for future female chefs.
- Have more influential female leaders in hospitality which would motivate and encourage young women to join the industry and see the highest potential in their career.
- Mental health experts to work and visit the establishment more often and ensure support where needed.
- Great work ethic amongst teams to be cultivated. Have team leaders that are able to mentor and train. I am where I am today because of a great mentorship!

Follow Nokx: @nokxmajozi

    Laure Patry

    Executive Head Sommelier - The Social Company

    What do you love about working in hospitality?
    The contact with the guest. That's what hospitality is, looking after your guest and giving the best experience you can so they can enjoy their time with us. As a sommelier you can pass on your knowledge and introduce wine producers to the guest, taking them on a journey.

    What inspired you to work in hospitality?
    I always wanted to work in a restaurant, since I was very young. My parents used to have lots of lunches and dinners at our house with family and friends and I always loved helping my mum to set the table, clear the plates, help her serve the food and the wine. From there I went to a catering school and then to a wine school in Angers and developed a love of wine.

    What challenges have you faced during your career?
    We constantly face challenges. I think in our industry the hours and the time spent on our feet can be hard at times. Finding time to do the office work when you are on the floor is also a hard one for the head sommeliers, it's either before service so you have to come very early or after service, it's the part no one sees but you need to do your invoices, updating the wine list every day, looking for new wines to keep your list exciting, placing orders, the cellar work, training your team etc...

    How would you like to see the industry improve?
    During the pandemic we had lots of Zoom tastings and I think this is a positive. It saves time travelling to go to the tasting, and I think more sommeliers will attend them in the future as it's difficult in between service for us to go out somewhere and rush around. So more trainings online will be a great support, and also a great training tool for restaurants to continue to keep accessing them.

    I would love to see every restaurateur giving a lot more thought and support to their sommelier team so we can keep having sommeliers working in the restaurant. Sommeliers have to know about the food menu plus wine, which they study in their own time. I sometimes think they are forgotten in the restaurant when they should be rewarded as they bring their knowledge, personality and also lots more sales for the restaurant they work at.

    Natalia Ribbe

    Business Owner - Marletta & Founder of Ladies Of Restaurants

    What do you love about working in hospitality?
    THE PEOPLE! Whether it's my team I work with or the guests that come through the door, I love meeting people from all walks of life. Plus food + wine, I love that furthering my education in this career means expanding my palate. I love tasting and trying new things, what a joy it is to work in an industry that encourages you to eat! 

    What inspired you to work in hospitality?
    My father. He was a hotel manager when I was growing up, and I loved going to work with him, watching him say hello to everyone he worked with and the organised circus of back of house operations. I also loved throwing my own parties and dinners when I was growing up, hosting came very naturally to me and I am happy to have found a career where I feel like I am just hosting one house party after another! 

    What challenges have you faced during your career?
    I definitely feel being a woman has presented some challenges. Trying to find my voice and stand up for myself, trying to figure out how to be taken seriously without coming across as a bitch or bossy. You are just trying to do your job, and you can get push back from both men and women. I have also been working for myself since I was 29, and going it on your own presents a lot of challenges, more hurdles I have had to get over like my inner saboteur telling me I am not good enough and my impostor syndrome never seems to really go away, hah! It’s a constant battle. 

    How would you like to see the industry improve?
    I think that the hospitality industry has had a bad reputation for too long and we are seeing so much positive change. But we still need to see a real shift when it comes to diversity, and that goes for both gender and race. A more diverse group of leaders across all departments, working conditions continuing to improve and mental health becoming a priority.

    Follow Natalia: @nataliaribbe

    To honour International Women’s Day, we caught up with 11 inspirational women in the industry to discuss what it’s like to work in hospitality, what they love about it and how they’d like to see it improve. 

    Hospitality and food media has historically been too much of a boy’s club, focused on male bravado and rockstar chefs. Whilst great strides have been taken recently to level the playing field, there is still a long way to go and a lot to work on.

    We want to celebrate the many talented women across the hospitality industry, and beyond the confines of the kitchen. Restaurants are built by teams of incredible people, by chefs but also front of house staff, runners and sommeliers. Together, we can help change the industry we love for the better.

    Zoe Adjonyoh

    Chef, Writer, Speaker - Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen

    What do you love about working in hospitality?
    Connection - I love the connection with customers and the team dynamic of a good busy fun service - it's the people in food that make or break your experience and I've mostly been lucky enough to work with great people. 

    What inspired you to work in hospitality?
    Then universe pulled me into hospitality - it was not a career I intended for myself, it was my passion and love for Ghanaian food and sharing my love of the ingredients, flavours and culture that became addictive. 

    What challenges have you faced during your career?
    There isn't enough room...! My career can be documented through many instances of resilience, courage, fearlessness and doing things differently - when you're a black queer woman you need to make moves no one ever thought of. 

    How would you like to see the industry improve?
    I would like to see more black and brown faces in the boardrooms and at managerial level of hospitality groups, research and development, awards programmes, investment funds and food brands, and publishers and magazines. I would like to see publications that allow racist narratives and cultural appropriation throughout their food writing to be sanctioned and made accountable - enough already of supporting that bull****.

    Follow Zoe: @zoeadjonyoh

    Ravinder Bhogal

    Chef, Business Owner - Jikoni, Food columnist - FT Weekend

    What do you love about working in hospitality? 
    I love that at the heart of it, it's about community service - about giving something of yourself to make someone else happy. The work we do is transformative and the instant gratification of seeing someone relax and unfurl as they eat your food, drink good wine and are taken care of is extremely rewarding. 

    What inspired you to work in hospitality? 
    The many maternal figures who cooked for me, nurtured and pampered me and made me feel as though their priority was the pleasure I got from eating their wonderful food. I wanted to make people feel that when they come to our restaurant - that their pleasure and enjoyment is our absolute priority.

    What challenges have you faced during your career? 
    I think the pandemic might be a unanimous answer to this one. 

    How would you like to see the industry improve?
    Government support for what I think is one of the most important industries - a reduction on VAT, doing away with outdated business rates. 

    Follow Ravinder: @cookinboots

    Sandia Chang 

    Sommelier and Co-Founder - Bubbledogs & Bubbleshop

    What do you love about working in hospitality? 
    The laughter, the joy, the happiness and the memories created all around food and drink. 

    What inspired you to work in hospitality 
    I told father when I was very young that I want to help make people happy. He said I could either be a doctor or work in hospitality. I chose hospitality because I’m not smart enough to be a doctor. 

    What challenges have you faced during your career? 
    First challenge I faced was finding the right place in the hospitality industry. I went from hotel management, to chef, to finally finding my place in restaurant FOH and wine. Second biggest challenge was working with my husband. When you put two very passionate and driven individuals with a very personal connection together on the same project, it’s never easy. But it has pushed me to be better than I ever was. Third challenge was becoming a mother. I now have to face the challenge of letting go of my past life and find a new balance of career and motherhood.

    How would you like to see the industry improve? 
    I would really like to see the FOH taken more seriously and respected as a career choice. Hospitality has never been a high regarded career path but the chef world now seems to be more and more attractive. The FOH, I believe is lacking that professional respect. I want to see more education focused on FOH training.

    Follow Sandia: @watermelonchang

    Melissa Fergus

    Restaurant Manager - Trivet Restaurant

    What do you love about working in hospitality?
    I love being part of creating memorable experiences for guests who come through our door. There is also the instant gratification you get in return for providing good hospitality, which we achieve when we have the perfect synergy between the food, service, ambience, and timing. 

    It can be very intense achieving this, but I love the teamwork aspect of the operation. It is a really creative, ever-changing environment, from the chefs developing recipes and dishes, to the front-of-house staff finding ways of connecting with guests and executing the service. 

    I also love that it’s an industry that allows you to learn on the job, grow and develop professionally, as well as personally, with many skills that can be applied across different fields. 

    What inspired you to work in hospitality?
    Growing up in Melbourne, I saw this industry as something that could take me anywhere in the world. I also saw it as an industry that is ever growing, ever changing, and always has a place in culture/society which I really wanted to be a part of.  

    I knew the diversity of each day would be something that would keep me driven. I saw it as a profession that had a clear path and one I could see myself working in for quite some time.  

    What challenges have you faced during your career?
    The first transition into a management position, which entailed learning to change my view of the operation as a whole, as well as my approach to the team I had been a part of, was a challenge. It was challenging, yet very rewarding to move into a role that requires you to not just identify problems but to be the one to offer the solutions and own the outcome, even when it doesn’t go to plan. 

    How would you like to see the industry improve?
    I would like to see hospitality considered as a stable and prosperous career choice rather than simply a ‘job’. I’d also like to see entry level, front-of-house positions classified as skilled positions, as learning on the job is the best way to progress. For this to happen, we need more people to join and welcome younger members, including young women into the team and train and invest in them.

    I think what is needed is a shift in perspective from staff needing to work longer hours than most industries, to having a greater work-life balance.

    Follow Melissa: @melissafergus

    Image credit: Max Hamilton, The Telegraph

    Ravneet Gill

    Pastry Chef and Judge on Junior Bake Off

    What do you love about working in hospitality?
    I love the people part of hospitality and getting to meet so many different people, the hospitality world in London is small and it feels like you always cross paths with the same people at some point, it's brilliant. I also love the aspect of using brilliant seasonal ingredients at their best and transforming them into dishes. Seeing people enjoy the food you make is always a joy. 

    What inspired you to work in hospitality?
    It was definitely to begin with, my love of food and cooking/baking. I wanted to learn more and keep growing! However I soon started to really love the work and what comes with working in the hospitality industry, which is the people side of it. 

    What challenges have you faced during your career?
    Working your way up the 'ladder' as you may put it in a hierarchical sense in kitchens hasn't been the easiest. It's full of challenges and difficulties, especially from a leadership perspective. Mismanagement from disorganised shift patterns to receiving the wrong pay or late pay, conflict in the workplace, physical exhaustion from long hours. They are all big challenges but lessons learnt in disguise I guess. For each challenge there's potential to learn and improve so you're better equipped to face the next challenge.... next!

    How would you like to see the industry improve?
    I love the food world, first and foremost I can't wait to see it all back up and running. I'd love to see more support for small food businesses and compassion for those who are backing themselves both from the Government and from the consumer. Equally, working environments are becoming a much bigger primary focus for us all and there has already been some excellent change and awareness here. I would love to see it pushed even further so people who come to work in the food world love it and want to continue working in it.

    Follow Ravneet: @ravneeteats

    Anna Higham

    Executive Pastry Chef - The River Cafe

    What do you love about working in hospitality?
    I have always loved the community nature of the hospitality industry. As much as there can be competitiveness, there is so much warmth in the people. I love coming to work and getting to spend my day with people who get just as excited about a new season approaching or talking about something delicious they have just eaten. 

    What inspired you to work in hospitality?
    I worked in a cheesemonger's deli/bakery and then a wine shop whilst I was at art school. I loved the people who worked there. Those jobs showed me a different side to creativity. One that was more immediate and where you got to directly see people’s reaction to your work. I loved making people smile from eating something delicious, it felt a far better career fit than the architecture degree I was studying for. My family (particularly my mum) loved hosting and cooking for as many people as could be squeezed around the table, it turned out to be the thing I loved too.

    What challenges have you faced during your career?
    Apart from the physical toll from lack of sleep and standing for days on end I think the biggest challenges have come from making sure I didn't lose the person I wanted to be. Kitchens are high-stress environments and it's easy to get swept up in that and become an angry or mean person. The challenge for me has been to recognise when a work space is no longer healthy for me, no longer making me feel like the best version of myself and finding a new kitchen that will get me back to my original goals. I've been really fortunate to work in some amazing teams because of those choices. 

    How would you like to see the industry improve?
    I'd like to see a wider range of voices given bigger platforms. I've always learned the most in kitchens when the team has had a big range of experiences different to my own. It makes for a more dynamic, more creative workplace. I guess the big steps that need to be taken are about access and how we help the next generation get a foot in the door. Then how do we provide the routes for them to move up, how do we support them to achieve? 

    Follow Anna: @anna.atthetable

    Lily Jones

    Business owner - Lily Vanilli, Baker, Co-founder of the YBFs

    What do you love about working in hospitality?
    I have always enjoyed hospitality - from waitressing and pulling pints to running my bakery. I think at heart it's a generous act, to make someone their food, or bring it to them. And baking cakes means you're always a part of someone's celebration; there's a lot of joy in this business.

    What inspired you to work in hospitality?
    I always worked in pubs, restaurants and diners growing up, but it was when I was in my early 20s that I started to get a sense that working in a kitchen could be creative and fulfilling. I fell in love and never looked back.

    What challenges have you faced during your career?
    Coronavirus presented a very real challenge, it felt like the bottom dropped out of everything, with all events and weddings for the year being cancelled, but I was able to give the business so much more love and focus and it ended up being a really fulfilling year, and I'm very grateful the business survived.

    How would you like to see the industry improve?
    I'd love to see more young people and diversity, more businesses with social enterprise built into their planning. I'd love to see more creativity and bravery in people's ideas. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens after coronavirus - I've been so impressed with how our industry adapted and survived and I'm looking forward to seeing what people do next. 

    Follow Lily: @lily_vanilli_cake

    Selin Kiazim

    Chef & Business Owner - Oklava

    What do you love about working in hospitality?
    People! The industry draws people from all walks of life, with different beliefs, skills levels, passions and pet peeves. It brings everyone together to form a second family, which in some instances becomes more dear to you than your actual family. My most dear connections in life I’ve made through hospitality. Friends that I call my family.

    And also, people! As in the customers. Hospitality has never felt like a job to me. It feels like a calling driven out of pure passion for giving joy to people through really delicious food.

    What inspired you to work in hospitality?
    To be honest, TV cooking shows. This was the late 90s, and I was a young girl completely obsessed with daytime TV cooking shows. It helped that I love to eat and come from a long line of women that are excellent cooks, my nana chief among them. But it was seeing it all play out on the TV in front of me that solidified my dream of becoming a chef.

    What challenges have you faced during your career?
    Casual sexism is 100% a thing, and it doesn’t seem to want to go away. I keep running into it, especially these days. I think this is a challenge shared by other women in the industry too.

    Fortunately (or unfortunately? As in, I was a bit naive to it all) I was quite oblivious to it all for a long time. I grew up in Peter Gordon’s kitchens, which were pretty all-inclusive. 

    But owning and running my own restaurant has really opened my eyes to casual sexism. It is so obvious sometimes it is laughable. The contractors who walk into the restaurant and head over to the nearest man they see. The front-of-house trial who felt the need to comment on how many women worked in my restaurant (needless to say, he wasn’t hired). At one point it was no longer surprising to me when customers looked over my head at the male chef standing behind me to thank him for the food. Quite remarkable really, considering if you read anything about the restaurant (at all) you would know it’s owned and run by women. 

    I have found that this casual sexism intersects with (casual) prejudice as well. People have very set ideas about what ‘good’ food is, what is ‘real’ cuisine and what is not. I see this in the preconceptions that people have about Turkish food. They don't really consider it to be modern or sophisticated. You could throw all the 'fine dining' techniques in the world at it and it probably still wouldn’t end up on the awards list next to a restaurant doing similar things with ‘British’ or ‘European’ food. People often think it’s post-drinking food (think: Döner kebabs), and that’s all it is. All I can do is try to change people’s perceptions of what Turkish food is one meal at a time.

    How would you like to see the industry improve?
    Obviously, staffing is a massive problem and has been for the past couple of years. I think that we need to fundamentally change the way the outside world, and young people, see the industry. If we can show them that there are restaurants out there that do it different from the ‘classic’ boy’s club kitchens - restaurants that are all-inclusive, safe working spaces and that prioritise mental health and work-life balance - we may find that more young people, and more young women, are keen to become a part of this amazing industry. 

    Follow Selin: @selinkiazim

    Nokuthula Mbambo

    Sous Chef - Rosewood London & Head Pie Maker - Holborn Dining Room

    What do you love about working in hospitality?
    - It’s a vibrant, multicultural environment, a great place for innovation and innovators. Each day is unique and encourages me to develop myself.
    - The structure is not set in stone, so I create pies and dream of new ways of making the dining experience more enjoyable to our customers.
    - The flexibility of the industry is global. I can be in Holborn Dining Room yet be able to go to the USA, Canada and Sweden for example and still work as a chef.
    - It is so rewarding and the job satisfaction is great. Seeing the smiles and appreciation of our valued customers once they receive their food is so overwhelming and out of this world.

     What inspired you to work in hospitality?
    - It’s a world of opportunity, culture, lifestyle and endless learning. 
    - Cooking with my father in the kitchen, his creation and combination of flavours. He always shared his food with the community and to those passing by. 
    - The joy and smiles that I get to see whilst people enjoy food.

    What challenges have you faced during your career?
    - One of my biggest challenges was balancing my family life and work role. It was very hard to balance my time with my family, arrange child care and the demands of a busy kitchen.
    - Being the only female in the kitchen and women of colour was very intimidating.
    - Working on a company work permit which felt unstable and having no support.

     How would you like to see the industry improve?
    - Achieve gender equality.
    - Invest in schemes that will fund training for future female chefs.
    - Have more influential female leaders in hospitality which would motivate and encourage young women to join the industry and see the highest potential in their career.
    - Mental health experts to work and visit the establishment more often and ensure support where needed.
    - Great work ethic amongst teams to be cultivated. Have team leaders that are able to mentor and train. I am where I am today because of a great mentorship!

    Follow Nokx: @nokxmajozi

      Laure Patry

      Executive Head Sommelier - The Social Company

      What do you love about working in hospitality?
      The contact with the guest. That's what hospitality is, looking after your guest and giving the best experience you can so they can enjoy their time with us. As a sommelier you can pass on your knowledge and introduce wine producers to the guest, taking them on a journey.

      What inspired you to work in hospitality?
      I always wanted to work in a restaurant, since I was very young. My parents used to have lots of lunches and dinners at our house with family and friends and I always loved helping my mum to set the table, clear the plates, help her serve the food and the wine. From there I went to a catering school and then to a wine school in Angers and developed a love of wine.

      What challenges have you faced during your career?
      We constantly face challenges. I think in our industry the hours and the time spent on our feet can be hard at times. Finding time to do the office work when you are on the floor is also a hard one for the head sommeliers, it's either before service so you have to come very early or after service, it's the part no one sees but you need to do your invoices, updating the wine list every day, looking for new wines to keep your list exciting, placing orders, the cellar work, training your team etc...

      How would you like to see the industry improve?
      During the pandemic we had lots of Zoom tastings and I think this is a positive. It saves time travelling to go to the tasting, and I think more sommeliers will attend them in the future as it's difficult in between service for us to go out somewhere and rush around. So more trainings online will be a great support, and also a great training tool for restaurants to continue to keep accessing them.

      I would love to see every restaurateur giving a lot more thought and support to their sommelier team so we can keep having sommeliers working in the restaurant. Sommeliers have to know about the food menu plus wine, which they study in their own time. I sometimes think they are forgotten in the restaurant when they should be rewarded as they bring their knowledge, personality and also lots more sales for the restaurant they work at.

      Natalia Ribbe

      Business Owner - Marletta & Founder of Ladies Of Restaurants

      What do you love about working in hospitality?
      THE PEOPLE! Whether it's my team I work with or the guests that come through the door, I love meeting people from all walks of life. Plus food + wine, I love that furthering my education in this career means expanding my palate. I love tasting and trying new things, what a joy it is to work in an industry that encourages you to eat! 

      What inspired you to work in hospitality?
      My father. He was a hotel manager when I was growing up, and I loved going to work with him, watching him say hello to everyone he worked with and the organised circus of back of house operations. I also loved throwing my own parties and dinners when I was growing up, hosting came very naturally to me and I am happy to have found a career where I feel like I am just hosting one house party after another! 

      What challenges have you faced during your career?
      I definitely feel being a woman has presented some challenges. Trying to find my voice and stand up for myself, trying to figure out how to be taken seriously without coming across as a bitch or bossy. You are just trying to do your job, and you can get push back from both men and women. I have also been working for myself since I was 29, and going it on your own presents a lot of challenges, more hurdles I have had to get over like my inner saboteur telling me I am not good enough and my impostor syndrome never seems to really go away, hah! It’s a constant battle. 

      How would you like to see the industry improve?
      I think that the hospitality industry has had a bad reputation for too long and we are seeing so much positive change. But we still need to see a real shift when it comes to diversity, and that goes for both gender and race. A more diverse group of leaders across all departments, working conditions continuing to improve and mental health becoming a priority.

      Follow Natalia: @nataliaribbe