Peter Wright
On Networking

“Networking”, a common word used in business to describe meeting people, can also be called schmoozing, interacting, conferencing or just socializing. So why do hospitality people, in particular chefs need to network, and what should they hope to accomplish?

In my experience, most effective people are “networked” and develop or leverage relationships using their network to open doors, create or construct friendships, and in most cases build a fraternity of like-minded people.

Kitchens are best described as back of house areas and this is for a reason. Chefs are king of their domain and often find it difficult to go one on one with other departments within the business that may influence their working environments.

The opportunity to network with like-minded people, those with similar interests and issues, can only be beneficial. Some of the benefits of schmoozing with others is the opportunity to get out of the kitchen, dress up a bit and start the development of a network or friendship group – a bit like the private school “old tie”. People you can trust and call on for a favour, to discuss an issue or assist with recruitment or other kitchen concerns.

Some of the opportunities for networking are industry events held by suppliers who are always keen to get a group together to show their wares and, more importantly, keep you up to speed with current trends, products and technologies. Nevertheless there is no such thing as a free lunch so be prepared to add some professional value to the event. Importantly, and I can’t stress this enough, if you accept an invitation make your best effort to attend.

The alternative is to get involved with chefs’ associations or local culinary events – these are always on the lookout for new ideas to develop event schedules of competitions and masterclasses.

A few tips for good networking: be proud of your craft, be confident and dress appropriately for the event – unless stated otherwise on the invitation, thongs and singlets are a big no-no. First impressions are very important – in just a few seconds a person can identify  if you are trustworthy, dominant, promiscuous, adventurous, successful or motivated. Always check the guest list at the door to see if any of your friends or colleagues are at the event, or if there is someone you want to meet. And finally, if you tell someone you will call or catch up, make sure you do.

Happy Networking!