In Conversation: Chefs in a Post-Covid World with Darren Lewis of Pembury Partners Household Consultancy
We asked one of Pembury Partners’ Directors, Darren Lewis, a few questions regarding chefs in the corporate and private sectors. Having more than 25 years’ experience recruiting chefs, we were excited to hear his thoughts on the industry in a post-Covid world.
Darren’s career started in the USA working for a cruise ship company, then the restaurant industry and eventually hospitality recruitment in New York, where he worked in a senior role for a number of years. Back in the UK he worked for a major football club, followed by a corporate position heading up the hospitality sector. In 2020 he teamed up with co-Director Elvie Dakin to form Pembury Partners, and executive search firm specialising predominantly in the private household sector.
He found the transition from corporate hospitality to the private sector quite organic, fluid and in line with his expertise. If anything, Darren thinks the private sector is more vibrant as top chefs are so sought-after and there is a larger talent pool. “I love talking to people and understanding their needs and expertise, so I personally enjoy both sectors equally”, he told us.
The demand for private chefs has increased greatly post-Covid. There is a global shortage of corporate chefs, which has impacted the hospitality industry on a tremendous scale. Darren reported that “We are seeing a huge demand for chefs, however many chefs are now pursuing careers within the private sector instead of corporate.”
We asked him why he thinks this is the case. He cites several reasons: “Corporate hospitality sees longer hours, less money, and not much development or change in the last few years. Brexit and Covid have had a tremendous impact on the sector and it needs a great deal of rethinking and shaking up. Better work-life balance, 5 day weeks, bonuses etc. could make the hospitality sector a lot more attractive for aspiring chefs and hospitality professionals.”
Darren is sure that private chefs will continue to have a place in the modern home. Many households are in a position to employ someone full-time, but even having a permanent chef on a part-time basis can impact the principal’s life in a wonderful way.
Asked what advice he would give to chefs aiming for success in the corporate sector, Darren says they should look to gain experience in a restaurant with a top reputation, ideally at the Michelin level. As ever, it is important to put in the time, work the hours and be patient before gravitating to the top. For those chefs steering their careers towards the private sector, Darren says they should aim to get into a top-tier cooking school and build up their resume by doing ski seasons and working on yachts. Education is key too: “Do nutrition courses, get a degree or master’s in food science and nutrition. This will always be in demand and will push your career forward massively.”
Darren Lewis is a co-founder and director at Pembury Partners Household Consultancy. He has a vast background in the international luxury hospitality sector providing executive search and operational expertise. He specialises in single and multi-family offices, high calibre culinary creatives and professional sports individuals.