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Careers in Hospitality

Celebrity Chef Robert Irvine Serves Up His Thoughts on the Culinary

The former Royal Navy sailor turned chef debunks myths about the culinary industry and offers advice on those who want to follow suit.

What is the biggest misconception about a career in the culinary industry that you’d like to debunk for readers? 

The reality of working in the culinary industry full-time is that it is a highly demanding, time-consuming job that requires serious dedication and patience to climb the ladder of success. Of course, in any position, success doesn’t happen overnight. While excitement and adrenaline can run high at times, the industry calls for long and tough hours. A career in the culinary industry may not always be as glamorous as one might think. 

How did your time with the UK’s Royal Navy help prepare you for a career in the culinary industry?

Life in the Navy teaches very useful skills, traits and habits including teamwork, toughness, responsibility, confidence, patience, leadership and how to stay in shape. I apply each of these disciplines to my life and work daily and am confident that I would not have reached the success I’ve found today without my military training. Joining the military was one of the best decisions I ever made and was the perfect foundation to help me launch my career.

What advice would you provide to a returning service member who is considering a similar career in the culinary industry?

Returning service members considering a career in the culinary industry should know that all of the important skills and habits that they learned in the military will apply to, and help them excel at, any position in the culinary industry. I truly feel that in nearly any career choice, a foundation in military training provides the opportunity to be one step ahead of the others and be in a position to achieve greater success.

What is the best piece of advice you received from a fellow chef early on in your career?

Listen, work hard and remember TEAM: together, everyone achieves more. 

In what ways did working as a chef prepare you for restaurant management? What skills translated over and why?

All skills translated over, especially leadership. Whether leading the kitchen or an outside team, being a bold leader is important to driving success. One of the most common misunderstandings of leadership is that it’s about acquiring power, when in fact, it’s about collaborating with others to achieve success. As a leader, it’s important to provide your team with a challenging yet balanced environment to ensure they stay engaged and hungry for success.

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