After working as a chef in some of the top award-winning restaurants from the Savoy in the UK to classical French restaurants in France. I met my wife and moved with her to Hong Kong, we were both getting started in new jobs and trying to make it in the city. I started teaching at the local culinary school and was working to inspire the young chefs with the same passion and excitement for the profession that I have been blessed to receive from my tutors and mentors in the industry. At the same time in order to get more involved with the vibrant local scene I started consulting on various restaurant openings. I was confident that I could achieve what was being requested of me in each of these consulting roles and assured my employers and clients that I would be able to deliver on all of their requests for their projects….. but I kept coming across the same issue.
I was highly motivated and putting a lot of effort into making sure each project went smoothly, trusting in my ability to deliver on each of the projects for my employers. I would be leading the design of menus in line with the concepts, excitedly going through the testing of dishes, staff training, setting up the kitchen design and giving further input on elements within the restaurants, working every waking hour to meet all of the tight deadlines. The costing would be done and training manuals prepared. I had previously assured my bosses that as I was well connected I would be able to ensure that would have all the staff in place that we needed, they had complete trust in me. I had put the word out across the network, placed ads on all the usual job sites and was waiting for applicants, and then my sickening realisation ……….crickets, we would be getting two or three applicants in but rarely the star candidates we were looking for.
My employers would start getting anxious and I would calm them and assuring them that we would be okay by the scheduled opening day, externally I had everything under control but inside there was pure panic, I assured them again I was well connected in the industry and knew lots of staff including students who would soon be graduating and looking for jobs, the trouble was there were nowhere near enough chefs, FOH staff and experienced managers for all the roles in the city, most of whom were deeply involved in their own projects. For junior roles most of the students had already accepted positions in the large hotel groups and as the scheduled openings got closer by the day, the realisation was rapidly dawning on me that we were becoming stuck. We were getting nowhere near the amount of staff needed and those we did find were all too often not as experienced or engaged as we wanted them to be to achieve the kind of success and standards that we were aiming for.
I started to double down on the search. I put out more ads on the usual websites and was soon exasperated to learn that most of the hospitality job seekers were not hanging out there, those seekers that were were not even seeking roles in hospitality. For the managerial and specialist roles I was getting tired of sending out emails and messages into the abyss, I was spending a ridiculous amount of time on staffing which was fast turning into a nightmare that was threatening to undermine the whole project. I was feeling I had taken on too much and due to the amount of time I was putting into staffing I was losing focus on other important areas of the business causing the potential of other issues to snowball. I was deeply concerned with the quantity and quality of staff we were finding, all too often would get a number of staff in place who needed extensive training to reach standards only to find that they would start to leave as the restaurants became busier and then more understaffed as a result, and as the staff were overstretched it would would then cause a reduction in potential revenue as they were less able to attend to the finer points that generated the important extra revenue.
I realised that if I as someone who was well connected was experiencing this, and that most of those that I knew in HR in the industry had similar experiences that this was a widespread issue and that as I was already well connected with hundreds of contacts that I may be able to do something to start to resolve the situation. I decided that I had to stop sourcing staff the usual way as it wasn’t working for hospitality and start connecting. I started compiling all of my contacts and started further building out my network from hundreds into thousands, tens of thousands (and ultimately hundreds of thousands).
The name Cutting Edge Recruitment had popped into my head during one of my morning meditations and I got a friend to draw up a logo, Cutting Edge Recruitment was born. Within a few months the word started spreading and I now had candidates from across HK, then China and beyond reach out and send their CVs. I saw the huge potential and with my enthusiasm to help in this area, I made the decision to leave my previous job and focus full time on Cutting Edge.
I soon realised our database was too big to manually manage and that our website was becoming totally overwhelmed. I needed some assistance, people with excellent experience in recruiting to work with. With my experience in staffing and training in hospitality and by adding some people who were highly skilled in recruitment, we would be able to build a perfect team. We were amazingly fortunate that one of my contacts knew someone who was working in recruitment, highly experienced (and passionate about food) who was looking for a new challenge. She was introduced to me, and was perfect for the role and accepted the role. She immediately set about overseeing the implementation and running of all the systems, putting in a team, staff training and software that would need to be in place to efficiently optimise and run a highly efficient staffing operation, effectively tapping into and compiling all the data from the database of all those that had been reaching out to us and sending in CVs. It seemed we had stumbled across a huge unmet demand from both candidates and employers and before long we were getting contacted from across Asia and the Persian Gulf region.
Several years on it has been an absolutely amazing experience to learn the extent of how we are able to help candidates reach their dream jobs, to have candidates send in photos celebrating new roles with their families or videos of them working in their ideal positions. Even more exciting has been to visit multiple bustling award-winning restaurants and outlets that have been set up and designed around the talents that we have provided, seeing marketing campaigns run by candidates we have supplied to boost marketing teams that have then contributed to further success, new outlets opening and further jobs being created. It has been truly humbling to know that the key to both our clients and candidates success (and therefore ours) has been the outstanding talents that our team have sourced and Cutting Edge’s ability to match them with highly suited working environments.