As part of our International Women's Day celebrations we sat down with five members of the team to discuss their experiences in hospitality. Exploring the challenges they've overcome, as well as those that remain in the industry, read on to get to know Nina, Katie, Nafisatu, Aiste and Jane and their journeys so far.
Nina, Operations Manager
Tell us a bit about yourself: I've been working in London for 22 years, starting my hospitality career at the Oxo Tower. I stayed there for around 3 years, and then have worked at a whole range of restaurants across the industry, from Soho House to The Cinnamon Club, as well as opening Duck and Waffle.
What made you want to work at Arcade? I’ve always loved opening restaurants, but Arcade was different. I’ve never worked in a food hall before, it’s a whole different style of food and offering.
This year's theme is 'Embrace Equity', are there any areas you feel that gender equality is particularly emphasised in the hospitality industry, or equally, where it's lacking? Although my position is definitely still male-led, it’s fantastic to see so many women coming up through the ranks. It’s also good to see a change in people’s attitude. Previously, when asking for a manager, customers would ask for a ‘sir’, or expect a man. But we don’t get that anymore. What’s great about hospitality is that there’s such an array of different cultures from around the world - you can learn so much from everybody. Having said that, it must be noted that there is definitely room for improvement in the kitchens, the balance is definitely still tipped towards men in those roles.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to your younger self starting out in your first job? Don't doubt your ability!
What's your favourite Arcade dish? I can't pick! They're all good.
Nafisatu, Head Bartender
How did you get into hospitality, and what led you to Arcade? I had applied for a summer job at a bar for fun, then quickly realised I enjoyed bartending and I’ve now been doing it for three years and counting! I was introduced by a friend to Arcade and the concept of the venue was intriguing. I wanted to try something different as I had never worked in a food hall and so I applied quickly after that.
How equal do you think the hospitality indsutry is? I think where gender equality in hospitality is lacking is main management roles are always appointed to men but women are just as strong willed and driven to get the job done. A head bartender role was definitely a male lead position but I am at Arcade doing the exact same position which makes me feel good and makes me feel as though Arcade has gender equality.
What would you tell your younger self starting out in her first job? Be more confident, to speak up and to not be intimidated at trying new things.
Favourite dish? The crispy prawns from Sushi Kamon, if I could have that dish everyday I would!
Aiste, Sous Chef
Hey Aiste! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your career so far? I’m Sous Chef Acting Head Chef at Arcade. I started with Arcade in June 2021, before Arcade even opened! I was hired to work on the dessert counter, and Provisions as a Sous Chef. In preparation for this, I was sent to Flor Bakery to learn how to make pastries. Before coming to Arcade I worked at Parabola at the Design Museum, and although this has now sadly closed, I learnt some incredibly valuable skills. I then headed over to The Ivy in Covent Garden - it was tough as the volume of people we were feeding every day was huge, but again, a great experience.
What attracted you to Arcade? Definitely the people here, their attitude is amazing. But it was also the opportunity to be a manager and progress in my career, I didn’t think I could do it at first but my head chef from a previous role told me to go for it, and I’m so glad I did. I just needed a push!
How has your experience as a woman in hospitality shaped your attitude to your career? There are definitely times where I’ve been treated differently because I’m a young woman. In a previous role I was running the pastry section and an older male colleague went to the head chef to complain that he doesn’t want me, then about 18, telling him what to do. But that’s one negative, there are so many positives - others understand we’re all equal. I’m the only female head chef at Arcade, but I don’t feel ‘lesser’ in any way. It’s a very supportive environment and people recognise that I can do my job extremely well. What I love about hospitality is that it’s open to everyone.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to your younger self starting out in your first job? Don’t doubt yourself! Just trust that you can do it. If you fail, nothing’s going to happen, move on!
What's your favourite Arcade dish? Crispy pork noodles of course!
Katie, Sales and Events Manager
Thanks for sitting down with us Katie. Do you want to kick things off by telling me a bit about yourself? I studied hospitality and business management at uni which I loved, then proceeded to work across a whole range of venues from hotels, bars, and restaurants before coming to Arcade in April of last year.
How has your experience as a woman in hospitality shaped your attitude to your career? I’ve seen some good, some bad, but all these experiences have really instilled in me how important it is to uplift women to positions of power and management. I want to help women just starting out in their hospitality career and make the top of industry more balanced. At its core, hospitality is not a restricted, nor regimented industry, it’s open to all.
This year's theme is 'Embrace Equity', are there any areas you feel that gender equality is particularly emphasised in the hospitality industry, or equally, where it's lacking? There has definitely been a marked improvement over the past five or so years. As a whole, hospitality embraces equality at all levels. However, of course there’s still room for improvement, it’s not the most secure industry for maternity, or paternity leave, and this lack of structure can be off-putting.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to your younger self starting out in your first job? Definitely to back myself more and have more confidence. I’d literally studied this industry, but still let myself be talked over!
What's your favourite Arcade dish? Chicken MO:MOs - you can't get them anywhere else!
Jane, Executive Chef at Plaza Khao Gaeng
Hey Jane, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? I have been cooking since I was 16 and went to chef Polytech for 2 years in New Zealand. I left for England and started cooking Thai food with David Thompson at Nahm, that was 23 years ago and I haven ‘t looked back. I am co-owner and executive chef of The Begging Bowl which I have operated and ran for the past 10 years. I have now moved to Chaiyo Restaurants JKS as Executive Chef, after being approached by Luke Farrell to help open some very exciting Thai regional restaurants.
How has your experience as a woman in hospitality shaped your attitude to your career? I was lucky to have a female head chef when I first started at 16 who use to give me pep talks behind the scenes when I was being bullied by two 20 year olds in the kitchen. From there I was always the only girl in kitchens. Running my own business taught me about flexibility with hours, we employed a lot of woman with different needs and were able to accommodate these without difficulty.
This year's IWD theme is 'Embrace Equity', are there any areas you feel that gender equality is particularly emphasised in the hospitality industry where it's lacking? Some things have changed and a lot hasn’t. I am a big fan of Countertalk and Rav Gill, Rav has had a huge impact with younger people in the industry. Also Code hospitality championing woman each year is amazing. If I had had that list when I was younger I would have totally gone and worked for an amazing female chef and have that role model.The industry as a whole is still lacking flexibility for working mothers, but also for people who want to chef at a high level but also want to have a work life balance. Until this is addressed, we will always be short staffed in our kitchens.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to your younger self starting out in your first job? If there are bully’s in the kitchen change jobs, until you find encouraging, nice people that aren't horrible.
What's your favourite Plaza dish? The Gaeng som, I found this dish difficult when I first started cooking Thai food, but now its my absolute favourite and a true Thai curry.