We recently spoke to Ameya Bhalekar about his journey working in hospitality and how, if at all, the hospitality industry has changed in matters of race.
Tell us about your career journey
I have been working in hospitality since 2004 and since 2006 in the UK. I’m currently working as Hospitality Head Chef at bartlett mitchell.
After finishing my Bachelors Degree in Hospitality Management in Mumbai I moved to the UK to study culinary arts, whilst I worked as a commis chef at the prestigious Savoy Hotel in the West End. I then moved to The Radisson Mayfair to further my career.
Over the 14 years I have worked in the catering industry, I have worked in a number of high-end hotels and restaurants; these include Soho House, Rules restaurant, Caprice holdings and the Alfred Dunhill Club.
Have you ever felt or faced any challenges due to your ethnicity?
At the start of my career I felt that I faced many challenges in the industry as English was not my first language, I also grew up in a different culture and background and this took me some time to adjust.
How do you think the hospitality industry as a whole has changed in matters of race or not at all?
I feel that the industry has changed in a positive way as people of all races are treated fairly and equally, which unfortunately wasn’t the case 10 to 15 years ago. The rise of celebrity chefs and social media has helped chefs of all races be brought into the spotlight, giving them all equal opportunities.
How much does your background have an influence on food?
I think my background has a strong influence on my food as I come from a country which heavily uses spices in the majority of its dishes. I also feel that this helps me understand how to use spices in different cuisines.
What advice would you give to colleagues with a BAME heritage who want to succeed in the hospitality industry?
For people working in the hospitality industry I would say that it is important to gain experience in the sector you are interested in working in, this applies to all people no matter what their heritage or ethnicity is.
What advice do you have for our industry to encourage diversity?
The hospitality sector, I feel, is already one of the most diverse industries in the UK as over the years I have worked with many chefs from different parts of the world, gaining both life and cooking skills from them. I think it is important to continue employing a variety of people from all races as they can bring different ideas and skills to the industry.