Asia Pacific

Women at the centre of Hong Kong restaurant group

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Recruitment in the Black Sheep Hospitality Group challenges the industry's gender balance status quo

It is not news to anyone that the foodservice sector lags behind where gender balance is concerned. The fact that more men than women take up roles in restaurant kitchens has long been highlighted by people working inside and outside the industry and some operators have started  taking a more proactive approach.

When Syed Asim Hussain and Christopher Mark launched Black Sheep Hospitality Group in 2012 the founders made a decision to go a different way.

The Hong Kong based restaurants, launched in 2012, currently have 21 restaurants in the group. Front of house and chefs are a 50-50 ratio of men to women; of the 72 female chefs employed by Black Sheep, six of them are chefs de cuisine.

A dynamic community

“First and foremost, Black Sheep Restaurants is about the people in our team and the family we have created,” says Hussain. “If you look after your people, give them opportunities to grow and support them wherever possible, they will do the right thing for your guests.”

They wanted to create a dynamic community and tell compelling stories through food and in less than seven years, they have grown the team to over 1,000; half of them are women. “While other restaurant groups struggle to achieve gender equality, or are reluctant to promote female chefs to senior positions, women are a driving creative force in our restaurants and leaders in their respective fields,” says Mark.

One of the women, Angie Ford, the executive chef of the group’s Argentinian steak house Buenos Aires Polo Club, has worked  across the wider sector in different roles. She also competed in Iron Chef Canada, which she describes as “super stressful hour but also extremely rewarding.”

Ford’s advice for surviving in the pressure-cooker world of restaurants: “Be a positive force in the kitchen, and do not lose your cool.”

Tina Nielsen

 

Pictured (l-r): Angie Ford, Gisela Alesbrook, Lisette Magampon, Yen Chan, Safia Osman, Charrinn Singdaechakarn of Black Sheep