Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing damaged pottery by filling in cracks and chips with gold, illustrates how imperfections when approached through a different lens can hold their own special beauty. More often than not, today's hospitality professionals have experienced (at least) a few cracks and chips in their own career paths that became catalysts, propelling them forward to achieve success. To inspire and motivate you to keep going, we asked these hospitality leaders to share challenges they were able to transform into opportunities.

1

"Early on, I knew that I ultimately wanted to cook Middle Eastern food. The big problem was that at that time there were really only a couple of chefs in the US that were cooking this cuisine at a fine dining level. Every cook needs a great mentor to guide them and teach them about the world through food. My choices of where to work were extremely limited if I wanted to expose myself to as many techniques and ingredients as possible. Fortunately, I was hired at Zahav and Michael Solomonov really took me under his wing and mentored me. This was in Zahav's second and third year and I was able to be in the kitchen with Solo as he came up with dishes, changing the menu constantly, pushing our knowledge and understanding of the cuisines. Having spent that important time with Solo, I was an ideal candidate to be hired years later as an opening sous chef at Shaya by another incredible mentor of mine, Chef Alon Shaya. Alon taught me how to manage a restaurant, its employees and its finances. He also gave me the freedom to cook creatively, which allowed my career to really take off."

- Zachary Engel, Executive Chef & Owner at Galit
2

"The restaurant industry was one of the hardest hit from our pandemic in all ways, and our industry is still working tirelessly to move forward while still building back our foundations.

Despite the challenges of labor shortages, we see true hospitality ingrained in our team members who act for our team’s collective health at-large, physically, mentally and emotionally. Our team has grown tremendously in our time of reflection for us to think about what a team means, and what leadership means. A restaurant is made up of its food, service, interiors… but the most important is its people. We have the sincerest of gratitude for our team who has overcome the pandemic while maintaining a healthy mindset.

In that, we have to invest in creating a sustainable change to our professional environment, creating a framework for healthy, respectful environments. This can’t be done alone, but must be done with leadership, partnership, and changes at the government level. Leaders of the industry are thinking and discussing this more openly than ever before through coalitions and structured, progressive meetings."

- Ellia Park, Co-Founder / Owner of Atoboy and Atomix
 
3

"COVID-19 was a huge black swan event for the entire industry. The uncertainty of shutting down the restaurant and rebuilding from the ground up at the onset and aftermath of COVID was an enormous challenge, but also shone a light on what we are doing and why. It brought more clarity to what leadership means and how our respective roles contributed to the whole. I feel that our food and hospitality became more defined in this time period. "

- Trevor Elliot, Chef de Cuisine at The Grey
4

"The biggest challenge I have faced in not only my career but as a human has been to have a willingness to know my own limitations and to be humble — and be humbled. As a chef, I had to acknowledge that it takes years and years of being in the trenches, educating myself and seeking help from others. The longer I’m in this business, the less I know. And so, I surround myself with other creatives who inspire me to work hard.

I’m fortunate to have my close friend, Dominique Crenn, help me recognize what truly inspires me. For me, it’s music. I now create and write menus around the inspiration of music. At Reverence, we tell a story through food based on my personal interaction with music. We serve the food and play the music, and then the experience comes full circle to our guests."

- Russell Jackson, Chef / Owner at Reverence
5

"My biggest challenge was that there was no professional development other than the necessary trainings I received to further my knowledge outside of industry specific topics. While I learned a lot about wine, spirits, and origins of food, there was a time in my hospitality career where I wanted more: leadership training, understanding of career advancement, and both career and personal development that I knew could help me as an individual, employee, and leader. Because I did not receive anything even closely related to what I knew would help me advance, I went out and searched for these opportunities on my own. Whether it was reading a good book or article, researching topics of interest, or attending various trainings, I discovered ways to fulfill a need that I felt was sorely lacking in the industry. In many ways I am grateful for the opportunity to discover what works best for me. It led me to becoming a Certified Life Coach. After many years of coaching, I now leverage my background in hospitality with my coach training as a Career Coach to help individuals discover what they need to move their careers forward ."

- Kathy Hubler, Career Coah and Ower of Ladies Against The Grain