Culinary Capers: Using Professional Development to Entice the Best and Brightest

As the competition for good staff continues, one organization is using the lure of professional development to entice the best and brightest.

Debra Lykkemark, Owner, Culinary Capers

Debra Lykkemark, owner of Vancouver based Culinary Capers, has discovered that a crucial tool in attracting and retaining staff is offering them the opportunity to learn new skills and grow professionally; a practice that benefits both the staff members and the organization as a whole.

“Catering is a very creative industry that is always evolving,” explains Debra. “If you don’t keep up with the trends – the new ideas for food and service and the latest software – your business will lose market share. In order to maintain our position as the market leader in our industry we must give our staff the tools and training to be the best that they can be.”

And Debra says that many of her staff members feel that being able to learn and progress in their craft is just as important as wages earned or hours of work.

“We have a young generation that values education and is hungry to develop their skills,” says Debra, who has implemented a number of professional development incentives to ensure that her employees remain on top of their game.

Culinary Capers pays for staff to attend Catering and Special Event Conferences, including food related sustainability conferences. They also encourage cooks who don’t have their chef’s papers to participate in an apprenticeship, which involves going to school full time for one month a year.

But it’s not just the kitchen staff who benefit. The front-line staff also have access to opportunities to better their skills, including serving, bartending and event supervising seminars, while the management team is encouraged to learn about hiring, training and time management through classes paid for by Culinary Capers.

In the catering industry, professional development can also include such pleasurable experiences as dining out on the company account in order to get new and fresh ideas, and participating in employer sponsored international staff exchanges; both are initiatives which have been adopted by Culinary Capers.

By offering staff the opportunity to grow professionally, Culinary Capers often succeeds in promoting from within; a practice which fosters satisfied employees, while simultaneously improving the bottom line by reducing turnover and maintaining a cohesive team.

“All jobs are posted in-house, and we’ll train someone if we feel the fit is right,” says Debra, who strives to create an atmosphere where people are encouraged to stretch themselves and excel, thereby attaining progressively responsible positions.

Debra says the benefits of investing in her staff are numerous. “Even though catering tends to be a very transient industry, we have many staff members who have been with us 5, 10 or even 15 years, while only a very small percentage have moved on. Our efforts are rewarded.