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Strong, Confident, Smart – with hospitality in their heart (Part 2)

Celebrating Women in Hospitality for International Women's Day 2019

We continue with our celebrations of Women in Hospitality with Sara Jayne Stanes OBE and Maxine Muir, sharing with us what makes working in hospitality so great and the ways in which in which organisations can support more women in hospitality.

Sara Jayne Stanes OBE

Sara Jayne Stanes OBE is Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, Britain’s principal association of leading chefs, restaurant managers and hospitality professionals committed to the education and training of the emerging generation of young chefs, pastry chefs and waiters across the UK.

Sara Jayne is also CEO of The Adopt a School Trust that educates primary school children about food in a holistic sense from food provenance, nutrition, food cultures and cookery skills.

We started by asking Sara Jayne about her early career and her entry point into the industry she is so clearly passionate about.

I had no idea what career path I wanted to follow and got a job as a temp with a film and TV production company.  I was asked to stay on as a permanent member of staff and against my mother’s better judgement I agreed to do it for a year then go to college.  20 years later I had climbed the ladder and was a producer – I never went to college.

My business partner got a contract to make a movie in America and in their absence I started working on an idea to make 45-minute films about food.   Research for this project led me to meet Raymond Blanc, Michel Roux, Richard Shepherd, Brian Turner and Nico Ladenis, and I was inspired by their powerful enthusiasm and commitment to food, cooking and pleasing their guests.

That was your ‘light bulb’ moment?

I was experiencing a whole new culinary world that was progressive and completely different from any industry I had worked in before.  It was during this time that Richard Shepherd introduced me to Michel Bourdin who was one of the founders of the l’Academie Culinaire de France (UK) now Royal Academy of Culinary Arts (RACA).   It wasn’t so much a light bulb moment, more an understanding that I could create my own path and work with the leading chefs and hospitality stars of the day, when everything was changing and new equipment, new recipes, new ways of recruiting were happening and, long before  television made chefs superstars, it was exciting to be part of that.

Who were your inspirations?

Michel Roux Snr., Albert Roux, Raymond Blanc, Richard Shepherd, Brian Turner and so many more passionate, enthusiastic chefs.  They have such a connection with everything they do and have a special something that inspired those around them.  I describe it as ‘an electricity of communication’ – energy and ideas.

I quickly realised that as a group we could take hospitality in a new direction – making it an industry that young people wanted to be part of. Hospitality at the time was an unloved, unrecognised sector.

We created awards for excellence and started apprenticeships to change the message from one that suggested that the industry was a last resort job option.  We looked at ways of reaching out to potential recruits and started the ‘Adopt a School’ programme in 1990, giving young people access to chefs and cooking.

John Williams, Chairman of RACA, is someone with a powerful work ethic on training, mentoring and supporting people.  His skill at managing expectations and unlocking the road to understanding within hospitably should not be underestimated.

With your background as a filmmaker how did you expand your hospitality knowledge?

Everyone who was involved with the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts was there to share their knowledge and experience.  It was a wonderful environment in which to learn as much as possible. Michel Roux was my light bulb chocolate moment which inspired me to learn about chocolate and pastry and so on Saturday mornings would cycle to the Roux pastry kitchen and the legendary pastry chef, Ian Ironside, would teach me about chocolate, my other passion.

I think gaining more knowledge was about being engaged and excited by what was happening in the industry and exploring ways in which we could raise standards and encourage more people to think about careers in hospitality.

Creating awards within RACA helped too; being surrounded by so much experience rubs off.  In an industry where the perception is one of long hours, antisocial working patterns, hard work for minimum wage, knowing that we were raising standards and creating aspirations was fulfilling.  It was a catalyst to continue to look at ways in which we could change perceptions and raise standards.

Are there any organisations you would recommend to anyone starting out?

Obviously the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts is close to my heart but there are some other organisations, such as Springboard UK, a great source of information, which people should consider.

I would definitely encourage the young from the front of house to enter the Gold Service Scholarship, which is a massive learning opportunity.  It is definitely a launch pad for the young and aspiring professionals to develop their careers.

And never overlook the impact that catering colleges can, and do have, such as Westminster Kingsway, University of West London, Bournemouth & Poole, University College Birmingham, Liverpool City College, for example.

Networking is important too.  Attending workshops and seminars are a great way of meeting others from outside your own organisation and finding our about career opportunities.

Your passion is obvious, what about the challenges?

In whatever industry there will always be red tape and ever increasing corporate governance.  I just want to get on with it and sometimes feel frustrated by the amount of time spent working on things that take me away from the day-to-day delivery of apprenticeships, awards and career development.


The difference between chocolate and chocolate confectionery is another cause I champion. I adore the stuff!  In 1986 I started by own ‘hobby’ chocolate business – Sara Jayne’s Chocolate Truffles – and now I regularly give lectures and tastings, demonstrating chocolate and its origins and its story throughout history.

The Academy of Chocolate, of which I am Chairman, was founded in 2005 by five of Britain’s leading chocolate professionals, united in the belief that eating fine chocolate is one of life’s great pleasures.

Academy members meet to taste, discuss, demonstrate and debate issues regarding sourcing, transparency and the journey from bean to bar. We host regular events where members of the public and chocolate lovers are welcome to attend.

And finally… what advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be impatient!  You never know what’s going to happen so be open to anything.  Understand that people change and learn from that too.  Don’t be afraid to take on the simple tasks when you start out – it’s all part of building your knowledge.  Don’t regret anything; take away something positive from each experience

Maxine Muir

Maxine Muir is Director of People and Talent at Macdonald Hotels & Resorts 

Maxine was born in the UK and moved to South Africa as a child where she attended the University of Johannesburg and started her career with City Lodge Hotel Group

Was Hospitality always your first career choice?

Yes (apart from when I was a small child and wanted to be a nurse).  At school I had an aptitude test that indicated that a career in hospitality would suit me.

I decided to try and get into hotel school in Johannesburg but the entry criteria required a year’s work experience to show commitment.  It was an expensive qualification but I knew that this was what I wanted to do and luckily I managed to get a job and eventually a Degree in Hospitality Management.

When I graduated the SA hospitality industry was in a lull and jobs were hard to get.  I got a job as a receptionist with the City Lodge Hotel Group and never looked back.  I stayed within the group for over 24 years becoming a General Manager for three properties.

Why Talent Management?

I realised early on I was passionate about development people and being instrumental in their journey within the organisation.  ‘Talent Management’ as a career didn’t exist in South Africa at the time and over three years our team put a plan together that met the requirements of the Black Economic Empowerment movement and the needs of the industry.

During this time I was headhunted so went to Marcel Kobilski, HR Director at the time and was honest about what I really wanted.  He was 100% supportive and created the post of Talent Manager with responsibility for the teams within 52 hotels.

We had an opportunity to create a platform that included Graduate Recruitment and Succession Planning programmes.   The Talent Management programme resulted in 91% of General Managers being promoted from within our existing workforce and a 6% annual staff turnover during a huge period of growth in South African hospitality.

Mentoring, Coaching, Training

For me it was important to find a mentor who balanced out my energy and enthusiasm.  Within the industry Marcel Kobilski and I worked together for 24 years and I found his perspective and support invaluable.  He was happy to share his knowledge and was prepared to fight for the people he worked with.

I also had an external coach, Barry Greenwood, who gave me personal insights that, married with Marcel’s input, helped me have a balanced approach to my role.

Right now working with Ruaridh MacDonald, Deputy CE of MacDonald Hotel on our Talent Management programmes is inspiring and exciting.

Something I’ve learnt is the value of having a mentor. Mentoring, coaching and training are different and there should be more education about the impact and influence a mentor can have.   Finding someone within your organisation who understands the challenges you face can help you to progress to the next level.  It’s also about diverse thinking, not being pigeonholed.

How do you network?

Moving to the UK meant leaving behind my SA network and starting again.  I quickly realised that I needed Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development qualifications and found this organisation really helpful in so many ways.  It offered me access to a network of people who were striving to achieve similar goals and opportunities to attend workshops and discussions.

The Reward Gateway is another organisation I’m involved with and Work180 is the only platform that pre-screens employers to see how well they support women’s careers – something I’m really passionate about.

Working with Charities

We’ve recently started working with ‘The Clink’, a charity offering training and support to offenders and ex-offenders. Restaurants are situated within working prisons and all the food is prepared and served by prisoners in training.

Prisoners work up to 40 hours per week whilst working towards City & Guild qualifications Graduates are then supported to help them secure accommodation and employment upon release. The programme is getting results with 49.6% of participants less likely to reoffend.

We also work with Betel UK, a charity set up by Sir Peter Vardy. It’s an independent Christian charity for men, women and families affected by drug and alcohol addiction and homelessness with aims to bring people back to the workplace.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Developing people. I know it sounds clichéd but I work with the most amazing group of people and each day is exciting and challenging.  With the Talent Management team I feel that we are on the precipice of something very significant.

And challenges?

There are still so many preconceived ideas about our industry that need to change.  Ways of doing things that are outmoded and attitudes to staff that shouldn’t exist in the 21st century.

I’ve always believed that women bring a different dimension to hospitality and listening and allowing women to contribute their ideas can add tremendous value to any project.

Pay inequality is another area I’m concerned with as in my experience women have to work twice as hard to achieve this.  It’s not about the volume of change, it about every little drop in the ocean making a difference.

Any final words of advice?

Follow your dreams and your heart, believe in yourself and know your value.  Never underestimate the power of networking.

There is an African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’.  Hospitality is like that; an entire community of people interacting with teams and staff to experience and grow in a safe and rewarding environment.

Growing and Retaining Women in the Hospitality Industry

One thing we’ve learned on International Women’s Day is that women bring huge amounts of passion, energy and genuine smarts to our Industry.  There are so many ways in which organisations can offer support and encourage women in the workplace.

Networking: Women like to chat, discuss and share experiences. Get HR to research networking opportunities and share them with employees.  Encourage employees to find their own networking groups.

Mentoring: Set up a mentoring programme within your organisation and make it part of your monitoring and annual review process.

Entry Programmes: Create programmes where potential employees can experience paid ‘Taster Days’

Continuous Professional Development: Sometimes employees reach a point of stagnation.  Offering opportunities to learn new skills or gain qualifications can be a pathway to retention and growth.

Thinking Outside the Box:  Find out what an employees passions are and look at ways of developing these.  Innovation is all about passion.

Encourage Debate: Give employees opportunities to share their thoughts and views and respect them.  It’s a great forum approach to new ideas and ways of working.

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