Once, a long time ago, learning to cook wasn’t that complicated. After finishing catering school you started to work. Cooks were always needed. If you wanted an interesting job abroad, a working permit was only a matter of waiting and choosing the right counter.
Once you had moved up in the circuit and you had entered the world of “like knows like”, you had the opportunity to work with one of the European chefs with Michelin stars. Sometimes it was only for a month or two months. The concept “internship” didn’t really exist. A pair of good hands was more important than the right visa. All professionals in catering during the sixties and seventies had the same frame of mind, meaning those youngsters who gave it the effort had the opportunity to grab tons of experience.
Sometimes we forget to look back and to be grateful for these opportunities. Because, later on, in every country and in Europe as a whole the paperwork started. Problems with illegal employment, insurance issues, different social rules in every country, documents for travelling, certification of doctors … and all culinary baggage was lost. Together with the international exchange of knowledge, styles and products we also lost a little of the worldwide camaraderie that bonded chefs and colleagues in services.
That is why I ventured, together with some concurring souls, the Master Talent project. With a lot of falling down and luckily also some standing up, we have built a small organisation which gradually rebuilds the opportunity for young professionals in the culinary world, and meanwhile also in other industries, to visit masters in their trade worldwide to develop their skills to shine as a craftsman. Step by step we find our way in the complicated world of, never parallel, European and international legislation. Little by little a new international community of young, enthusiastic professionals is taking shape. This community is highly necessary to lead the evolution in gastronomy in the right direction.
Master Talent Foundation is a non -profit organisation, which we, the founders, would not have it any other way. But there is beyond any doubt one fantastic profit: the passion of a new generation which, all over this world, is standing shoulder to shoulder for the future of our trade.
Jan Buytaert received two Michelin stars in his restaurant. He is co-founder of ‘Master Talent Foundation’ and the Mastercooks of Belgium. He is president of the jury of Flemish Kitchen Rebels and consultant at Horeca Vorming Vlaanderen.