Southwest Detroit’s Vietnamese-inspired eatery, Flowers of Vietnam, is entering its final weekend of service before closing down for renovations this spring but chef George Azar is already on the hunt for new people to join his team.
Staffing a restaurant is more challenging than ever. Turnover rates are high as is burnout. In short, restaurant work can be a grueling business that in general doesn’t pay very well (culinary degrees don’t necessarily help). So how does one attract new talent? It’s something that everyone in the restaurant industry is thinking about, including Azar.
“Nationally it’s a big problem in the industry that we’re losing people fast,” he says. “From the top of the industry to the low end they’re reaching hard to find out why people don’t want to cook anymore.” So, when it came time for him to begin hiring for the expanded restaurant, Azar says he tried to put himself back in the shoes of an aspiring chef.
Azar recalled coming across an advertisement in the classifieds seeking staff for a restaurant called Olmsted in New York. The hiring post was unlike any he had seen before and laid out specifics of what a cook could expect from coming to work for the restaurant. He fell in love with the transparent format. When it came time to begin growing his own staff at Flowers, he decided to develop his own ad with a focus on all the things he wished he had access to coming up in the industry.
No prior experience necessary, five-day work weeks, paid time off, salaried Chef de Partie positions, and opportunities to collaborate on the development of menu items and the overall running of the kitchen are just some of the things Azar hopes will entice new culinary talent into his kitchen. “It’s still going to be a very taxing and demanding work environment, but it’s going to be a healthy one and it’s going to be one where people are happy to be there,” he says.
The opportunities to learn and contribute ideas are of particular importance to Azar. Many of his current employees, he says, came in with little to no restaurant experience but have turned into some of his most valued players. He wants to make sure that future staff get the same opportunities to grow and learn that he’s had. “Part of being a responsible chef is you want your cooks to leave better than they came to you,” he says.
Flowers of Vietnam is hiring right now and is accepting applications at Contact@flowersofvietnam.com. Meanwhile, Azar is gearing up for an expansion to Ford Field and a stint staging for Noma’s pop-up in Tulum, Mexico. Staff training will likely begin when Azar returns in June, in time for a mid-to-late summer reopening.