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Here's where the future of many a chef is decided

Executive Paths Start at the Stove

Friday, February 8, 2008
THE number of new resorts opening along the Andaman coast generates jobs. And that's where Peter Schatzmann comes in.

As President of the Executive Search International office on Phuket, his business is to find leaders for tourism's future, the GMs and the executive chefs who will steer the growing economy.

And that applies not just to the Andaman region, but worldwide. ESI is a boutique recruiting agency ''founded in 1977 to recruit tomorrow's hoteliers.''

While larger groups usually advertise on behalf of clients, Mr Schatzmann and his two recruiter colleagues at the Fisherman Way Business Centre in Chalong work the telephone and their email.

Theirs is a personal approach, and it can all be done from Phuket. That's the beauty of this job.

''It doesn't matter where you are,'' Mr Shatzmann says. ''You can do it from a mountain top as long as you have a telephone and a PC.''

Mind you, the tropical holiday island beats the average mountain top.

''Every day in Phuket is a fantastic day,'' says Mr Schatzmann, who opened the island office a year ago after spending four years at ESI's HQ in Orlando, Florida.

There is a second branch, in Rome.

''We work exclusively for the hospitality industry,'' Mr Schatzmann says. ''We find find professionals, mostly executive leaders for hotels worldwide.''

The recruiters are, as Mr Shatzmann says, a lot like marriage match-makers. They carry out their clients' requests, carefully tracking the ideal candidate for each position.

It is, as he says, a very sensitive business. ''We try to be ahead of the game,'' he adds when asked whether ESI is alert to resort and hotel brands expanding.

The key positions at most hotels are the GM and the executive chef, and as a chef by trade for 30 years, Mr Schatzmann has an intimate knowledge of the industry.

''The bulk of our role is definitely in the culinary field,'' he said. The path to the top is not easy, but it can be lucrative.

Starting out in a resort kitchen requires dedication. Often, the hours are long and the work is constant.

''Opportunities vary so much depending on entry level,'' Mr Shatzmann said. ''People usually start on a very low pay scale. But the rewards can be great.

''Thirty years ago, you had to beg to get a job in the right kitchen.''

Today he says that for someone with the right track record, after a few years in the industry ''the sky is the limit.''

This applies expecially for chef who seek international experience in tax-free countries on expat packages.

Many of the chef who start in the kitchen and develop their skills move eventually into management and often do very well.

He cites the case of the pastry chef who became the president of Hyatt International.

In a theoretical case involving a 400-room resort with two restaurants and perhaps a banquet area, Mr Shatzmann says 40 or 50 positions might need to be filled in the kitchen.

The hunt would begin for a chef de cuisine. If the resort executives decided they needed an Italian restaurant, someone who had the right background would be sought.

ESI has a constantly-expanding client base. It is to their network that they turn when the calls come, or when they establish a relationship with a resort brand.

Mr Shatzmann or a colleague will find out as much as he possibly can about the exact specifications for the job, down to such details as opening hours and the number of seats in the restaurant.

The right person can enhance his or her own reputation along with the reputation of the resort and the restaurant.

It's a path to the top that often requires several steps. ''Some people always keep us informed about their career moves,'' he says.

With a marriage between a brand and a creative chef, just as in a real life wedding, ''everything has to be right.''

While ESI deals exclusively with international high-fliers, anyone starting out in a kitchen in the resort industry in Thailand can aim for the top, too.

It's all a matter of perseverance combined with talent.

Perfection? That comes with practice. Meanwhile, one of those tall hats can look very impressive as you walk down the aisle.

Contact Peter Shatzmann at ESI: +66 (0) 76 282418 +66 (0) 76 288049 E: pschatzmann@esiglobal.com

ESI is a contender for the Phuketwan Business of the Year Award

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