Countertalk works to empower community in the hospitality industry and connect people. We do this through running live events and talks- like our Bread, Pasta and Ice cream events as well as those on staff retention, goal setting, leadership and more. Promoting healthy work environments has always been a large part of Countertalk, so much so that in May 2019 we built a tech platform to vet companies so they could advertise to an equally committed audience.
Find out below why and how Countertalk was started...
"It took me years to understand what was OK in the work environment and what wasn't. I didn't know anyone who was a chef, I had zero connections, I didn't have any access to those seemingly secret bougie chef jobs for the elite. I didn't even know they existed.
I was ready to give up when I landed on my feet at St John in Smithfield—an unknown realm of a culture of kindness. I always wish I had never left. But I did and fell into the same routine of hating my days, forcing energy and persisting. I found some absolute gems along the way and made connections where I could, started private cheffing or working in other kitchens on my days off. This is where I learnt first hand about the places that were good and the ones that weren't.
During Countertalk's first year, I found myself spending a lot of time personally recommending people to jobs with companies that I knew and trusted. And, employers with staff that I knew were reliable and trustworthy. It was really important to me that I had personally vetted all of the places I was recommending. Some of those places are still staffed by people I recommended which is great, and the feedback has been lovely.
I wanted to formalise this process and turn it into a platform where I could vet the places who wanted to advertise, in the hope that we can make good opportunities accessible to all. We can leave out those places that make us miserable and squeeze every ounce of energy out of us—and strive for an equal and level playing field for everyone who wishes to pursue their dreams of working in hospitality, no matter their connections or background.
Following the launch of the website, I gave a talk to 8-10 year olds in Forest Gate about the possibility of working in the hospitality sector. I spoke about all of the possible avenues they can go down in food. It actually made me feel positive and hopeful to know that by the time they reach 18, the working in conditions in the food world would have come a long long way."
How did Countertalk turn from an idea into a tech platform & community?
"For the first year I worked full time in the industry as a chef, I started with a logo, an instagram page and a launch party.
I reached out to everyone I knew in the industry and spoke about this idea I had, of creating a community of people who cared about promoting and working in healthy environments. I worked to put on a few fun events and planned them out in a way where they could eventually start breaking even.
After 9 months I raised enough funds to pay a friend over in CPH, Leo, to build me a vetting platform that would allow me to vet companies based on the way they treat their staff. Once approved, the companies ad goes live to an equally committed audience of job seekers.
The platform has been live since May 2019 and we have placed numerous people into roles that they are still in and have had some incredible feedback on the platform and connections that have been made through it.
The events still run consistently throughout the year and have allowed for numerous opportunities to network within the industry.
Favourite events include our industry chats where we invite speakers from other professions in to hear how they tackle issues such as staff retention, strong leadership, mental health support in the workplace, promoting self confidence.
The food events have also proved to be super popular, our first one was on BREAD and included food and talks from: The Dusty Knuckle, St. JOHN, Brick House Bakery, Little Bread Pedlar, Pump St Bakery, Toast Ale.
PASTA & THAT was also such a laugh we hosted six talented chefs from around London and asked them to demo six different pasta dishes to an audience of 100. Each audience member also then got to eat six different bowls of pasta at the same time.
Our latest food event was ICE CREAM SUNDAY, highlighting some of the UK's finest ice cream specialists. And included demos, talks and samples from the following: Happy Endings, Nonna's Gelato, Black Milq, La Grotta Ices, Mamasons, Poco Gelato.
We are lucky to have the support of friends and those in the industry who work to get these events off the ground. In 2019 we were lucky to meet Fraser Hamilton started working for CT on a part time basis, Sophie Godwin also regularly writes for the newsletter. Most recently Nicola Lamb jumped on board to help set up support and services through the start of the Covid-19 announcements. "
Countertalk has worked to support employees and employers through COVID-19 by updating a daily blog on workers & business rights.
We have personally responded to employees who have been laid off unfairly by offering support on their rights and connecting them to people who can help.
We also started up a freelance list for people in the industry who are looking for work. We have opened this up as a free service for any employers who need temp staff during this time.
Countertalk moving forward:
"The website was initially funded on my chefs salary, over the past year we have been able to accrue the funds back through paid advertisements on the website. Since the hospitality industry seized most formal advertising in May our income has stopped. The website is costly to run on a month to month basis so we are figuring out new ways to keep this service running."
We hope that we can offer support to anyone in the industry who needs it. We are looking forward to returning back to running fun events for you all & getting you in to those great roles!