Sara Jayne Stanes OBE is Chief Executive of The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, which aims to advance the education of people in the United Kingdom in the science and art of cookery, food, food provenance and service. Earlier this week we talked hospitality with Sara Jayne.
How did you start in hospitality?
“My formative career years were spent working as a producer of TV commercials and documentaries and one such production led me to hospitality. One of my first most memorable culinary encounters was meeting Raymond Blanc when he had his first restaurant, ‘Les Quat’ Saisons’ in Summertown, Oxford. A few months later Raymond took me to see what would become Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. Along with many others at the time, Raymond’s overwhelming passion for hospitality fired up my own love for our incredible and rewarding industry. Subsequently I met and was further deeply inspired by Nico Ladenis, Michel and Albert Roux, Richard Shepherd, Brian Turner and Michel Bourdin (to name but a few culinary stars of the time).
“I was asked by Michel Roux and Richard Shepherd in 1986/7 to manage a culinary project which was the first Meilleur Ouvderier de Grande Bretagne (now the Master of Culinary Arts) for the then l’Academie Culinaire de France (UK) (now The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts) – when all things French were de rigueur. A few ad hoc projects followed and very quickly became all consuming. It has been an amazing journey and I have enjoyed the privilege of meeting many extraordinary people along the way, both chefs and restaurant managers and many other leading hospitality stars, too many to mention.
The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts is recognised by most in our industry today, what were the milestones to achieving this?
“There have been many milestones in the journey so far. The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts was established in 1980 as part of the Académie Culinaire de France, whose origins go back as far as 1883.
“The Académie Culinaire de France Filiale de Grande Bretagne was launched at The Connaught on 6th December 1980, with Michel Bourdin as founder president and Albert Roux OBE as vice president. The early days of the British Académie were made possible by immense support from Moët & Chandon and its CEO Patrick Forbes.
“Receiving the Patronage from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales in 1999 and the Royal title from Her Majesty The Queen in 2013 were both huge honours and have helped with to be further recognised as Britain’s leading professional association of head chefs, pastry chefs, restaurant managers and quality suppliers.
“As an industry however we have still not achieved ‘The Golden Egg’ so our work is ongoing.
What do you mean by ‘The Golden Egg’?
“We look to secure the future of the hospitality industry through the education and training of young people and the provision of career opportunities. At the heart and soul of the RACA lies the apprenticeship programmes as well as the Annual Awards of Excellence and the Master of Culinary Arts which tests senior chefs, pastry chefs and front of house personnel to the limits of their extensive knowledge and skills.
“We also run Adopt a School, a national charity that was founded in 1990 incorporating both Chefs Adopt a School and Hospitality in Schools.
“Our vision is that every child learns about food in a holistic sense and has the confidence to eat well, be healthy and happy. Our programme helps children to develop healthy eating habits and encourages an enthusiasm and interest in food, cooking, food provenance and sustainability, as well as giving an insight into the hospitality industry.
“Chefs and front of house hospitality professionals deliver our high quality food education programme in primary schools across the country. We have devised a course of one session per term delivered to the same year group. The lessons are designed to teach children the basics of food and cookery without the need for cooking facilities, which most primary schools lack. All that is required is a classroom.
“As an industry hospitality needs to have a justifiably positive position in every school curriculum across the country, showing young people that a career in hospitality is a worthy and rewarding one. That for me is ‘The Golden Egg’.
What are the hospitality industry issues in 2020 for you?
“As one of the largest industries in the UK it can be said that we deserve more recognition from the Government especially the Department of Education. Apprenticeships and T Levels are a mess designed by people who evidently don’t understand our industry and its diversity.
“Sustainability in hospitality has been at the forefront of The Royal Academy of Culinary Arts’ agenda for at least 10 years. The industry is moving towards being more sustainable, and needs to continue moving in this direction.
“Waste and recycling are part of sustainability and needs to become a central part of our industry. We have the opportunity to be champions of best practice in waste and recycling, and we should act to become that champion.
My fellow Trustees of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts are David Coubrough, Willy Bauer OBE, Frederick Mostert, Albert Roux OBE, Richard Shepherd CBE, Brian Turner CBE, John W Valentine, John Williams MBE.
Adopt a School: David Coubrough, Amanda Afiya, Myles Bremner, Richard Dunne, Richard Shepherd CBE, Brian Turner CBE, John Williams MBE (and me).
I would like to add that the achievements of the Academy could not have happened without a strong team behind me and I am ever mindful and grateful for that.
You are also founder of The Academy of Chocolate; can you tell us a little bit about that?
“My love of ‘real’ chocolate was inspired by a chance meeting with Michel Roux in 1984 when he gave a demonstration, that included a chocolate truffe gateau, at La Petite Cuisine in Richmond. My world of chocolate was turned on its head. Confectionery was out and ‘real’ chocolate was in. It led me to run a small business making chocolate truffles and writing a couple of books. The Academy of Chocolate 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. The Academy campaigns for better chocolate and to promote a greater awareness of the difference between fine chocolate and the mass-produced chocolate confectionery which most of us eat.
“Academy members meet to taste, discuss, demonstrate and debate issues regarding sourcing, transparency and the journey from bean to bar. Members of the public and chocolate lovers are welcome to attend.
“We define fine chocolate as: Containing no vegetable fat other than cocoa butter. With a minimum cocoa content of: Dark 60%; Milk 30%; White 30% (cocoa butter) and where the quality, provenance and treatment of the cocoa beans have been considered. Containing no artificial additives such as vanillin, flavourings, colourings, preservatives, etc.
“Members of the Academy are committed to ethically sourced chocolate.
“In 2006, we also launched the prestigious Academy of Chocolate awards to identify, recognise and showcase the world’s most talented chocolate producers and finest filled chocolates and bean to bar.
“Since then, the awards have gone from strength to strength – mirroring the growth of the fine chocolate market. In its inaugural year, there were 12 entries. By 2019, that figure had grown to over 1,600 submissions from more than 45 countries.
Sara has written a selection of books, including: ‘Chocolate the Definitive Guide’ published by Grub Street in October 1999 and revised in 2005, and ‘Chocolate – Discovering – Exploring – Enjoying’ published by Ryland Peters & Small 2005.
Last and certainly not least, you are a trustee of The Gold Service Scholarship, what is The Gold Service Scholarship and what does it do?
“The Gold Service Scholarship is an independent body inspired by Willy Bauer and chaired by Alastair Storey and run solely by its trustees. It exists to encourage, educate and nurture the UK’s finest Front of House Talent and to put front of house at the forefront of hospitality.
“Launched in 2012 as one of the UK’s most prestigious Front of House awards, it offers the opportunity for an aspiring individual to hone their craft through mentoring, travel and placement opportunities provided by the industry’s most senior service professionals.
“Building upon a firm heritage of UK excellence in service, the award drives to exceed the standards in the thriving hospitality sector. With an increasing international reputation, the award continues to receive tremendous industry support. By employing our combined experience and support, we embrace the finest, early career stage potential, creating a community of scholars, driven towards the brightest possible future.
“My fellow trustees are Alastair Storey OBE – Chairman, Willy Bauer OBE – Founder, Edward Griffiths CVO – Chairman of the Competitions Group, John Davey – Trustee, Silvano Giraldin MdL – Trustee, Thomas Kochs – Trustee, Sergio Rebecchi MdL – Trustee, and David Battersby OBE – Secretariat.
Sara lives in Clapham South-West London with Richard, her wine merchant husband, and their Battersea dog Montezuma.
The conversation went on far longer than five minutes and I found it hugely insightful and hugely enjoyable, in many ways.
Many use the term ‘passion’ and ‘love’ when talking about hospitality, Sara exudes both. Having done so much for our great industry over many years, I think we all that have the privilege of being part of it, owe Sara a huge debt of gratitude for what she has achieved, making our industry an even better one.
So, I would like to say thank you to Sara Jayne Stanes OBE for making time for our very enjoyable conversation.