The hospitality industry often gets a bad rap as being harsh and without rewards – but this isn’t always the case.
Hospitality runs in Grace Chung’s blood.
“My Dad has a restaurant back home, in Mauritius,” she explained, “I worked with him since I was 12 years old, always helping out.”
The family business fuelled her passion for all things food-related.
“I always loved food, I always loved eating and trying new food,” she said.
So in 2010, at just 19, she made the transition from the “really small island” to the big smoke, taking up residence in Melbourne and enrolling in a Bachelor of Hospitality Management at William Angliss Institute.
All while she was still completing her bachelor’s degree.
Her abilities and hard work earned her a spot at another big-name restaurant as head host and events coordinator, an important role in the overall restaurant structure.
“You’re the first point of contact with the guests, so obviously you have to be on top of everything and know what’s going on every single service,”Chung explained.
Meanwhile, her studies continued. The basics of hospitality – events, communication, legal risks, food and beverages – were all compulsory parts of Chung’s degree. She doesn’t think she would have made it so far without the backup of her studies, which have “helped [her] a lot in the real world.”
Cary Warren, manager of the Centre for Tourism and Hospitality at William Angliss Institute, said the organisation’s focus was on preparing students for their careers by teaching them vital skills.
“We ensure our students are equipped with current industry standard skills. Professionalism is very important and good client focus is crucial to work successfully in the hospitality industry. Our courses are also focused on providing our students with customer service skills, business management skills, leadership and people management expertise,” he said.
He added that Chung was a “model hospitality student.”
“Grace was dedicated and her hard work and passion has translated into a successful career.”
But Chung isn’t done yet. With her schooling now complete, the 24 year old is now venturing into the world of restaurant ownership with her partner, a former restaurant manager who recently bought a cafe in Hampton which they plan to shape into the latest, hippest offering in the bustling Hampton dining strip.
“It is not where we want it to be yet, we still have heaps of work to do. We’re going to…build it together,” she gushed, “it’s in progress…it’s very exciting!”
She readily admits knowing that it won’t be an easy task, but is practical about how she and her partner will achieve their dream.
“It won’t happen overnight…it takes a lot of time, trial and error,” she said, “The hospitality industry in Melbourne is really competitive, you have to find a way to differ[entiate] yourself and know exactly where you’re heading and what sort of customers you want.
“And if it works, then you keep going and you think, how can you make it better everyday? If you have a bad day, just think how you’re going to make it better tomorrow.
“That’s what my motto is!” she laughed.
Based on her experience so far, and her work with lots of “professional people”, Chung believes she knows what the secret to success in the crowded Melbourne hospitality industry is.
“You have to be really passionate, be ready to work from the bottom and then work your way up,” she said.
There are sacrifices though, such as having to work while friends are out socialising, and the long hours and “difficult” customers can be daunting. But in spite of this, Chung loves her work and is looking forward to building her own café with her partner over the next few years. For her, the best part of her work is making sure customers are satisfied.
“ [I love] the feeling that you made someone’s night,” she beamed.