Michelin-star Yummy Brummie, Glynn Purnell, is targeting the Love Island generation in a new campaign to find talented young chefs of the future and give the food industry an added dash of ‘celebrity cool’
Rock ‘n’ Roll. That’s what we need more of, says Glynn Purnell with an extra note of enthusiasm in his voice. Not that he’s thinking of slicking back his hair, donning those blue suede shoes and picking up a Fender. We mean, come on, he’s got enough on his plate as chef, restaurateur, children’s book author – and now a leading light in a new initiative in the Midlands to uncover the next generation of great chefs. Today’s Glynn searching for tomorrow’s Glynn, you could say!
But to be successful, the Michelin-starred Yummy Brummie believes it’s vital to speak the same language as a new generation and push their motivational buttons to inspire them to want to go into the food industry as a career choice, rather than as an after-thought. And to do that Glynn is convinced the image of working in a pro kitchen needs tweaking.
“We’re talking to the Love Island and computer gaming generation,” he said. That means they want to be excited, challenged and work in a business that is perceived to have a big helping of ‘celebrity cool.’ Glynn adds: “Of course working in this industry is hard, but so is every job. The problem is we don’t sell the hospitality industry very well to young people. We tend to bang on about the hard graft and working all hours and having no life outside the kitchen.
FISHING IN NORWAY
“Well, I’ve been in the business for 32 years now, left school with no qualifications, and it’s been fantastic. I have a great life, great family and have been to some amazing places around the world – like fishing in Norway and seeing the Black Mountains of Morocco. For goodness sake, I’ve even met the Queen – and Paul McCartney. How cool is that! We need to show youngsters what you can achieve with commitment and motivation and give the business some real rock and roll. It’s not a case of being a bottle washer in a kitchen for life!”
Glynn is teaming up with fellow high-profile chefs Aktar Islam of Opheem and Alex Claridge of The Wilderness as key members of a new working group launched with West Midlands mayor Andy Street and University College Birmingham to tackle the jobs and skills shortages facing the hospitality sector and encourage youngsters to come into the business.
Glynn said: “We are going to be getting youngsters to come to our restaurants, look around and explore, talk to all the staff. Go into the kitchens and see what a restaurant really does. Get them to see what happens front of house because that is another very important, exciting and different side to the industry.”
While all businesses have suffered in the pandemic, the impact of lengthy lockdowns on hospitality has been particularly brutal. During that period, Purnell’s produced home meal boxes to keep things ticking over. In ‘normal’ times, Glynn would be busy at his restaurant but also touring the country attending food festivals and making appearances on TV cookery shows such as BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. The shows and TV dried up with the pandemic – his appearance at last month’s Solihull Food Festival was only his second event in 18 months. Glynn will be making his ‘comeback’ as a guest on Saturday Kitchen this month. “I really missed all the festivals and it was really hard to have to sacrifice them.”
He adds that the pandemic presented other opportunities though. “We did the food boxes from the restaurant and I had time to look at lots of ideas for menus. I was also a volunteer delivering NHS prescriptions for 15 weeks to people on what was my old paper round as a kid.”
He also recently released his second children’s book, Arnold the Alpaca, following the success of The Magical Adventures of Whoops the Wonder Dog, published in 2018. Arnold the Alpaca is aimed at primary school aged children and tells the story of a brave alpaca who mistakenly gets chosen by shorted-sighted farmer for his sheep farm. Arnold has to learn how to fit in with the rest of the flock at the farm by using his differences to his advantage.
Glynn says it was hugely enjoyable process to write his second children’s book. “I still remember the vivid images from the magical worlds of my favourite authors when I was younger. Having three children of my own, aged between 10 and 16, I have learned what enthralls and engages children. I got very involved in Arnold’s adventures even though I was writing them!”
Glynn started penning the book in March 2019 after being inspired by watching a short film on Saturday Kitchen about a turkey farm in Berkshire which had a herd of 10 alpacas protecting 24,000 free range turkeys from being attacked by foxes.
Back at his restaurant, Glynn says bookings and life is returning to normal. “People want to mix and meet and go out for meals together, so we are seeing things picking up.” His concern is what happens once the initial surge to eat out again passes. “It’s where we are come January and February. I would ask people who want to spend money to support the independents – because unlike the big chains, once the independents have gone, they’re gone for good.”
Glynn says he is excited about the prospect of finding and developing new young stars for the future as part of the mayor’s scheme. “I can tell you for sure there are definite opportunities for young people to come and work at Purnell’s with new sites planned to open.” He revealed he is aiming to open a pub in Henley-in-Arden in February.
“I want to help people create a good life of their own. If I can do it, they can do it,” he says.