NRAEF : Blog

Why Young Black Chefs Need Mentors

by | Feb 18, 2020 | Blog Post


Everyone grows up yearning for someone to look up to—someone to ask questions and learn from. This is especially true within the food and beverage industry where most young professionals strive to find a mentor. Standing in the kitchen with an expert and seeing first-hand cooking techniques is beneficial and crucial when it comes to success. Last month, we celebrated National Mentorship Month and the NRAEF programs that offer built-in ways for its participants to benefit from mentorship.

In continuation of this, as we begin to celebrate Black History Month and the achievements of black restaurant professionals around the country, we want to shed light on the importance of young black chefs having mentors.



A great way to advance and improve upon your skills is to seek out a mentor who can help you out along the way. As we work to create a more diverse and inclusive industry, mentors play a vital role in fostering our young chefs’ talents and teaching them the ropes along the way. According to a 2018 study from the National Restaurant Association, young food and beverage professionals are eager for mentorship. The study states that 40% of millennials and Gen Z employees view mentors as an asset for career development, citing both improved confidence and skills as benefits.

Long story short, more and more restaurant workers are looking towards seasoned professionals to teach them the ropes and advance their skills.


While having a mentor is important, having a mentor they can relate to and makes them feel seen is just as crucial for our young chefs. Throughout the years, the NRAEF has worked to create a more diverse industry, however, there is still more work to be done. Chefs’ early experiences shape what they imagine to be possible. If they cannot learn from or see a chef that resembles them, how will they know they can advance and succeed in this industry? Simply put, we determine who we can be by what we see in others around us.

Here is a list of black chefs changing the restaurant industry.


Throughout the years, American food has been irrevocably changed by the hands of black cooks. Historically, black chefs have not always received the spotlight they deserved as their cooking styles, techniques, and recipes have influenced food around the country. Mentorship is just another way for young black chefs to learn the history behind food, as well as celebrate a shared culture. As recipes are shared and techniques are learned through mentorship, chefs can pass along a piece of history to the next generation.

Mentorship is crucial for all chefs in the restaurant industry. Having a mentor instills confidence and allows young chefs to build an arsenal of cooking skills and techniques. However, as we work to create a more diverse industry, it is imperative that we create a space for young black chefs to find and have mentors, not only to learn, but to find representation and share culture as well.


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PODCAST – ProStart: Educating Tomorrow’s Industry Leaders

Chef Patrick Phelan, 2023 ProStart® Teacher of the Year, shares insights on mentoring the next generation of restaurant workers and the value of the ProStart Program’s hands-on curriculum! Phelan was just recognized on-stage during the 2023 National ProStart Invitational in Washington, DC.