Adelaide restaurant, A Prayer for the Wild at Heart, embarks on its second year of trading with an ethos built around professional development.
The Adelaide restaurant with apprentices close to its wild heart
In December, A Prayer for the Wild at Heart, the sophisticated older sister of Wright Street café My Kingdom for a Horse, celebrated its first birthday.
The restaurant is a passion project for owner Emily Raven, who says opening the business was a result of Covid times, getting involved with the SA training awards and volunteering for the SA Skills Council in VET training.
“If you’re a good hospitality operator, you’re not really driven by money anyway, it’s not easy to make money in our industry,” Emily says.
“The real passion I have is working with people and working to people’s strengths… trying to get people into enduring hospitality careers.”
Narungga woman and chef Louisa Wilson has stayed on with Wild at Heart after completing her apprenticeship and this year has her own Tasting Australia event.
The event is a four-course dinner incorporating the bush foods of the Yorke Peninsula, using Louisa’s classical French training.
Emily says events like this are a great opportunity to enrich and educate their staff, which is one of their priorities as a business that values training and collaboration.
A Prayer for the Wild at Heart currently employs nine trainees and apprentices across front of house and kitchen.
Emily says when working with young apprentices, they are taught work-life balance and mindset as well as the fundamentals of cooking.
“Training and professional cookery teaches a lot of really interesting life skills,” she says.
“You are taught to ask questions, to be really resilient, and to be accountable for what you do. You’re learning your time management, your fitness skills, your motor skills improve dramatically, it’s a very active role, not just for you physically but for your mind as well.”
The hospitality industry faces challenges due to a casualised workforce, erratic working hours, easy access to drugs and alcohol and a work culture that looks the other way on issues of harassment.
These experiences, coupled with the burnout that results, can see chefs and front-of-house staff leave their jobs, leaving venues short-handed.
Emily believes despite these legacy issues in hospitality, with good communication and having the right people in leadership roles a healthy workplace culture can be fostered in the restaurant.
“It just seems to be always in the back of people’s minds that if you work for a restaurant, you’re going to be ripped off, you’re going to be poorly paid, you’re going to work too many hours – all that sort of stuff,” she says.
“But if you actually work in a business where we’re really teaching a passion for food and a passion for what the spirit of hospitality is about, which is pleasing customers, then there’s no reason for you to hate what you do, or to burn out.”
Emily has researched the reasons for high attrition rates among chefs as part of her Master’s studies. While the answer is multi-pronged, she strives to engage younger chefs, stimulating, challenging and encouraging them to complete their apprenticeship and stay in the industry.
“I currently sit on the Industry Skills Council, and we are looking at potentially hoping to change the length of time for the contract of training so that we can get more completions, because for young kids four years is a really long time.”
“You’re going through the most tumultuous period in your life when you’re 16/17. You’re an adolescent, suddenly you’re doing an adult job, you’ve been tricked, and it comes with adult responsibilities.”
Head chef Stéphane Brizard, who trained in France and has worked in hospitality for 30 years, believes the right mindset in the kitchen is reflected in the food and the customer experience.
Emily says it is unusual to find chefs like Stéphane still wanting to cook at his level, and that it’s important to have a leader like him that’s willing to mentor and share his experience.
Stéphane says being resilient, curious, and passionate are qualities needed to enjoy your career in professional cookery.
While apprentices usually start in the sister café, My Kingdom for a Horse, when they have foundational skills and are in their second year they get to work with Stéphane in Prayer for the Wild at Heart to do “the fun stuff”.
“The business model here is we cook everything fresh,” Stéphane says.
“We’re working with biodynamic farms and suppliers so it’s a lot of fresh produce which is very interesting for young people to experience.”
A Prayer for the Wild at Heart is located at 44 Hurtle Square and running multiple events through Tasting Australia that you can find on their website.