Our members come in all shapes and sizes, from different backgrounds and with often very different career journeys. Sam Chapman AIH, CEO and co-founder of Eate has recently joined IoH as an AIH. We decided to ask him about his journey so far and how it led to becoming a member of the Institute. Over to you Sam…
Hospitality has been a part of my life for most of my formative years. Like many who fall in love with the art of cuisine, I started working in kitchens from a young age. I was fourteen when I managed to get my first taste of the hospitality industry – a weekend job as a kitchen porter – helping out in a small, intimate restaurant run by a local Japanese family serving traditional Sushi and Izakaya… Service was always intense. The high-octane environment meant raised heartbeats and raised voices – the harsh words (mainly in Japanese) did nothing to shake the camaraderie of the chefs, who never failed to produce delicious, beautifully presented cuisine every night. After spending several months of sidelong glances, watching and learning from the chefs as I washed pots and pans, it became clear to me that I wanted to do what they did. I got my lucky break just before my 15th birthday when one of the sushi chefs left. My interest hadn’t gone unnoticed by the owner and head chef, and I was delighted to be asked to become a trainee chef. I spent five happy years there, learning the prestigious art of sushi and working my way up to sous chef by the age of 18… alongside colleagues who became a second family.
During my last year there, I decided to expand my knowledge by attending culinary school. This was an incredibly valuable period of my life – the connections I made there continue to impact my career to this day; it was at culinary school where I met Dean, co-founder of Eate and one of my closest friends. My time there allowed me to work with countless talented and experienced professionals including Michelin-level chefs, opening my eyes to the demanding and complex world of fine dining, as well as giving me a newfound respect for those at the highest level of the craft.
After leaving culinary school, I teamed up with Dean to host multiple pop ups, as well as a few ticketed fine dining events… The sheer excitement of one-off showcase events gives the type of adrenaline rush that you don’t find in most professions. I think it was during this time that I realised my life would be intertwined with hospitality for the rest of my days.
A year or so later, part way through a Philosophy Degree, I decided to found Eate Collective; a networking group for chefs, producers, and passionate members of the food industry to collaborate, share ideas and put on events together. The popularity of the Collective spawned my desire to work on it full time and I decided to take a year out of university to pursue Eate, alongside Mike, my friend and Eate’s third co-founder.
A few months in we spotted a trend in the conversations we had with members of the collective; a frustration with all of the paperwork that comes with being a chef. Everyone agreed they hated paperwork and the hours wasted. And so, the idea for Leafe was born, and the pivot in focus from the collective to a new, more technology-centric business. With the expertise of Najim, software engineer and the fourth Eate co-founder, in a matter of months we were able to manifest our ideas for Leafe into tangible existence.
I’m proud to say, in the short time that Leafe has been available, we have managed to accumulate some exciting clients, including pilot tests going on in both the Accor group’s Sofitel brand, and the Exclusive Hotels group.
I cannot wait to see where our team and our users take Leafe and I’m looking forward to seeing some real change brought about by tech in our industry.
Which brings up to present day! I’ve recently joined the Institute of Hospitality and consider it to be the most significant step in my career recently… I see it as a personal milestone that validates a lot of the love and energy that I have poured into this industry for so long.
I am very proud to have been granted membership to the IoH at my young age, and grateful of the IoH’s willingness to incorporate a diverse array of insights and backgrounds into their organisation. It is also incredibly exciting to join the Institute as a primarily technology-focused member of the industry, although my roots lie in the more traditional areas of the space.
I hope that my experience in the technology and software world will help to contribute to the vast pool of industry expertise of the Institute and its members. For me, it feels like I have been a part of the hospitality world for a lifetime. In reality, however, my story is only just beginning. And with the huge reserves of industry knowledge and resources that the IoH provides, the next chapters are going to be the most thrilling.