IT was one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic as lockdown forced the closure of hospitality and the loss of livelihoods.

The crippling impact of lockdown and restrictions on just how and when restaurants and bars could reopen, saw the the sector constantly having to adapt.

And despite the struggle of the past 15 months, Scotland's own Masterchef Gary Maclean believes there has never been a better time to enter the hospitality industry.

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The winner of the BBC's Masterchef the Professionals in 2016 and senior chef lecturer at City of Glasgow College is due to deliver the Trades House of Glasgow annual lecture this evening. It is the first time the college has been involved in the prestigious event run by an organisation whose history dates back to 1605 - established to help protect and support the Crafts people of the Glasgow.

"I think this is the best time ever to into hospitality. In the 35 years I have been in hospitality I think now is the time," Mr Maclean said. "I think there is a real appreciation of the skill, time, energy and effort that goes in to producing good food.

"The general public have more of an awareness as they have all tried it. This time last year people were buying lobsters an scallops and were trying to recreate at home. People took comfort in food whilst all the restaurants and hotels were closed and they did give it a go. I also think there is a massive shortage of people for the industry. Some people who were career chefs since they left college have found themselves having to look into other industries after lockdown. The reality is a lot of the hospitality industry don't look after their staff very well. There are certain aspects the 45 hour contracts, working 60/70 hours a week. A lot of that has gone, I'm glad to say. However what that does mean is the customer is no longer being subsidised by the staff. The customer is now having to pay the real value for what they are getting so the three course meals for £18 will be gone.

"Anyone coming through into the industry is coming into a better industry than we left. It is a tough industry but I think what has happened with a lot of businesses they are pulling back their offer, what they offer is smaller. And I think we do need to offer more money and a better work/life balance. My generation accepted that's how it was with long hours, but I think young people know there is a bigger world out there and opportunities."

Education has remained a passion for Mr Maclean

Education has remained a passion for Mr Maclean

Mr Maclean, 47, Scotland's very first national chef, became a full-time lecturer in 2010, having gone from a career which saw him open 80 restaurants and managed 600 staff. And despite winning the TV contest which could have seen him change course, education remains his passion.

He added: "I have reached peaks in many different areas of my career, but throughout all of that the college has been an integral part of that almost through every stage of my life, including my personal life as I met my wife in my first class in college."

Five years on from winning Masterchef it has brought back memories for Mr Maclean who during lockdown delivered virtual cookery classes to a US audience of 2,500 and a virtual lecture to 1000 students in Asia.

"This time five years ago I would have been competing in Masterchef," he added. "Before I went on I remember asking my lecturing pals to make up surprise baskets for the skills test. When it aired students would come in the next day having seen some chefs not able to fillet a fish in the skills test, and I knew mine was yet to come.

"We finished filming on the Friday and on the Monday I was back teaching in college and having to get back to normal. For me I used it as a way to put education on the map."

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During lockdown Mr Maclean recorded demonstrations from his home kitchen which were filmed by his daughter Laura who did an HND in TV and film at City of Glasgow College with his younger sons looking on.

"I think if any of my children are going to follow in my footsteps it will be seven-year-old Harris who is been helping and showing an interest."

On delivering the Trades House lecture, Mr Maclean hopes it will be an inspirational talk for young people in Glasgow and open up the world of hospitality.

"Chefs aren't just in restaurants and hotels or doing the stereotypical Gordon Ramsay image of a chef. Your career as a chef can change over many years," he added.

Gary Maclean has been delivering online demonstrations from his home kitchen

Gary Maclean has been delivering online demonstrations from his home kitchen

Ken Dalgleish, Deacon Convener of Trades House, said they were delighted the lecture was being held virtually.

Mr Dalgleish said: "We are delighted to be able to host the Trades House of Glasgow Annual Lecture this year despite the restrictions we are all living with. It is also my great pleasure to welcome City of Glasgow College as our partner for the first time. The links between the two organisations are based on education and skills and I am sure that Gary Maclean will provide an informative and entertaining lecture."