CATERING IS ONE of the few remaining industries that you can enter with little or no experience and - if you have the right personality, grit and determination - rise all the way to the top. 'You can start as a busboy, be promoted to waiter and continue up the ladder until you manage the place. You should use it as a stepping stone to maybe one day opening your own restaurant,' SoHo SoHo manager Michelle Reid-Butcher said. Edwin Leung, head of the Department of Hotel, Service and Tourism Studies at the Institute of Vocational Education's (IVE) Haking Wong campus, said fresh graduates with a diploma or higher diploma from the IVE could start as trainees waiting on tables or helping in the kitchen with salaries of about $6,000 per month. Salaries for English-speaking waiters and bartenders at western-oriented establishments can range from $7,000 to $9,000 plus tips, which run as high as $4,000 a month if you are at an upscale establishment. Those with experience can earn as much as $10,000 plus tips. From there you can work your way up through the ranks to supervisor, duty manager, assistant manager and manager. Jamie Higgins, general manager for the 97 Group, said: 'People meeting all the criteria we're looking for can move from a waiter to a manager in about three years.' He said that an outlet manager would earn between $25,000 and $30,000 a month. Salaries for those working in the kitchen are similar, with head chefs earning as much as $30,000. According to an IVE survey, most restaurant owners prefer to hire staff with training from IVE, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Caritas or one of the other post-secondary institutions offering instruction in catering or related fields. But many restaurateurs maintain that the right personality, fluency in English, a knowledge of wine and a willingness to work hard and learn on the job are sometimes all it takes. Noel Smyth is proof that those with talent and drive can rise to the top in the catering field. Arriving in Hong Kong 10 years ago on a one-year contract as head bartender, he is now managing director of Delaney's Development and a shareholder in the firm. 'The career prospects are excellent. We prefer to promote from within, than hire staff from outside,' he said.