Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or just don’t do social media, you may have noticed an article doing the rounds. The piece in question is: “Chef crisis: top restaurants struggle to find reliable chefs” by food writer Felicity Spector.

Why this particular article has re-surfaced two years after publication is a mystery, but one thing is patently obvious, nothing has really changed, in spite of the writing being on the wall for years prior to Spector latching on to the subject.

To para-phrase a tweet by Sat Bains from a number of years ago; ‘How about we stop opening restaurants and consolidate what few chefs we have‘. But no, the hospitality industry, & chefs in particular, are obsessed with crowd funding restaurant openings. Maybe one of the factors as to why the normal institutions won’t fund new openings, is because they probably know the state of the labour market, & the cost of using a recuiter.

Now speaking of recruiters, Michel Roux Jnr wants to tar us all with the same brush, and blames us for the shortage (Source):

Young English chefs no longer knock on a door, begging for a job, saying I’ll work for a day free. They go to an agency, which six months later says, ‘Do you fancy moving here, for £100 a month more?’ Agencies are fuelling this crisis.

So not high profile chefs working their staff excessively, or not paying them the legal minimum wage then Michel?

Then there are the chefs who probably describe themselves as ‘Old school’. They boast about doing 90 hours a week & wear it like a badge of honour. More over, when you point out to them how wrong it is & that they are bad man-managers who can’t delegate or lead a team, it becomes everybody else’s fault (including us recruiters, apparently).

The long & short of the chef shortage is this:

  • The industry is so badly represented in the media, that reality & the media version are the equivalent of saying that everybody in Essex is fairly represented by TOWIE.
  • Old school mentalities still exist, see this image shared on social media by Wolfgang Puck’s Exec chef work more bitch less
  • Employers need to be more empathetic to employee’s work/life balance.
  • There needs to be a level of education to the public at large, as to the actual cost of genuine, real, nurtured food – which has not only a nutritional benefit, but an economic & ecological one as well.
  • The education system for chefs & front of house needs a radical overhaul. In the 80’s the C&G 706 qualification was great. All the peers in the industry were French orientated restaurants; now the restaurant scene in the UK reflects our society – We have Michelin starred Indian, Chinese & Japanese eateries. NVQ isnt fit for purpose, basic skills are skipped & these are the fundamentals which are needed.
  • Students coming into the industry need to be fully informed as to what is expected of them. Commis chefs just out of college aren’t going to be writing menus, making operational decisions, in fact rarely making any decisions at all. There will be hard & stressful times, coupled with long hours. This, unfortunately, are part of the demands of a 24/7 society.

In conclusion there is no magic wand or silver bullet, and it will require a massive effort by everybody connected with the industry. The BHA, self anointed leaders of the hospitality industry, want to cut VAT for hospitality to create more jobs. Just think about that for a minute, we struggle to fill the vacancies in the industry at the moment, yet industry leaders want to create more?!?

Don’t wait for some initiative to be launched by The Caterer or Restaurant magazine, do your own bit. Make your own kitchen a place which will attract staff, and retain them for a long time to come.

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