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Chef shortage: industry ‘still suffering’ from chronic lack of kitchen staff

By Daniel Woolfson , 10-Jun-2016
Last updated on 10-Jun-2016 at 10:08 GMT2016-06-10T10:08:35Z

Piotrowski: national living wage is 'biggest' challenge for food businesses this year
Piotrowski: national living wage is 'biggest' challenge for food businesses this year

Pubs are finding it harder to recruit skilled chefs despite significant positive action by large segments of the trade during the past year, a leading pub chef has warned.

The explosion of restaurant and food-led pub openings in recent times has made it impossible to fill the demand for chefs, Anton Piotrowski, owner of the Treby Arms in Devon, told the Publican's Morning Advertiser.

He said: "I don't think the industry's ever thrived with a massive amount of chefs and it's still really hard. The industry is really suffering. The problem is there are a mass amount of restaurants – chains and non-chains – that have really hit us. To even fill that demand is impossible anyway.

"It's just going to take its time until people realise that there's no money in this industry unless you actually really love it and you're here for the long haul."

Quality and provenance

An increasing amount of operators placing value on quality, provenance and progression in the food world means it is even harder to find staff not just with the desire to work in the industry but with the drive to dedicate themselves to skilled cooking, he added.

"The way people are evolving their food now, growing vegetables, having their own animals, it takes a lot of work. Looking after that process, buying our own fish every day – we don't phone up a supplier, we hand pick everything – you need people that can understand that."

While the industry was taking positive steps to get more chefs into the trade, help from outside was still needed, he said.

"People have got on board and the apprenticeship schemes are starting to take off a little bit but there is no backing for people to help you.

"I take a lot of my time with apprenticeships and I think, if they were to go to college, they’d probably get funded £15,000 for doing that. We would not get any of that funding if we trained them in-house."

Government help

There were also worries around the how the recently introduced national living wage for workers over the age of 25 would affect operators, Piotrowski said.

"It's the biggest thing this year that's going to affect a lot of businesses. In London, it may be a bit different but for all the counties that aren't as rich or aren't as wealthy, that will make a massive difference. We definitely need more help from the Government."

As well as changing the perception of pub chefs, it was important to change how the public viewed front-of-house workers, he added.

"I hope, by the time I hang up my stuff in the kitchen, that the front of house will be seen in this industry as an actual career, rather than them being looked down on as 'only waiters or waitresses' – that really annoys me.

"It's a skill and it makes a massive difference to customers."

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