Join the pub brigade

Chef recruitment may be a thorn in the sector's side, but the industry is striving for change

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

Chef recruitment may be a thorn in the sector's side, but the industry is striving for change

Related tags Chef Eating Michelin Uk

The eating-out sector has fared enormously well since the end of the recession. In pubs, we’ve seen a food renaissance, with chefs across the industry pushing the boundaries of casual dining and a number of sites gaining coveted Michelin stars. 

It’s now widely accepted that you can eat as high a quality of food in certain pubs as you can in some of the best restaurants. I've eaten countless meals over the last two years that stand as testament to this.

So why are pub kitchens finding it so difficult to hire and retain skilled people?

The explosion of the UK food scene has also been a double-edged sword – the transformation of countless pubs across the country into food-led establishments has led to a spike in demand for skilled pub chefs where traditionally wet-led operators could previously have relied on booze for profits.

There is also arguably a fair amount of public prejudice against pub chefs – all too often I’ve heard it described as a transitory job, something for a young person to do whilst they work out what they ‘really want to do with their life’.

In fact, it’s a challenging and massively rewarding job – young chefs should be revered for their dedication to food, because as any experienced head chef will tell you: if you don’t have the passion, you won’t survive in the kitchen.

Needless to say, there is still work to be done on some fronts with giving potential pub chefs a viable, structured career path.

Paying chefs more than the low pay they typically receive is also sadly difficult for many operators, bar a select few (although this minority have in many cases reaped the benefits of doing so when it comes to retention and staff morale).

Speaking from experience (as an ex-chef), high-stress shifts during unsociable hours on £6.20 an hour are not exactly what you could call an enticing prospect.

But it’s not all doom, gloom and grease traps.

What’s struck me the most over the last few weeks, having spoken to countless head chefs, development chefs, food directors and industry figures, is that despite these issues the industry is striving for change.

There are fantastic initiatives at work shifting public perceptions, companies taking a personal and nurturing approach to recruitment and training and individual operators taking risks, investing in people in the face of financial and logistical challenges – all in the name of great pub grub.

So enjoy the Publican's Morning Advertiser's ​chef recruitment digital feature - we've got crucial analysis, expert insight and video interviews with some of the top figues in pub food to come over the next week.

Go on, get involved and #jointhepubbrigade

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