Chris Moore, chief executive of the Clink Charity, which trains prisoners to become chefs and front of house staff, said the industry should look to those in society who are at a disadvantage and often overlooked when searching for potential candidates.
He said: “It’s not just about training prisoners, it’s about changing public perception and educating potential employers that ex-offenders can be an asset to their businesses.
“I’ve worked for the Clink Charity for five years now and in that time we’ve expanded our prisoner training schemes from one restaurant to four, along with two prison horticulture projects and an event catering service - this allows us to train up to 150 prisoners, both men and women, every day.”
In 2014, the Clink Charity released 46 graduates into employment in the industry, who now work in businesses including the Lancaster Hotel, London, the Welsh Millennium Centre and restaurant chain Wahaca.
It aims to have ten prisoner training projects in operation by the end of 2017, with each releasing approximately 50 skilled graduates into employment each year.
Moore said: “Although this doesn’t solve the chef crisis, it does contribute 500 individuals into the industry, around half of whom will be chefs. By 2022, who knows how many more training schemes we will be running above and beyond our current goal of ten?
“Employing clink graduates not only demonstrates corporate social responsibility but it’s a source of qualified chefs and service staff – a resource pool that ultimately goes some way to addressing the skills shortage in the hospitality industry.”
Don't forget to check out the PMA's exclusive digital feature on the chef recruitment crisis - featuring exclusive interviews with the industry's top chefs including Tom Kerridge and Emily Watkins.