Chef recruitment crisis

'Work together to banish pub chef stigma', say industry leaders

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pub chef, Cook, Star pubs

Pub chef trailblazers met to discuss the chef recruitment crisis
Pub chef trailblazers met to discuss the chef recruitment crisis
The negative stigma associated with being a pub chef must be tackled by the industry, which it could achieve by working together to highlight the benefits to youngsters of a career in pub kitchens.

That’s according to pub food trailblazers who came together this week (17 November) to discuss the chef shortage crisis at a round table hosted by the Publican’s Morning Advertiser ​in association with Fullers and Star Pubs and Bars.

More than 11,000 chefs will be needed by 2022​ to keep the hospitality industry afloat, according to recent statistics from People First. Yet, the pub sector was already struggling to attract talented chefs, the delegates agreed.

There were plenty of people out there who wanted to work as chefs, claimed Steve Mackin, independent training chef at Star Pubs and Bars. “It’s just that we as an industry need to engage with them. We don’t go about that in the right way at the moment.”

The stigma attached to pub chefs stemmed from 10-15 years ago when the majority of sites were serving food from bags and boxes, said Anglian Country Inns managing director James Nye.

So many success stories

Ambition and drive

If you have drive and ambition, then you can run your own kitchen and cook the sort of food you want… and this is happening. But a lot of these stories don’t make it out of the trade

  • James Nye

Yet, there were so many success stories about prosperous careers and talented chefs in the industry now and it was vital the sector started to tell these to younger generations to entice them into the trade.

“There are so many success stories of pot washers working their way up to become great head chefs in pub kitchens,” he told delegates.

“If you have drive and ambition, then you can run your own kitchen and cook the sort of food you want… and this is happening. But a lot of these stories don’t make it out of the trade.”

The positive side of the career wasn’t being exposed by the sector, agreed executive chef of Whiting and Hammond, James Moyle-Rosser. Despite its unfairly poor reputation, his career had been like a hobby to him and “I don’t feel I’ve worked a day in my life”, he said.

It was the sector’s job to drive such messages beyond the boundaries of the trade, said Fuller’s head of food Paul Dickinson.

'A great pub chef'

“If you say ‘pub’, people often think beer and not about the opportunity to be a great pub chef,” he added.

“But food is now a big driver in the pub trade and it’s been my job [within Fullers] to change the perception that the job is about [cooking food from] bags and boxes. We’re engaging with communities and going into schools to give this positive message.”

It would be a good start if more in the industry grouped together to go into more schools to deliver the positive messages about a career as a pub chef, he urged.

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