Chef recruitment crisis

Pub chefs in need of 'more defined career paths'

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Parlour owner: 'I struggled with getting my head around it'
Parlour owner: 'I struggled with getting my head around it'

Related tags: Pub chef, Chef

More defined career paths, as well as realistic expectations of head chefs, must be developed for pub chefs in order to attract and retain talent in pub kitchens, industry leaders have agreed.

The majority of the delegates at a recent Publican’s Morning Advertiser round table about the chef shortage​ had experienced difficulties in attracting and retaining talent in their kitchens, they said.

Some of the issue should be attributed to the fact it was hard to see a clear career path as a pub chef, argued James Penlington, who runs the Bell in Stoke, Mandeville, and the Russell Arms in Butlers Cross.

“If you’re trying to find a career as a chef and you think you want to be a pub chef, then how does that look to someone outside the trade?” he asked delegates at the round table, which was run in association with Fullers and Star Pubs and Bars.

Difficult as an outsider

Head chef and owner at the Parlour, Kensal Green, Jesse Dunford Wood, who is a relative newcomer to the pub trade after working in restaurants, agreed it was difficult as an outsider to see what a career in the trade looked like.

From the outside:

"If you’re trying to find a career as a chef and you think you want to be a pub chef, then how does that look to someone outside the trade?"

“I struggled with it personally,” he said. “If I struggled to get my head around it, then lots of other people will struggle further down the line.”

The army’s way of showing its potential applicants what they will do and how their careers could progress during their time with the forces was something the trade should consider looking at, suggested Paul Dickinson, Fuller’s head of food.

Those who applied to join the British forces were given clear career paths and knew what they could achieve over a specified time, he added.

Develop clear career paths

Although it was vital the trade worked harder to develop clearer career paths, it was just as important to ensure the right messages were being sent in job adverts to chefs seeking new opportunities, said Star Pubs and Bars’s food development manager Luke Davies.

“I sat down with a licensee who was recruiting a head chef. I asked what they wanted and it was for them to design a menu, train and manage the team, work 70–80 hours a week and for £15,000. It’s an archaic thing, but that is what was expected.”

This mind-set wasn’t helping the cause and it was important to find better and more attractive offers for head chefs to retain them, he added.

People will be attracted to a career that had a competitive salary, a defined career path and with prospects further down the line, he said.

Looking for a new opportunity? Visit Publican's Morning Advertiser Jobs​ where there are hundreds of vacancies.

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