The crisis was debated at The Morning Advertiser’s MA500 event in Cambridge by chief executive office of the Professional Association of Catering Education Geoff Booth; Anglian Country Inns operations director Harry Kodagoda; and owner operator of the Staith House in North Shields, Tyne & Wear, John Calton.
Booth said: “We are not very good with holding onto chefs in the industry. It is becoming harder and harder to recruit because of the expansion of our industry means we need more chefs.
“The industry is growing even now, the thing against it is the rising cost of food, the pound is making imported food more expensive, business rates are going up, but still operators need chefs and trained professionals.”
Calton outlined his experiences when it comes to recruiting chefs and how a combination of a lack skills alongside high wage expectation is his biggest issue.
He added: “People are coming in and demanding a high salary as they have previously worked at chain restaurants but they haven’t got the basic skills set.”
Anglian Country Inns’ Harry Kodagoda agreed with Calton’s comments and said his business was experiencing similar issues.
He said: “That basic skill level is lacking. People come in with big ambitions, which is important, but there is work to be done before you get to that higher level.”
Booth highlighted the pros and cons of students going through the college route and through an apprenticeship.
He added: “There are two ways of getting into chef training. One is going to college, which takes money and travel while they are not earning.
“Alternatively the apprenticeship programme is vibrant and a good way of learning while you work. They learn deadlines, targets budgeting aspects.
“Full-time college courses get funded less each year so they have to cut hours to save money.
“Everyone needs basic training, you have to start somewhere and there is a good foundation programme that exists.”
Booth went on to explain how the recruitment of chefs has suffered due to a change in attitude of younger generations.
He added: “They want to be a famous chef or flamboyant owner of a business but they are trying to run before they can walk. The opportunities are there are but they need to work hard.”
Chef-patron of the Staith House John Calton outlined his top tips on retaining chefs in a challenging climate.
He said: “We take our staff out for meals. We give them opportunities through contacts I have for them to do a day in another kitchen and be inspired by others.
“We teach staff how to run a business effectively. We teach them about overheads and the constant hurdles you have to jump to run a business.”
Booth echoed Calton’s comments and added: “Chefs should be learning how to cost and scale dishes and do all the maths in their head.
“The Government is teaching them how to do GCSE maths but chefs need the right maths – the business entrepreneurship.”