‘Everyone wants to be head chef, no one wants to learn anymore’

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Tough times: Young people should be encouraged to seek careers in the hospitality sector, said Gordon Stott.
Tough times: Young people should be encouraged to seek careers in the hospitality sector, said Gordon Stott.

Related tags Gastropub Training Staff Great british pub awards Hampshire

The hospitality industry, which is “looked down upon” by UK public, must attract young staff to solve the staffing shortage, said award-winning chef patron of the Purefoy Arms in Preston Candover, Hampshire.

One in six jobs are currently vacant, leading to 75% of pubs and restaurants hiking pay to attract new staff, the CGA Business Confidence Survey revealed.

Gordon Stott, who was crowned Best Pub Chef at the Great British Pub Awards 2021, said: “We need more young people in this industry.

“Everybody wants to be head chef or sous chef​, no one wants to be a commis, no one wants to learn anymore, they just want to kind of rise up the ranks quite quickly.

“Unfortunately, it’s a long road. It's not a quick thing that you can learn, it's about repetition and experience.”

According to Stott, the culinary industry is “looked down on” in the UK, where it’s seen as a way to earn extra cash rather than a viable career option.

He said: “There's not a lot of staff around in the hospitality industry anymore, and it's getting worse, which obviously we all found out after we reopened after all the lockdowns.

“I'm not sure if it's because of lockdown, I’m not sure if it's because of Brexit, it could be a mixture, or maybe people have just had enough.”

Long days with little pay

The chef patron said the long hours, late nights, early mornings made it a “tough industry to be in”, with the staffing shortage meaning fewer staff must work longer hours.

Stott said that the hospitality industry was going through a particularly trying time. “With prices rising, gas, electric, staff costs, food costs, drinks costs, everything just seems to be on the rise quite quickly,” he said.

He continued: “That is quite a hard thing to balance without putting price up. We can't put our prices up too high otherwise we'll scare the customers away.”

Stott said that the reduced 5% VAT rate meant he could put measures in place to ease the difficulty for his staff. He said: “At the Purefoy, I try and give my staff as many days off as I can.

“We close Sunday night and Monday, always have, but in the kitchen, I've transferred it to a four-day working week, so three days off, four days on, just to help with the life work balance.”

Stott said that after a “long, long, long day” the staff sit down for a drink together. He said “It’s just a very good atmosphere.

“[…] If you do have passion, it is worth it. […] It’s not a job, it’s almost a lifestyle.”

The chef trained at the Tante Marie Culinary Academy, where he balanced learning to cook a range of worldwide cuisines with working at the Michelin-starred vineyard restaurant.

Passion is key

“You shouldn’t chase the money if you want a career in this industry, that will come later”, he advised wannabe chefs.

He added: “You should go to somewhere where you're going to learn, somewhere that’s going to cook fresh food.

“Stay passionate, and remember the reason why you wanted to be there in the first place.”

Pubs and restaurants have hard months ahead over the winter period, said UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.

“We simply can’t cope. Our businesses will not be able to operate fully,” she said.

She continued: “We have seen operating hours reduced as well as reduced menus as a result of the supply chain crisis with deliveries not going through.

“So we are simply not going to be able to generate the level of revenue that we could.”

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