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In Part 2 of our Tackling the Chef Crisis series, consultant Eimhear O’Dalaigh discusses how she has seen the problem progress throughout her career as both a Chef and in recruitment… 

The Chef crisis is not new, but have you seen the problem change and/or worsen in recent years?

Throughout my career as a Chef the shortage of chefs was always omnipresent but yes, the problem is definitely getting worse. We see it on a day-to-day basis in recruitment, there are definitely fewer chefs answering ads, responding to emails or willing to continue pursuing a career in the industry.

What, in your opinion, is the main cause of the chef shortage?

The job itself is quite hard and requires a lot of dedication and drive to remain in the industry long-term. The fall-out rate is very high in the industry. When I trained there were 30 in my class and out of this, only one is still working as a chef. Personally, I feel the hours are the predominant problem.

Is the problem industry-wide or worse depending on location, restaurant vs hotel or star rating?

I feel the problem is affecting restaurants, hotels and catering facilities of all levels across the board but it does seem that both the lower and higher end [Michelin and Five Star] of the spectrum seem to be having an easier time of it in terms of attracting and retaining quality Chefs.

What in your opinion is the solution(s) to the problem?

From the government’s side of things, I think a comprehensive training programme needs to be reinstated [like Cert] with proper work placements and from the industry side, the weekly hours need to be capped at 45. Often businesses are just shooting themselves in the foot by overworking their staff so they leave the industry and then don’t learn from their mistakes.All sides need to sit down and look at the problem and the potential solutions. They should get ideas from chefs, restaurants, educators, hoteliers, students and the people who have left the industry. The Government should also look at a program, similar to the one they use for nurses as there is a large pool of highly trained and experienced chefs in the states and the middle east that could be enticed over here if a visa programme were available
Do you think that there is a lack of incentives to work in the industry? What can be done to attract people to careers in the industry?

That is a difficult one to answer. Comprehensive training programs, treating it as a profession and not as a trade, trying to be a little better with work/life balance.

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