In our new blog series, our expert Hospitality Recruitment Consultants give their views on the Chef crisis and what they think needs to be done to solve the issue. First up, Eileen Langan Rizvi explains the need to promote hospitality as a great industry to work in….

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

Yes, the problem is definitely getting worse. Over the past number of years, I’ve seen commis chefs jump ahead of their qualifications to Chef de Partie/ Sous Chef in an effort by many businesses to fill gaps in their staffing. A lot of Irish chefs left the hospitality industry during the Celtic Tiger. With the economic crash, I had hoped Irish chefs would return to the industry but that hasn’t happened. Many have found a better work/life balance and no longer want to work in an industry where it is the norm to work excessive hours and every weekend for low pay. Current chefs working in restaurants, bars and hotels are seeing the lifestyle enjoyed by friends and family outside of the industry and are being inspired to move away from a career in hospitality. Others are aware of the shortage and wondering why this isn’t being reflected in their salaries.

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

In my opinion, the lack of work/life balance is causing chefs to leave the industry and deterring young people from pursuing a career as a chef. The hours chefs are required to work are excessive and particularly demoralising for chefs on salary when they do the maths and realise what they are being paid per hour. Split shifts were abolished a number of years ago and this was a step in the right direction, but now chefs are working straight shifts 12+hrs instead of splits. Chefs are realising the importance of a work/life balance and are less willing to give up spending time with family to spend EVERY weekend and Bank Holiday working.

Another issue is the lack of a training Cert Course. When this was available, it provided a way into the industry for many young people and provided kitchens with eager to learn commis chefs.

Is the problem industry-wide or worse depending on location?

Through talking to my clients every day, I’m definitely seeing the problem is worse in rural areas, outside large towns and cities with bigger populations

What in your opinion is the solution to the problem?

Training Programs like Cert or proper apprentice programmes need to be introduced and promoted. These will promote hospitality as a career choice and provide a way into the industry for young people who have an interest in pursuing a career as a chef. They will also provide businesses with the opportunity to take young talent under their wing and train young chefs to become a vital part of their business.

I also think working hours need to be looked at by both employers and the wider industry. There needs to be a conscious effort to make a career as a chef more attractive by allowing chefs to have a better lifestyle.

Where should this solution come from?

The Government need to introduce a recognised apprentice program and encourage employers to take on young people as apprentices or on work placements. Providing training for young people at the start of their careers will encourage them to pursue a career as a chef by seeing all the benefits and opportunities that come with working in a kitchen.

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?

Again, there needs to be a conscious effort made to achieve a better work/life balance. The very real image of chefs working 12+ hour shift and every weekend and Bank Holiday is making the industry an unattractive place to work and turning people off pursuing a career as a chef.