Chef shortage: What the chefs say!

The Staff Canteen
Every month on The Staff Canteen we feature a selection of different chefs who we think our members will want to know more about. This month we have also spoken to those chefs to find out what they think about the chef shortage. Take a look at their responses - we would love to hear what you think so please comment below or follow us Facebook and Twitter and get in touch:  black and white kitchen tom duffill - low resTom Duffill, head chef, Bistrot de Luxe - Galvin Restaurants It’s much tougher than it used to be ten years ago. We have tried to take a different approach by investing time and training into staff. We try to build people up with basic skills, into a good all round cook. Then we move them through the ranks when they are ready, and if they are looking for a promotion after a few years with us, we will make a place for them in another area in the group. We are very much involved in apprentice schemes, we are running our fourth year of the apprentice scheme with Westerns College. The third years finished last summer, and they have been introduced into our kitchens - all of them have stayed! I can really see the benefits of being involved in these things, this year we are even more heavily involved in it and next year we hope to have a whole class of apprentices at the Galvin group! You invest time in them and they give it back to you by staying, and as long as you keep giving it to them, they’ll keep taking it. We build them up slowly as well, the first year they do four shifts a week plus a day at college which we pay them for, the second year they do six shifts plus a day at college, and in the last year they do seven shifts and a day at college, so they work up to eight shifts which is what the chefs do anyway. I think that really does help. We don’t do five days a week, we do three solid days and two half days so they get two full days and two half days off which I think really helps as well.quote chef shortage At first I was sceptical, but I have four apprentices in the kitchen at the moment and I can safely say they are all guys and girls that I trust and I know they are dependable and they will turn up for their shift and they are going to learn and develop into good cooks. Has the chef shortage affected you? I definitely think it has affected us. We have had to change attitudes, how we deal with people, and the hours have had to be a little bit different. We have to nurture talent when we see some, you can’t expect to hit the ground running every time! You have to teach them and give them some time to find their feet as well as some confidence. The work force under management level in the kitchen, they are young people and they need a bit of discipline and direction and if we don’t give it to them they will just walk in and walk out again. Also you have to filter the bad from the good. There’s a lot of bad still out there. We aren’t looking for the finished product, we are looking for somebody who is keen and motivated, who wants to learn. And if you have got that, that’s the best basis you can start with, we can teach everything else. Cary Docherty low resCary Doherty, head chef, Little Social Working long hours in a Michelin kitchen, did that effect you at all? For me personally, working those hours was fantastic because the more you work, the more you learn. Obviously now, times have changed. People don’t work like that anymore. Everybody here gets three days off, four days on.

>>> Read more about Cary in our feature with him

I felt that I was quite fortunate and glad to work those hours, because it gets you where you need to go, faster. Even when I was at Zuma, it was 7 shifts per week, three and a half days off, but I always asked for extra shifts, and ended up working 5 doubles a week because I felt if I was out of the kitchen I would be wasting my time, I wouldn’t be learning. So for me it was a very rewarding experience, it was very draining and very difficult, but it made me stronger and it got me where I needed to go. Has the chef shortage affected you at Little Social? Do you think the attitudes of chefs coming straight out of college has changed? As with anything, there’s some people that come in and want to push themselves, but like I said we try to provide a very good balance between work and life here. So at the end of the day we try our best to make sure everybody has three days off, sometimes if we are understaffed, certain individuals will ask to work. I think it comes down to the individual if they want to work or have the time off. Paul Wedgwood, co-owner and head chef, Wedgwood the RestaurantWedgwood Restaurant Is there a chef shortage? I would wholeheartedly agree to some extent, I know some tutors and know they are trying their best to teach but the quality of the students that I have encountered is generally very poor, the best chefs now I have found are the ones who don't bother with college and get out into the industry after leaving school with the drive and determination to succeed.

>>> Paul Wedgwood, co-owner and head chef, Wedgwood the Restaurant

Unfortunately there are not enough of them to go round as they all tend to be cleverly giving there time for free to the better restaurants throughout the world and are getting the step up from there. Only the day before yesterday I was dining in Borago - Santiago, 42nd best restaurant in world, and I was talking to a sous chef there who is only 21 years of age who incidenlty I also met when he was working at Noma 2 years ago. He left school and went and did an internship at L'enclume and has not looked back since. TILLING1012 low resMark Tilling, Squires Kitchen’s Master Chocolatier What is your opinion on the chef shortage?  I don’t know what they do at colleges now but maybe they’re not teaching the right things and does that put off students, I don’t know? I know they do good jobs (teachers) but I think maybe they’re put off because it’s quite a hard job.

>>> Find out more about Mark here

  I think it’s all of our fault really, we need to get out there more. I do go to colleges to give them a bit of inspiration showing them what they can do later. So I think it’s all of us pastry chefs to really get out there and get behind it so there won’t be a shortage and get people interested in it. I think TV programmes have helped with getting people more interested as well. Steve Cannell, Head of the Hospitality and Catering Academy at South Thames CollegeInvestec_chef_challenge_competition How do you feel about the current chef shortage?  We’re just busy trying to address it, it’s not just chefs it’s food service staff and managers as well. I think some of it is endemic to the industry, there are so many places open that people are moving so quickly which isn’t helping the issue. I think from our point of view colleges get a bit of a kicking sometimes from what industry says it wants. The industry is so diverse, when I went to college one catering course fitted it all but now if you’re going to go into branded restaurants, luxury hotels or fine dining you need totally different skill sets. A lot of my students aim for the top in whatever but I know a lot of them will end up in branded restaurants because that is the demand. So I think what we try and do with our partners and clients is just have a discussion with us about what the skills you need, because it’s not just cooking skills, they need confidence, a bit of ambition and some drive about them. There is a demand and a shortage but it’s because the industry is so diverse, we’re not a production line, we’re not a car factory, we can’t just keep producing the same sort of chef. chef shortage quote collegeHow has the shortage had an effect on you, have you seen a drop in students wanting to study at South Thames College? Having opened three years ago we’ve gone from nothing to 340 students in just over two years. What we are finding is that we’re getting students wanting to come into the industry and become professional chefs or bartenders or service staff. It’s no longer the industry where you do it because you couldn’t do anything else. It’s not the same as back in the day when people would come to us because they struggled with their reading and writing at school but were good with their hands. We’ve got just as many students coming to us with A levels, 9 GCSE’s at grade A as we have with those that failed their math and English at school. There’s a lot more opportunity for them to go out there, have a career and earn good money. A lot of our students will work at Wimbledon for £1, 500 or Twickenham for the world cup and they can see themselves earning good money and that’s just on the events side so there’s a lot more career and money out there as there ever was, it’s not the days of up stairs down stairs where you weren’t seen or heard of.

>>> Read more on the chef shortage here

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th February 2016

Chef shortage: What the chefs say!