Chef shortage

The chef shortage crisis must be tackled, says Daniel Clifford

The Michelin-starred chef Daniel Clifford has stated that in his opinion, the hospitality industry needs to start working together in order to solve the current shortage of talented chefs. If not, he warns, the industry faces the prospect of a speedy demise.

Clifford’s comments could not be better timed. Recent figures show that fewer and fewer applicants are applying for jobs across the industry, even though the number of available jobs is on the increase.

“One of the problems is we’re not keeping good chefs in this country,” said Clifford. “They want to go and work abroad at Noma or wherever. I’ve had three brilliant chef de parties leave me for Australia. They get over there the sun’s shining and they are earning amazing money, who can blame them?

“It’s also fashionable now for 22 or 23 year old chefs to open their own businesses. They think they can be a head chef in a couple of years and don’t get me wrong, some of them are great chefs. However, they don’t know about gross profits and electricity bills and you need to understand how to run a business or you won’t be running the restaurant for long”

Clifford is also concerned about the introduction of the National Living Wage, due in 2016. This would set the minimum pay rate at nine pounds per hour by 2020, and would mean that chef de parties could expect salaries approaching £40,000 per annum. This would lead to a rise in prices for dining out.

Clifford – familiar to TV viewers as a judge on the Great British Menu – believes that experienced chefs should promote the attractiveness of the industry to students in an effort to encourage more young people to enter the hospitality industry.

“Chefs all moan about it,” he said. “But it’s up to us to go into schools and colleges and get youngsters interested. If this continues we’ll end up like Paris where the top restaurants are charging £90 to £100 for a starter and £140 to £160 for a main course because they have to pay such high bills for staff. If the industry doesn’t do something about it there’s going to be a demise of good places and we are going to lose the industry we love.”

Clifford’s comment were endorsed by the new head chef at the London restaurant Antidote, ex-Toasted head chef Michael Hazelwood, whom is struggling to solve staff shortages.

“It’s been a bit tough, but it’s still early days,” he said. “There’s one chef that is already leaving and I’ve just hired one more, but I need about four more chefs to be honest – so it’s a little bit scary. I think some people resigned before Chris [Johns, former head chef who left in August] left and [the restaurant] was already short staffed as it is. It’s just really hard to find people.”

But Toby Holt, Operations Director from chef recruitment specialists Berkeley Scott commented “Whilst there is undoubtedly a shortage, there are also some fantastic chefs. The problem is that unless you are excellent at recruiting or use a reputable recruitment agency, you are going to struggle, because it is a specialist skill.”