Shortage of chefs in Australia

Chef Shortages in Australia! So, what’s cooking?

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When it comes to the food and wine culture of Australia, we are a nation spoilt for choice! With an array of fresh produce, tantalising flavours, fine wines, beautiful weather, innovation and creativity from paddock to plate; no wonder the Australian Good Food and Travel Guide has awarded Chef Hats to 429 restaurants around the country in 2016!

But what would happen to this ever changing and dynamic Dining scene when we experience what’s already starting to pinch the Hospitality industry in Australia; a critical shortage of Chef’s! Yes you read that right there are plenty of Chef jobs in the market but not enough takers.

In fact, the Hospitality industry turnover in NSW grew by 7.6% in the year to September 2015, following a 17.9% growth in 2014. Even the number of Ads and vacancies for Chef Jobs increased in the year to September 2015 by 8.1%. However the number of chefs and cooks actually completing their apprenticeships in New South Wales has fallen by 15% in the three years to 2014 – 2015. A Deloitte Access Economics report into the hospitality industry showed an Australia-wide chef shortage of 38,000 chefs, and rising.

Whilst it’s no surprise the industry demands for long working hours and fewer breaks amidst stressful working conditions and the pressure to deliver ‘exquisiteness’ on a plate, the rewards are priceless; teaching Chefs how to balance flavours, be creative and whimsical with food, time management and discipline, teamwork, endurance and focus to ultimately become a successful restaurateur.

So what’s driving (or rather not driving) budding chefs from living the dream?

The hard Yakka

Across the hospitality industry, long working hours, low wages during training years, a shift in attitudes, a plethora of career options now available and a desire for a social life is making the culinary world lose lack lustre a little too quickly! A recent and perhaps more widely attributed factor contributing to the ‘shortages of chefs’ not just in Australia, but on an International scale, is the birth of reality cooking shows! Master Chef, My Kitchen Rules, Top Chef and Iron Chef to name a few, have been phenomenal PR agents for the industry glamourizing the culinary world into augmented reality more than what it was say 10 years ago.

So whilst it’s natural for a young ambitious chef to feel like such shows can be their golden ticket to the top, who really needs to work their way up slowly but surely with an apprenticeship program; reality couldn’t be further from the truth! Such shows may create skewed perceptions of instant overnight success with little input and when this isn’t the case, unfortunately many chef’s may choose to drop the ball altogether in search for green career pastures!

The other factor gravely contributing to this shortage of the ever precious Chef, are the lack of a proper and structured apprenticeship program. With this being shortened from four to three years, many chefs that do in fact graduate (and not drop out) are not well equipped have enough experience and training. Moreover, a dated formal training approach focussing on teaching skills from the 70’s as believed by industry experts, is misaligned to the ever evolving and dynamic culinary industry which is not stimulating and exciting enough for young chefs keen to innovate and create!

Restrictive visas like 417 which only allow a talented and willing Chef on a working Holiday Visa to be employed with one employer for a period of 6 months, are often another area of concern. Not every employer can afford to sponsor their chefs on a 457 in which case they risk losing this talent and their business resembling a revolving door for chefs every 6 months.

So what’s the solution?

A massive overhaul of the apprentice system could be a good starting point to keep young chefs engaged and excited on the prospects of a promising career as a chef rather than dropping out. More mentoring and training by Head and executive chefs in a kitchen should become a norm so younger budding chefs feel well supported and equipped with the right skills and experience.

Staff retention is a major goal for HR departments across the world irrespective of industries so it’s importance in the culinary world to retain the very best chefs, cannot be undermined!

Career development, training incentives for junior staff, autonomy to run a kitchen, flexible work arrangements where possibleare a few strategies employers can adopt to keep chefs interested in the one job for longer.

We are a leading Recruitment agency based in Sydney focusing on Hospitality and Leisure sector jobs including chef jobs. If you are an aspiring Chef or an experienced chef with a few years of experience under your belt then get in touch with us to discuss current job opportunities within the Industry. Or if you are a Employer operating within the Hospitality sector and are looking for a recruitment agency to partner with for your chef recruitment needs then call us to have a chat with one of our recruitment consultants.