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Why are there Insufficient New Chefs on the Block?

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Why are there Insufficient New Chefs on the Block?
Photo JOH_0500 / Flickr

It seems there is a dwindling pool of chefs available in the industry reaching crisis point. If the chef shortage is not addressed soon, “we are going to lose the industry we love” warns chef-owner Daniel Clifford from two Michelin star Midsummer House in the UK, in a recent interview with the The Guardian.

"If I had a position open in the kitchen, I might have 12 resumes, call in 3 or 4 to [try out] in the kitchen, and make a decision [a few years ago],” co-owner and chef Alfred Portale of Michelin starred Gotham Bar and Grill told Fortune. “Now it’s the other way around; there’s one cook and 12 restaurants” chasing that candidate. 

And it's not just a problem isolated to the USA. Reports in from the UK and Ireland warn of the same threat to the future of fine dining and the hospitality industry according to the Restaurants Association of Ireland.

“Young English chefs no longer knock on a door, begging for a job, saying I’ll work for a day free." Chef Roux explained to The Guardian.

Meanwhile two Michelin starred, Sat Bains in Nottingham, UK, has resorted to only opening four days a week in a bid to retain and train staff.

Photo:Andreas Klinke Johannsen/Fliokr

What's fuelling the flames?

Forbes cites the sheer number of restaurants that has saturated the market, along with poor pay and entitled millennials. Restaurant ownership being a more attractive proposition than working in one.

Many believe it's the glamorisation of the business from TV cooking shows and celebrity chefs that have distorted the reality of the hard work involved in working as a professional chef.

“People think they’re going to get famous cooking, but there’s nothing glamorous about it, nothing. Kitchens are not great working environments. I’m straight with people. I will teach you everything I can, but … the boys get here at 7.30am and finish at midnight." Gary Usher, owner of Chester’s highly rated Sticky Walnut is quoted in The Guardian.

Glamour aside there is no denying that attending a catering school is expensive business. According to Forbes, the Culinary Institute of America tuition, supplies, room and board in New York can cost around $31,000 a year. Many starting line cooks are unable to pay off their graduate loans let alone cover expensive city costs when starting out in the profession.

Photo: Eric McGregor/Flickr

What does the future hold?

Both The Guardian and theThe Washington Post paint a gloomy picture for the UK and the USA of a bleak future with the dumbing down of fine dining where dishes have to be easier and cheaper to be cooked by less skilled chefs.

If the trend continues, it will only be a matter of time before the problem spills out into the public, slowing service, deteriorating meal quality and, perhaps, forcing restaurants to close their doors The Washington Post predicts.

Meanwhile Ireland are putting mechanisms into place to increase the number of positions available in cooking schools and the pool of skilled aspiring chefs on offer.

What do you think? Has TV Celebrity chef status damaged the profession or given it some well needed publicity? What is the future of the chef industry?

We've also looked at why five chefs quit the business, find out more here.

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