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The Chef’s Crisis Gets Worse

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Hardly a day goes by at the moment when I don’t get a call from a desperate club or hospitality manager looking for chefs of all grades from Head Chef, Sous Chef to Commie Chefs.

What the hell has happened? Anyone who’s followed my writings over the years will know I’ve been a big supporter of chefs and critical of employers who either don’t want to know, or don’t care, about the complexities of managing the kitchen, they are a microcosm of managing a club or hotel and in many cases more complex.


Chefs have to be creative, hard-working, work any days and nights, be HR manager, a purchasing officer and an accountant, and in many cases be paid less per hour than a glassy, only hear from the management when they want to complain, and constantly understaffed to keep costs down so that venues can sell meals cheaper than they should.


Whilst there is an employment shortage in every aspect of Australian industry, chefs have been in short supply for years and was getting worse prior to COVID. It has been propped up by foreign chefs and now they’re in limited supply, the industry has hit a brick wall. It will take some years for the shortage to be overcome with foreign chefs if ever.


When as an industry are we going to take some responsibility for not giving young people opportunity to learn the chef trade through apprenticeships. When managers complain to me about not being able to get any chefs, I asked them how many apprentice they’re training; sadly the answer is generally none. So where does the hospitality industry think it’s going to get chefs from? Until every hospitality establishment makes a commitment to help train young people into the chef trade, then we can look forward to a continual chef crisis.


There are no short-term solutions other than paying a lot more money than you have ever paid before. Given the nature of managing a kitchen the reality is now starting to dawn on many managers that if they want an efficient food operation the Head Chef should be the second highest paid person in the establishment, no other management staff member want to do the hours, the nights and weekends, take on the pressure, be constantly ignored by management and at times, abused.
The Solutions.

  1. We need to charge a lot more for our meals, not just to keep up with inflation but in order that we can fairly reward kitchen staff for their efforts
  2. If you are selling 2000 meals a week and you charge an extra $0.50 that will generate additional profit of $48,000 per annum, which gives you money to reward kitchen staff and very few customers are going to notice $0.50 a plate and if they do, they’re being unrealistic. We must stop giving food away.
  3. We need to make a commitment to employing apprentices to provide more chefs, we should take a leaf out of the building industry that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for their commitment to apprenticeships.
  4. Management needs to make the effort to understand the complexities of managing a kitchen to be more respectful of the challenges.
  5. Increased management knowledge of kitchen operations, will provide an understanding that at times kitchens need to be supported by administrative and accounting staff.
  6. Sadly, one of the options that establishments will need to consider is trading hours and the extent of menus and services that are provided around the catering operation, the reality may be we just cannot continue with business as usual, because it’s not.
  7. Cost meals properly.

If you would like an Excel plate cost calculator please give me a call on 0417 721 942 or send me an email at john@dws.net.au and let me know your thoughts on the article.

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