A great shortage of British chef: why nutrition is under threat

It was, says the chef patron Alexis Gauthier, “not the last resort”, but almost. In September of last year, it needs to fill three positions in his Central London restaurant, Gauthier SOHO: pastry chef; chef de parti to climb on one of the stations in the kitchen and sommelier. Gauthier held a Michelin star since 2011, but it’s not enough bait in an era when new restaurants open every hour and there are not enough trained cooks and waiters to go round. Gauthier, 44-year-old from Provence, decided to sweeten the deal: the winning candidates will receive a £1,000 “Golden handshake” in exchange for a commitment to work for one year.

Unusual offer has received several industry publications, as well as Gauthier, who worked in London for 20 years, was pleased with the response. There were several strong contenders, and all places were taken within two weeks.

Six months, I will contact Gauthier: how you doing? “All three of them did not last,” he sighs. “One left after a week. The other two left after two or three months.” Each had their own reasons: one chef went home to France, the other returned to Italy, and the sommelier decided to return to study oenology.

A quick guide to what’s eating the restaurant business?



Higher costs

Business rates and wages, as the cost of imported food. Salary increased partly due to growth is minimal, but because of finding employees difficult. A high employment rate means that there is less British, and a British exit from the EU vote, by deferring some of the workers of the EU who are already not interested because of the declining value of the pound.

The rise of delivery

Deliveroo, UberEats and just eat does not increase the demand for home delivery, the reduction in the number of consumers eating out.

Excessive expansion

Until 2015/16, the restaurants are ever-increasing. Private equity firms have helped mid-market chain to expand, increasing competition in the market was to feel the pressure.

The cost shifts

Takeaway breakfasts and Lunches to divert money from sit-in restaurants.

Photograph: Kristin Lee/Tetra images RF

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Gaultier not to take rejection personally and is proud to be a fair boss. “I used to be an employee for many years I, therefore, in the day when I became an employer, I don’t want to be a jerk,” he says. Gaultier pays the staff relatively well: they get a private pension, health insurance and everyone has access to scientific research and development Fund for tried other restaurants and bakeries that pays from £250 to £1000 per month per person, depending on experience. One pastry chef and the sommelier was saving a scholarship and went to eat at eleven Madison Avenue in new York. Gautier says: “We try to make sure that they will be able to develop your professional career with our help”.




Chef and restaurateur Alexis Gauthier. Photo: Phil Fisk for the observer

That, however, does not seem to be enough in 2018. So, Gaultier did not rule out that he was lucky: he is primarily a chef, so if he’s one or two downstairs in the kitchen, and it happens most days – he can fill. Gauthier SOHO is about 100 covers per day (50 for lunch, 50 for dinner) and if you really stretched, it can remove one dish from the menu, and the quality of service is not compromised. “As an employer, as a businessman, the sun shines,” he says with a smile. “I can work extra hours and more money to the side for me! But it’s unsustainable.” Gauthier out of ideas on what to do next. “I swear,” he snorts, “if I gave £10,000 bonus, he would still be the same.”

It is, most agree, the Golden age where you can eat in Britain: never before has such high quality food been so accessible. This boom, however, faces a chronic shortage of chefs and staff. The hospitality industry is responsible for six million jobs, making it the fourth largest in the UK employer. But this is extremely risky will be topsy-turvy than ever. For each welcome header: “record 44 new restaurants will open in London in September” from the “evening Standard” in September 2017; there is a depressing one: “the Number of British restaurants on the fifth go bankrupt in 2017” by the Guardian last month.

The situation, after the British exit from the EU, will only become more complicated. The British Association of hospitality, with the help of accounting firm KPMG published a report last year that says that sector who eyed the selection of a black hole who are not citizens of the EU countries to save them: by 2029, the industry could have a deficit of more than a million workers. The report recommends that the industry needs to find at least 60 000 workers per year on top of 200,000 is required “to replace the outflow and the growth of government.”

Of course, 2029 is far, but the pinch is felt now, according to Adam Hyman from the Code of hospitality consulting for restaurants and selection. “Every restaurant in London is constantly looking for people – and good people.” He talks about London private members-only club, whose head of recruitment, was released in Australia last year to find the cook.

Although this problem is perhaps felt most acutely in London, where KPMG found that 25% of cooks and 75% of staff were from mainland Europe – it’s a nationwide concern, which precedes the UK out of the EU. Josh Overington captured Le cochon Hotel in York four years ago and won the hearts of the visitors and critics with his thoughtful take on the classic French cuisine. Yet ever since, the 30-year Overington – who represented the North East in the Great British menu, 2017 – remember not more than a week here or there when Le cochon Hotel was fully staffed.

“It was a constant struggle to find the cook,” he says. “We are a very small restaurant, we can fit four cooks at one time, and the chef” – number three in command “and, in particular, was unattainable position. We had long periods when it is not filled, and it is still not filled even as we speak.”

As for the reasons for the lack of a chef, he says there are a number of factors. “Many young chefs don’t have any patience. They just want to go straight to SOUS-chef, chef. Or they can register for the Agency or work in a private home and pays better, time better you didn’t scream. You have no responsibilities and life was much better.”

Agency chefs are controversial, but an indispensable part of the restaurant food chain, filling the holes when they arise. In a recent report on the big hospitality website asked whether it is free persons were “kitchen heroes or zeroes mercenary?” It’s easy to see why chefs are attracted to agencies: with the salary, often up to 25% higher than for similar employees. Overington, however, vowed never to use them again: “they are not good enough. I pay twice for an employee who is not anywhere near the level they need to be to work in the kitchen.”

Overington believes that many restaurants will offer simpler food and focus more on the quality of the products. It’s okay, he says, but this would be harder than ever to work “game-changing” kitchen: “no one is going to have the money; no one had.”

He supported the standards in Le cochon Hotel, working long hours himself, but like Gautier, he knows it’s a short-term fix. On honeymoon in Australia in January, Overington was amazed at how different the restaurant the chefs were relaxed, refreshed, rarely work more than 10 hours a day. “I worked long and hard think: ‘do I really want to keep doing this?” Overington recognize. “Every day coming to work, haste and expectations of the customers are not so high, because they spend a lot of money. And you go, ‘God, how did I pass?’”

A similar story happened in another place. Dan Smith, who won the best young chef in 2016 OFM Awards when he was the assistant chef at the clove club, created by its own weapons of Fordwich in Kent in December. “Staffing was the hardest part,” he says. For the first month, Smith ruled the kitchen with his bride Tash: “we have done 25 to 30 covers for lunch and 40 covers for dinner. It was fun for a bit, but You can’t go on like this you burn yourselves out”.

Smith, who is 26, for three years earn a professional chef’s diploma from Westminster Kingsway College, worked in restaurants at night. He’s young, but he has a decade of experience, and this experience and commitment is increasingly rare: “if I put an ad for the chef, the people who apply are not plumbers, laborers, no experience kitchen. You see that more and more because there are fewer chefs passing through And I am sure that in the colleges catering will answer you the same.”




Hotelier Serena von der Heide. Photos: Jake Eastham

This is definitely a seller’s market: if you have the skills you can choose where you work. Serena von der Heide, the owner of the Georgian five-star hotel in Victoria, London, found it almost impossible to hire chefs. “This is a desperate situation,” she says. “When we gave is, we don’t force people to respond. Or they don’t go for the interview. Or they do not turn up on their first day. We used to interviewing someone for the role. Now we are trying to sell them in the role!”

Von der Heide has tried to enter into partnerships with schools and colleges, as well as with charitable organizations that connect business with ex-offenders, women returning to work after a period of crisis. “The recruitment of people from these different sources is 10 times longer and has a tenth of the success,” she says. “There are so many people that are not ready to go to work, no confidence, so we try very hard with all of this.”

So, why do young people want to be cooks and waiters more? Anthony Bourdain chef styled like renegades, Jamie Oliver showed the work can be profitable and had the potential to change the society, the Gordon Ramsay off great – but the more we looked at professional kitchens, the more it became clear that for many staff working in the restaurant, had in mind the antisocial hours, low wages and non-combat conditions.

“It’s not sexy for kitchen cleaning at 11 in the evening,” says Gauthier. “It’s not sexy to come at 8.30 to clean the inside of the fish or butchered a leg of lamb.” He exhales, “for many people this would be hell. For me, beautiful. But if you don’t have passion, You can’t force yourself into it. And passion comes from perseverance [but], in a society where most people want things to happen quickly, it goes against the idea of perseverance”.

In recent years, too, young people interested in food do not have to follow the traditional route to earn your stripes in the kitchen. A couple of years, all were the start of the food cart or dinner clubs: you have to be your own boss and you might be the next pitt Cue or a new Bao. But these successes are becoming rarer. “It’s a Mirage,” quips Gauthier. “A lot of people were excited to be a entrepreneur, but you tell me who succeeded? I can’t think of five. And there are probably 50,000 people who have tried.”

Meanwhile, muddy the reputation of a professional kitchen appears to be catching up with him. “Another reason why there is no chefs because they are abused, they work hard, are paid little money for it,” says Overington, Le cochon Hotel. “I’m not saying that everywhere is terrible because it’s not, but I am sure almost 100% of chefs my age had a horrible experience.”

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For consultant Adam Hyman, everything is back to eternal failure in Britain – unlike, say, France, Italy and Spain – promotion of working in a restaurant as a “very decent to be an accountant, lawyer, or teacher.” He continues: “hospitality is never seen as a proper career in Britain. This is considered as what you do on your summer break or in between work correctly. And now starting to catch up”. There are several obvious solutions to the shortage of chefs. Gauthier would like to overhaul the system of apprentice, perhaps to bring it into line with France, where every corner has a state-funded school feeding system, which provides staff for local restaurants.

“We need to start from scratch, with people who are 14, 15, 16 going into teaching: they work one week in the restaurant, one week at school,” says Gauthier. “Schools funded by the government for cooks and waiters and they will end up with a serious diploma that you are all proud of holding.”

Some of the biggest restaurant groups are taking matters into their own hands. Restaurants Gordon Ramsay, for example, collaborates with the University of West London to offer three-year program and certification up to NVQ level 3 in professional cookery, patisserie and confectionery. So far 36 students entered the scheme, 10 graduates – all courses nutrition, high dropout rates is expected for September will be selected this spring.

Overington, meanwhile, is trying to improve the quality of life for their employees. He recently announced that this summer, the restaurant will only be open four nights a week. “Since doing this, I actually had more interest from potential candidates than ever before,” he says. “I actually was very surprised; I don’t think it will make that much difference. Obviously, it’s a huge risk to go up to four days for a small business like us, but that’s what we are willing to do for our life and work.”

Von der Heide believes that the situation will be impossible if the government pushes forward with plans to limit the number of EU citizens allowed visa to work in the UK. “No matter how much we want to think that there is a pool of British workers who are exposed to competition from foreign workers,” she says, “in London, my patch, in my industry, it’s just not the case.”

It gives a strict warning. “Twenty years ago, London was a terrible reputation for its food and accommodation. Across the capital, you have seen the growth standards. But the pressure that we’re under this is pushing us back. This will push us to be the capital fiscal services in the world.”

The numbers may be, time is definitely hard, but everything you say still has a genuine passion for what they do. No one proves that better than the Fordwich arms Smith. “I could never imagine sitting in front of a computer all day,” he says. “Being a chef is so creative. You have the freedom to say what we can do today at the market?’ Or that a fisherman caught today? Very few industries that you can create things every day. As soon as people realize that this is what will give them the drive to want to do it.”

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