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Daniel Clifford: Industry must tackle chef shortage or face demise

By Emma Eversham+ , 12-Aug-2015
Last updated on 13-Aug-2015 at 15:19 GMT2015-08-13T15:19:58Z

The shortage of available chefs is a global problem, but one that needs sorting in the UK or Michelin-starred restaurants will close, warns Daniel Clifford. Photo: Great British Menu
The shortage of available chefs is a global problem, but one that needs sorting in the UK or Michelin-starred restaurants will close, warns Daniel Clifford. Photo: Great British Menu

The hospitality industry needs to come together urgently and find ways to tackle the chef shortage or face its rapid demise, two Michelin-starred chef Daniel Clifford has warned. 

The Midsummer House chef-patron's stark warning comes as figures released by CV-Library show that the number of applicants for jobs across hospitality has reduced while the number of vacancies is increasing. 

Earlier this week, Michael Hazelwood, the new head chef at London wine bar and restaurant Antidote, told of his struggles in recruiting kitchen staff and Clifford, who is planning to open his second venture - a pub in Essex later this year - said he wasn't the only one with the problem. 

"I was speaking to Tom Kerridge about this issue last night and he's looking for staff," he said. "All the top named chefs are. Simon Rogan needs people at Fera and even Sat Bains. He reduced his staff's hours down to four days a week on the same pay and had massive press coverage, but he’s still sending messages out on Twitter for staff."

Reasons

Clifford, who helped kick-start the careers of numerous chefs, including Mark Poynton and Matt Gillan, said there were a number of reasons the recruitment situation had got so dire for the industry, including the increasing number of new restaurants opening, the lure of working at top restaurants abroad and the desire to run their own restaurants.  

"One of the problems is we’re not keeping good chefs in this country. 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," he said. 

"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."

Solution

The introduction of the National Living Wage next year is also a concern to Clifford, who said raising it to £9 an hour by 2020 would mean chef de parties could be earning £40k a year, which would in turn push up prices for diners. 

Like Kenny Atkinson said earlier this year , Clifford, who returns to our screens next month as a judge on Great British Menu, believes established chefs would need to give up more of their time promoting the positive side of the industry to school and college students to help encourage more young people into the industry. 

"Chefs all moan about it, but it’s up to us to go into schools and colleges and get youngsters interested," he said. 

"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." 

Find out about Clifford's plans for his new pub and involvement in Great British Menu in our Small Talk interview on Friday.

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