The report, published by the Centre for London think tank, says that the growing demand for chefs in the capital has not been matched by an improvement of culinary education and training. According to the Office for National Statistics, despite the number of chefs in the city tripling over the past 10 years, London’s kitchens are still struggling to recruit and retain them.
At present, 16 of London’s 48 further education colleges provide catering courses. However, many employers do not believe these courses prepare chefs with the range of skills needed to thrive in the workplace, it says.
“Despite being home to some of the best catering colleges in the country, London’s culinary education isn’t specialised and high profile enough,” says research manager Nicolas Bosetti, who co-wrote the paper.
“London’s restaurants and colleges need to cultivate local culinary talent to maintain and grow the city's global and national reputation as a hub for culinary creativity and good food and benefit its workers.”
As well as arguing for the establishment of a new London College of Food to help equip aspiring chefs with the skills and experience to succeed, the report calls on restaurateurs to address the tough working conditions faced by those entering the industry.
The report argues that London chefs have been forced to accept stagnating wages, and are expected to work long hours often with unpaid overtime.
It also states that the London restaurant scene’s heavy reliance on migration is likely to amplify the challenges surrounding recruitment; around 85% of chefs in the city were born abroad, compared to 50% in the rest of the UK.
“Centre for London has identified a massive opportunity for the restaurant industry to enhance and reshape culinary education as well as bring working conditions and pay into the 21st century,” says Juliane Caillouette-Noble, development director of the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
“London’s restaurants lead the world in many ways, but to maintain this lofty spot the city must act now to address the growing hole in chef numbers. Only by grasping these two major issues will the sector dish up a genuinely fair deal for chefs and create a truly sustainable future for itself.”