City's restaurants starved for chefs

SARAH JARVIS - July 3 2014 -

EXPERIENCE WANTER: The Oxford owner Michael Doran is one of many Timaru restaurant owners finding it hard to find experienced chefs.

A shortage of experienced chefs is causing headaches for Timaru's restaurants. For months Bennys Again owner Kaylene Gliddon has advertised locally and nationally for a qualified chef, with no luck.

"We interviewed five the other day and none had the skill level or experience we wanted. It's a big issue here in Timaru," she said. The last couple of times The Oxford owner Michael Doran advertised, locally and nationally, he had either no response or applications from people with no experience or real cooking skills. He believed the pressure of the job, the hours, and the pay could put people off. "It's not a cool job like it looks on TV. There's always a bit of pressure." Doran said young people especially did not seem to want to commit to a long-term career as a chef. "There's an opportunity to make a good living down the track, but why would young people want to commit to earning $14 an hour when they can go work at the freezing works for $20 an hour?"

Robbies Bar & Bistro head chef Lynne Riach believed the money that chefs were paid in Timaru was the biggest problem. "There are enough people being trained here but why would they want to stay in Timaru when they can be paid more elsewhere? "It's especially hard for a male chef with a family who could be working split shifts and only taking home $500 a week - that's just bloody crazy."

When Riach returned from Australia to Timaru a year ago she was working for only $1.50 an hour more than she was seven years ago. Fusion chef-owner Lindsay Bennett has not needed to advertise for staff for two years. As a chef working in his own kitchen, he does not have the same problems getting staff as other restaurants. "The ones I get applying really want to be chefs and are serious about their careers." Monteith's Bar owner Claire Edginton found it difficult to attract qualified chefs last year. "But we are OK now, touch wood. It's only when you're not OK that you realise how dire the situation can be." Nigel Bowen from Speights Ale House had problems finding qualified staff a year ago, but the last time he advertised, on a national job website, he had "more applications than ever". Bowen agreed that low wages were a factor in attracting staff, but said good employees who worked hard would be well paid by employers. One experienced chef, who did not want to be named, said younger people certainly struggled in the industry. "The unsociable hours and immense pressure doesn't help. "You can't train a work ethic, that only comes from experience." - The Timaru Herald


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