Sign of the times

Sign of the times….

It is common knowledge amongst the industry that there is a national shortage of good Chefs, and for most Executive and Head Chefs recruiting is a continuous task. Most find that the commis and junior roles that they do fill are shorted lived as interest in chasing a bigger salary out weighs the opportunity to learn additional skills from the experience surrounding them.

I was fortunate to begin my career at 16 in a well reputed family run and owned hotel and restaurant, in the picturesque welsh village of Aberdovey. Covers were always consistent at the weekends, and increased towards the summer months. I was part of a successful team that gained awards and status amongst some of the most reputed foodie bodies of the 1990’s.

As a team and individuals, we were always made to feel appreciated. The owner always grateful at the end of our shift and rewarding us with a drink and a pat on the back. The verbal gratitude in my book has always been far more beneficial that the financial, although when you do acquire both, in my experience, it is more appreciated. My relationship with my head chef, was a little more strained. I was defiantly too confident, strong willed and clearly less experience, unfortunately, we clashed on more than one occasion, but I always knew my place and a new skill in communication, learning to say ‘no problem’ when I was asked to do something I didn’t relish! I left there to join the RAF and the excellent knife skills and my ability to cook well and plate up to high standard saw me excel with the additional training of the catering squadron. Something I wouldn’t have achieved without having learned from my previous head chef and senior team members, and will always be thankful for.

With the current treads in eating healthier, big foodie programmes and encouragement to move from fast food to cooking from scratch I would have thought there would be more looking to get into the industry. The same is apparent with food based apprenticeships, many don’t stay for the duration.

One thing I have been really pleased to hear, and very grateful to be a part of is assessing the cooking skill element to the DofE awards. I was recently asked to independently assess this for my friend’s son. I didn’t know this existed within DofE until recently. Is this something Head Chefs, and other foodie business owners like me should be more pro-active about. Encouraging those that do express an interest in cooking at an earlier age, we could start sharing our knowledge before they even leave school. Maybe if we can inspire the younger generation, then that experience can give more long-term value than the next pound they currently seem to become focused on, we could help bring in the next Michelin stars of the future?

This could be one way that we can do more to help end the skills shortage. To find out more about the DofE assessor requirements visit If you share my passion in this then it might be worth contacting DofE to express and interest in supporting this, maybe you could also offer to assess young people local to your area.

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