Importing chefs essential to deal with restaurant skills shortage - Hospitality NZ

Working with cooking maestro Ruth Pretty to plate up mains at the 2014 WelTec School of Hospitality Wellington on a ...
Simon Edwards

Working with cooking maestro Ruth Pretty to plate up mains at the 2014 WelTec School of Hospitality Wellington on a Plate Pretty at the Poly dinner were trainee chefs Jack Shewell, Ava Johnstone, Daniel Walker. WelTec says a high number of their graduates find work in the hospitality sector.


The hospitality industry is not raising any glasses to Labour leader Andrew Little's suggestion we're sourcing too many chefs from overseas.

During a visit to Lower Hutt earlier this month, Little raised questions about our immigration "settings" and said chefs with the skills to cook ethnic cuisines could well be found within New Zealand.

But Tracy Scott, General Manager Operations and Advocacy for Hospitality New Zealand, said businesses are struggling to find appropriately trained and skilled chefs.

Any limitation on the ability to employ suitably skilled foreign chefs would severely limit the hospitality industry's ability to meet demand. 

"Chefs have been on Immigration New Zealand's Long Term Skills Shortages list for years, which highlights the severe shortage the industry faces," she said.

"We don't agree with Mr Little's statement as the industry struggles to keep standards up due to this long term and intense shortage of chefs."

Scott said the industry employs New Zealanders as a priority but workers with the ability to prepare ethic cuisines are not available in the numbers required.

Paul Rowan, owner of the Butcher and Brewer gastro-pub in Petone, has spent 36 years in the hospitality industry as a chef and business owner and shares those sentiments.

"It's a massive struggle to find quality chefs in this country," he said. 

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The shortage meant employers were unable to staff their kitchens well, and customers suffered from lower quality meals.

Rowan said the shortage of Kiwi chefs was in part due to the realities of working in a kitchen. 

Many young people entered the industry not knowing what to expect and encountered low wages, tough conditions and worked hours which impacted on their social lives, he said."It's highly volatile and low paid and less and less people are going into it and staying." 

WelTec spokesperson Caryn Ellis said a good number of students who gained chef qualifications from its courses found work soon after graduating.

Survey results showed 204 chef and related qualifications were gained by WelTec students last year. 

Of those who responded to the survey and gained qualifications, over 78 per cent had either found work or were continuing study as of February.

Ellis said this was a good result considering students were so soon out of the course, and the number had likely increased since the results were released. 

 - Hutt News


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