Chef shortage hitting hard

21:23, Jan 18 2012
Robert Prima (left) with restaurant owner Murray Hickman

Restaurant owner Murray Hickman could not find a qualified chef de partie in Christchurch - so he recruited one 14,000 kilometres away.

And he is not the only one looking abroad to keep his kitchen going at full steam.

Christchurch is facing a severe shortage of chefs, prompting Hospitality New Zealand to lobby the Government to add chefs to the Canterbury Skills Shortage list.

Regional manager Amy McLellan-Minty said restaurants re-opening were desperate for high level staff, but many chefs were forced to leave the city after the February earthquake in pursuit of jobs overseas or elsewhere in New Zealand.

Canterbury currently has 70 hospitality businesses due to re-open after quake repairs.

"It's only going to get worse. ," she said.

Mr Hickman searched for a chef de partie for three months before recruiting a staff member's brother living in Dubai.

Mr Hickman, who owns the Merrin Street Monteiths Bar and Restaurant, said business had been booming since the earthquake but the usual methods of hiring staff had "dried up."

"A lot of staff have left town and the ones that stayed have been snaffled up," he said.

When two key chefs resigned he knew they would be hard to replace.

He opted to replace one with the brother of a current chef, Robert Prima.

Jeff Prima is expected to arrive in the city later this week after a three-month immigration process.

The rebuild effort prompted Immigration New Zealand to develop a Canterbury Skills Shortage List - making it easier for qualified rebuild workers to immigrate to Canterbury - mostly from the construction industry.

Ms McLellan-Minty said requests to put chefs on the list had come to nothing, but she remained hopeful.

She knew of another Christchurch restaurant owner who flew to India last week hoping to recruit a chef.

An Immigration New Zealand spokeswoman said the Canterbury skills shortage list was limited to roles directly related to the rebuild.

Chefs were listed on the national long-term shortage list but were not listed specifically for Canterbury.



The Press