Over the last decade, London has become a colosseum of culinary creativity. We have 45% more licensed restaurants that we did in 2001, we have 71 Michelin-starred restaurants, you can’t move in the West End for gourmet burger joints, BBQ places and kitsch, hipster-inspired cereal cafés charging six quid for a bowl of Frosties.
Not only that, the city boasts a huge selection of artisanal food makers, from cheese to beer, as well as food markets every weekend where you can buy amazing local produce.
London’s food scene is thriving, vibrant and has never been in better shape.
So why are London’s kitchens (both in restaurants and hotels) so woefully understaffed?
The acute shortage of kitchen staff in London is no better illustrated than Alexis Gauthier’s story. He’s the Michelin-starred chef-patron of Gauthier Soho, one of London’s most innovative restaurants.
In September 2017, he needed to fill three positions – a pastry chef, a chef de partie and a sommelier. It turns out that working for a world-class chef isn’t enough of an enticement these days when new restaurants are opening up every fifteen minutes so he decided to sweeten the deal by offering the successful candidates £1,000 as a ‘golden handcuffs’ deal if they stayed a year.
The positions were filled by strong candidates within a fortnight. Tim Lewis, the journalist who wrote about it in the Guardian back in March followed up with Gauthier six months on. One left after a week, one lasted two months and one lasted three months. One went back to France, one back to Italy and the other left to study oneology.
We had to look it up too. It’s the science of wine and winemaking.
The Jobs Are There, Why Doesn’t Anyone Want Them?
The hospitality industry employs six million people in the UK and while it’s no secret that there’s a very high attrition rate, the jobs are there for those that want them.
In addition, the uncertainty over Brexit hasn’t helped. Currently, around 25% of London’s hospitality workforce originates from the EU but, as the Centre for London says, the kitchen is a hotbed of talent but it’s hard to separate the fantasy from the reality.
‘Though kitchens are often seen as open to talent, it is not clear that the hospitality sector improves social mobility. While it can be relatively easy to get kitchen and bar jobs, it’s much more difficult for those from less advantaged backgrounds to move up through the industry. The restaurant trade is infamous for long, unsociable hours, low pay and a male-dominated working culture, with a particular problem retaining women. Though nationally roughly half of trainee chefs are women, only 17% of working chefs are – a figure that has not increased for at least five* years.’
*Labour Forces Survey, Office for National Statistics, People 1st Analysis
The post-Brexit scenario paints an even gloomier picture.
According to a report published by KPMG for the British Hospitality Association in March 2017, the hospitality sector is staring into the abyss. Without EU nationals to bail them out, by 2029 the industry is looking at a potential deficit of a million workers. The report recommended that the industry will need to find at least another 60,000 workers per year on top of the 200,000 required ‘to replace churn and to power growth’.
The stories of staffing troubles go on and on –
Owner of one of the best restaurants in the north of England, Josh Overington who took over Le Cochon Aveugle (The Blind Pig) in York cannot recall more than one week when his restaurant has been fully staffed.
A central London private members’ club sent their head of recruitment to Australia last year to find staff.
Dan Smith, winner of Best Young Chef at the 2016 Observer Food Monthly Awards set up on his own at the Fordwich Arms in Kent in December 2017 and despite doing 30 covers for lunch and 40 for dinner, for the first month it was just him and his fiancé Tash. ‘If I put an ad for a chef up, the people that are applying are plumbers, labourers, with no kitchen experience. You see that more and more: there’s fewer chefs coming through and I’m sure the catering colleges will tell you the same.’
Serena von der Heyde, owner of the stunning Georgian House Hotel in Victoria says the situation is desperate. ‘When we put an ad in, we don’t get people responding. Or they don’t turn up for interview. Or they don’t turn up for their first day. It used to be that we were interviewing someone for the role. Now we’re trying to sell the role to them!’
Ultimately, for clued-up millennials, it’s not sexy to be cleaning out the inside of a turbot at 8am or cleaning pots and pans at 11pm.
However, Wilson Fink Has The Answer, And We WILL Save You Money
By going to restaurants with carpenters cooking your food and brickies bringing it to you, you run the risk of everything not being as tip-top as you’d like it to be. Nobody wants a stopcock in the salmon or gravel in the gravy so in the long-term, the better investment is to simply buy a brand new kitchen.
Last month we wrote about our incredible Relish by Wilson Fink range of bespoke, handcrafted range of kitchens (and wardrobes, studies and dining rooms) that accommodate the latest smart technology while the look and feel is distinctly ‘traditional shaker kitchen.’
As well as our high-precision Kuhlmann and Beeck ranges, we genuinely believe that buying a stunning new kitchen will, in the long-term, actually save you money on eating out and also, do you really want to sail into the uncharted waters of people who aren’t chefs cooking your food?
We didn’t think so. A new kitchen from Wilson Fink really is your last resort…
Call us on + 44 (0) 1923 856 449 to arrange an appointment, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or if you’re local, pop into the showroom at 339 Watling Street, Radlett, Herts, WD7 7LB and we will look after you.