To date many of UK’s 30,000 + Ethnic cuisine restaurants have traditionally relied on Chefs brought in from the Indian sub-continent, China, South East Asia, Middle East and from other countries around the world.
This has been due to the British labour market lacking experienced Chefs with the skills and the desire to work in an exceptionally demanding industry sector.
The British appetite for Asian food has culminated into multifaceted industry estimated to be generating around £5 billion annually and sustaining in excess of 200,000 jobs at its core and throughout the supply chain.
The desire to go out for an ‘Indian’ or ‘Chinese’, or have it delivered, is a part of British life. Chinese, Indian, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani cuisine restaurants have been the success story of the second half of the last century, growing from nothing to one of the biggest industries in Britain.
Over the past decades ethnic food has positively impacted integration and social cohesion and is entwined in the British food culture. It has also spawned a colossal food manufacturing industry in ready meals, ready sauces and ingredients to be found in every retail supermarket in the UK.
The Asian restaurant industry has been the foundation of many a successful and trailblazing business legacy and continues to be the bedrock of entrepreneurialism among second and third generation British Asians who are evolving traditional curry houses into innovative contemporary dining concepts buzzing with style and sophistication.
Such has been the explosion in restaurant businesses over the past 30 years that the curry industry has become a victim of its own success in the area of human resources particularly in rural locations.
As an older generation of Chefs retires or simply tires of a demanding work life a new generation aspires to advanced career pursuits away from what they perceive as a highly tasking profession. A Curry, Tandoori or Pan Asian Chef is not a revered job. A lack of career progression, demanding workload, long hours including weekend work and disruption to family life deters many from such jobs despite attractive salary offers.
It was left to skilled migrants from Indian sub continent, China and South East Asia to fill jobs but they too are rapidly diminishing from the labour market as many have moved on to other career pursuits upon gaining settlement. There has been no replenishment since 2010 due to radical immigration controls and a targeted clampdown on importing Chefs. This has resulted in chronic staffing problems and skills stagnation that is eroding the industry.
Granting automatic settlement after a 5 years work visa with instant right to state income has spawned a transient and fickle labour culture intent on the dual exploitation of loopholes in the system and the staffing crisis. Despite offering generous gross salaries and attractive working conditions legitimate businesses simply can’t compete with the dual combination of state income and concealed employment in a parallel jobs market, inadvertently cushioned and furthered by Home Office policies.
The huge supply and demand disparity is forcing employers to yield to unreasonable demands or simply have no Chefs in their kitchens and face business closure. Feedback from virtually every restaurant operator who has sponsored non EU migrants and employs recent settlers confirms this.
The need for dedicated professional Chefs from around the world is therefore overwhelming both from a skills perspective and to enable formalised employment unhindered by state income compromise.
A Home Office spokesman is quoted in a recent newspaper article as saying “We continue to welcome the very top chefs who promote innovative and authentic cuisine here in the UK — and these type of skilled cooks are on the shortage occupation list.” This remark is misleading and disingenuous.
Though Chefs are on the government’s Shortage Occupation list in reality it is impossible for just about every restaurant and catering establishment in UK to meet its criteria. This is because the criteria has been purposely manipulated to make such Chefs inaccessible.
Specifically, a restaurant is disqualified from recruiting Chefs under the Shortage Occupation criteria if it provides a take away or delivery service. The government asserts a skill disparity between restaurant and home dining. The reality is a that a restaurant meal collected for consumption at home is the SAME complex refined dish created from scratch using fresh raw ingredients and deploying a high level of craft and expertise. The Chef or Chefs involved must be highly skilled.
According to Home Office rules an experienced Chef meets the skills criteria if the customer is dines in a restaurant, but the same Chef does NOT meet skills criteria if the customer dines at home.
This is an unrealistic and commercially damaging ruling which prevents almost every fine dining restaurant in UK from recruiting (non EU) Chefs. Those willing to meet salary criteria are nonetheless blocked by the ‘no take away’ clause. Many have had their sponsor licences revoked due to the confusion and cack handed enforcement of this rule.
The explosion in online ordering services fuelled by a growing trend for home dining means the takeaway and delivery market is growing even faster than restaurant dining. Given the business uplift and transparency of online ordering, (generating many more millions of pounds of VAT revenue) businesses simply can’t cope with demand without skill ready Chefs. It’s grossly illogical and unjust for Chef recruitment to be blocked by this cynical and divisive ruling.
Goldstar Chefs have set up an online petition to have this senseless clause removed from the Chef’s shortage occupation criteria. Please go to www.goldstarchefs.co.uk/campaigns/ Please read a full background explanation of this petition and sign. Please get as many people as you can to sign including family members, friends each customer, each supplier, your business associates, trade associations, your local councillor, and EVERYONE else you can think of. Please also highlight this to your local MP and ask her or him to sign it too!
As for generating home grown Chefs this is absolutely necessary but cannot happen in an instant. It takes at least 3 to 5 years training and work experience to create a reasonably competent Chef. There must be a desire to enter or remain in the profession with a willingness to work evenings and weekends which many people are not interested in. It is frequently said there should be training for the unemployed and more should be done to create home grown Chefs given UK’s multi culture populous and we agree.
Britain has one of the largest ethnic Asian populations in the world. However one cannot force an Indian, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Pakistani or a Nepalese person to become a Chef if it’s not his or her choice of occupation, regardless of training and salary offered. It is patronising to imply a mobilisation of Britain’s Asians into becoming Chefs just because they happen to populate the country.
There is also a misplaced view that recruitment needs can be met inside Europe. Government representatives frequently refer to ‘hundreds of millions’ of workers within EU. However those who can fill the void are mostly long settled EU residents who are NOT allowed access to the UK labour market. EU nationals who are predominant within UK’s hospitality industry do not have the innate abilities nor desire to become ethnic Chefs in spite of efforts to train and engage. Creating authentic cuisine means an inevitable reliance on cultural affinity and job aspiration.
Most East European migrants working throughout the hospitality industry as in hotels and coffee shops are simply doing the jobs the indigenous population choose not to do. The needs of the UK’s huge Asian restaurant and catering industry fall into the same demographics in relative terms.
However we believe your industry cannot be wholly reliant on imported labour and must also address skill needs within the UK labour market. This is why we are working on a major nationwide Training & Development programme and devising a National Curry Apprenticeship scheme to create Curry, Tandoori, Chinese and Pan Asian Chefs. However no in country measure will totally remove the need for skill ready top Chefs and authentic culinary experts from around the world. More importantly they are needed as trainers and mentors in order to create home grown Chefs
A recent Mintel report affirms that Asian restaurants must uphold and continuously enhance authenticity. The report points out authenticity as being a key factor behind popularity of Asian cuisine, and a core attribute when it comes to diners expectations of Asian restaurants.
This is an undeniable truth of the need for skills. The government must face the facts and allow the current skills drain and stagnation to be addressed. A modicum of temporarily imported culinary expertise is needed as an top tier skill layer to maintain authenticity and quality, and to cultivate skills at lesser senior and junior levels.
Our aim is to elicit government support to fill up to two thirds of vacancies through UK generated labour providing we can access at least one third from around the world.
We suggest grouping your staff needs into three skill areas ie. A, B and C where the top ‘A’ skill set needs internationally sourced Chefs. We invite you tell us what vacancies you have so we can, with your involvement, assess these into the three respective areas. This will help support your industry’s case as in the proportion of jobs and training opportunities you have available for resident workers in relation to what is needed from around the world.
Please therefore fill in the vacancy form on www.goldstarchefs.co.uk
In the meantime we offer you innovative recruitment solutions you may not have thought possible, and help your business establish a genuine and feasible position to justify access to skilled Chefs from around the world.
Goldstar Chefs now present the NEW way ahead and invite you to
- Discover positive long term recruitment solutions closer to hand than you can imagine.
- Unleash your business growth potential through innovative recruitment and people development.
- Establish your business as a substantive recruiter and trainer of in country labour to access top level skills internationally.
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