The Cause of Australia’s Shortage Of Chefs

It’s been public knowledge for years, and an industry problem for longer – Australia is running out of chefs. In a country that enjoys fine dining and meals out as much as ours, that poses a significant problem. Industry pundits and economic experts have speculated on a single root cause of the shortage, but the fact of the matter is that this is a multi-faceted problem with no easy solutions. Addressing the shortage will mean a significant shift in how chefs are trained and restaurants are run. Read on to learn more.

A lack of homegrown chefs

It’s got some people scratching their heads that in an era when food has never been more glamourized or talked about thanks to shows such as Masterchef, the gap between the number of new chefs needed and freshly qualified kitchen staff keeps growing. Some chefs have pinned this problem on the industry, arguing that there is only a shortage of older chefs willing to mentor that leads to a shortage of new chefs. Simply, the problem starts further back.

Unlike in other roles such as plumbing or bricklaying where there is not the constant, overwhelming pressure to continue to perform at top speed, apprentice chefs can frequently find themselves missing out on crucial advice, tuition and guidance. This would normally come from senior figures in their kitchen, but these people are often so focused on their own work that they simply don’t have the time to teach. This often leads to people dropping out from their apprenticeship, as just like in any craft, it’s important to give novices feedback throughout the learning process so they can build confidence in their skills.

Tightened restrictions on imports

While chef remains on the list of occupations eligible for temporary visa status, the structural changes to Australia’s skilled overseas working visa program could potentially put off foreign chefs from moving into the local industry. Cook and chef are the first and second most nominated occupations for 457 visa holders, so any tightening of the regime has the potential to affect the number of kitchen staff moving to the country. While details on the visa replacing the 457 visa are still being finalised, one fact that has emerged is that they will not allow permanent residency at their conclusion. For foreign chefs hoping to work in and ultimately move permanently to Australia, this could be the thing that sees them take their skills and knowledge elsewhere.  

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