It is “nigh on impossible” to find a chef in Ireland at the moment – with around 10,000 vacancies in kitchens around the country.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, hotelier Lorraine Sweeney said sourcing chefs is “single biggest issue facing the hospitality sector at the moment”.
She is joining calls for kitchen work to be placed on the critical skills list so chefs who are interested in coming from abroad to work here can be fast-tracked through the visa process.
“It’s really difficult [to find chefs],” Ms Sweeney told Jonathan Healy. “It’s a huge problem. It’s the single biggest issue facing the hospitality sector without a doubt.
“Chefs and other categories but obviously the manager of a hotel can go and work reception, make the bed or serve the food but they can’t actually go into the kitchen and cook it.
“There’s no supplement for not having a chef in our industry.”
"Nigh on impossible"
She said it is now “absolutely next nigh on impossible” to find good kitchen staff since the pandemic.
“Chefs have to come in from abroad. I actually thought chefs were already on the critical skills list but in fact they’re just on the Department of Enterprise schedule,” she said.
“They need to be put on the critical skills which means they can be fast-tracked into the country.
“We need more people in this country who want to work. They are needed very much in hospitality and literally the hospitality sector is finding it impossible to function, in particular, without chefs.”
Also on the show, Paddy Lynn, Founder and CEO of ‘We Have Chefs’ said his company sources skilled chefs from Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.
He said it currently takes five to six months to process the necessary visa applications to bring a skilled chef to Ireland.
He said placing chefs on the critical skills list would reduce that waiting time to four to six weeks.
Ms Sweeney said Ireland has been failing to train up enough chefs for years.
“In times gone by, there was an apprenticeship, you would go to college one day a week and it would take four years and you would work your way up the line in the kitchen,” she said.
“We get people coming into us that have been flipping hamburger in a fast-food restaurant and they come out and put on hat and call themselves a chef.
“They actually demand high salaries. We get people interviewing us to see do they want to work with us as opposed to us trying to find out what their particular skills are for working in the restaurant.”
Asked whether the hotel industry was attractive sector for a chef to work in, she said: “I have people working for me for 15 and 20 years so certainly I wouldn’t like to be tarnished with the brush that we treat people badly.”
“In fact, nowadays if you get a chef, you’re so lucky to have them that you are wrapping them up in cotton wool to be honest with you.”
Back in March, Fáilte Ireland warned there were 40,000 vacancies across the tourism industry – including 10,000 for kitchen staff.
You can listen back to the full segment here: