One of the biggest ongoing challenges faced by restaurants in the UK is the shortage of chefs and the quality of new recruits into kitchens. The latest Office of National Statistics data demonstrates that hotels and restaurants are experiencing a consistently higher vacancy rate than other sectors – there are 4.1 vacancies per 100 jobs, in comparison to the average of 2.8 across the wider economy.

What’s more, research from Indeed found that chef was the third most difficult job to recruit for in the UK, accounting for 2.06% of the jobs that are classified ‘hard to fill’ on the website.

With this in mind, hospitality businesses are now looking for alternative means in which to attract and retain staff.  Here at the Cookery School at Little Portland Street, we recognise the challenges that the industry is facing and believe our six-week, fast-track professional cooking course, Cook’s Certificate in Food & Wine can rapidly help solve this issue.

We have found that many of those who work in kitchens can cook the food that they have been taught to cook but do not necessarily have the knowledge or understanding to take them all the way up through the ranks. Our course fast tracks students through an advanced course that covers all aspects of cooking, including work experience at the end, and turns out kitchen-ready recruits. In fact, many who have completed the work experience have been offered a job on the spot!

Our training is applicable to kitchens that have juniors/enthusiastic kitchen porters that could be promoted but lack experience and the required knowledge, or companies who wish to take on new staff who lack any cooking experience. Whatever the kitchen, whether in a restaurant, hotel, catering or food outlet business, the skills that our Cook’s Certificate students acquire prepare them to roll up their sleeves and start working. In addition, sustainability is a fundamental part of the Cook’s Certificate course and taught throughout, resulting in kitchen recruits who are trained to minimise food waste, use less plastic and so on.

So how does this help the chef shortage? In the past, we have had students whose company has paid for them (or subsidised them) to do the course, in return for a minimum period contract of employment, making it worth their while. One such student is Emma, who completed the Cook’s Certificate in July 2018 and was already working at Japanese restaurant and SRA member, Abeno, when she enrolled.

“The Cook’s Certificate course gave me an invaluable confidence and understanding of food. Despite having worked in the industry all my professional life, I had never ventured to the kitchen, opting for front of house roles,” she said.

“It wasn’t until I gained the required understanding and knowledge that I developed the confidence to involve myself more in the kitchen. Now, I’m based there throughout the week.”

The Cook’s Certificate’s emphasis on sustainability was also a big draw for Emma, as Abeno has been a member of the SRA since 2014.

“The background information on working with sustainable produce was also fantastic – it provided a great foundation that I am now confident in spreading in any kitchen I work in.”

Sustainability was also of huge importance for Jonathan Brown, owner of Abeno.

“We have always recognised the impact our restaurants have had on the environment and sought to recruit chefs who were not only passionate about cooking but also about the natural resources they had at their disposal,” he said.

“This has not always been easy as a lack of awareness and cost pressures have not afforded chefs in other restaurants the opportunities to re-evaluate the essence of their work.”

He found the Cook’s Certificate to be a valuable investment not only for Emma, but for his business as a whole:

“What the course provided for our chef was a broader introduction to the preparation of delicious, sustainably sourced food, the renewed confidence to explain procedures and principles to team members new to the idea of sustainability in the restaurant industry and a reassuring support network of like-minded, committed individuals.”

With just a six-week turnaround, the Cook’s Certificate is a viable and valuable option for restaurants and chefs alike, with the potential to assist kitchens all over the UK with their staff shortages. Should you be interested in learning more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: [email protected] or 020 7631 4590.