Currently, four out of ten jobs for chefs in the United Kingdom are vacant, as BREXIT on the one hand and the successive quarantines due to the pandemic on the other, have driven thousands of professionals out of the profession, as Dr. Michalis Kourtidis, Senior Teaching Fellow and course director in Human Resource Management at Birmingham City University.

The shortage of chefs – as well as waiters – and the general trend towards restaurants has drastically changed the UK catering market itself. Many restaurants have closed, a well-known chain has locked 60 of its stores, while other businesses have drastically reduced either their opening hours or days.

30% of the chefs are foreigners

“30% of chefs in England were foreigners, Italians, Spaniards, Greeks, Poles, many of whom after 2016 and especially after BREXIT either stopped coming to the country or left it. Today, 40% of chef jobs in England are vacant and of that 40%, 20% of professionals leave within one to three years of being hired,” he explains – citing his research results in hotel and casual restaurants /upper casual of the United Kingdom, from 2017 to the end of 2022 – Dr Kourtidis, speaker tonight at the 6th conference of the ACT Tourism and Hospitality Academic Program – The American College of Thessaloniki.

A tough job…

The chef’s profession, he adds, is not what many imagine anyway, “bathed” in the spotlight and surrounded by the dream of the good life.

“If you want to do ‘championship’, it’s a very difficult job, which among other things requires military hierarchy and discipline” he explains and adds that BREXIT and the pandemic have worked like gangrene for the industry in the UK.

“Focus is a fast-track industry, where a lot of times it’s ‘I hire you today, you come to work tomorrow, I don’t have time to train you.’ If you combine the difficult nature of the work with the three national and several local lockdowns that have taken place in England, the picture is complete.

When the restaurants were closed due to quarantine and even though the so-called “furlough” was in effect – payment of 80% of the salary without working – many restaurant workers looked for other jobs, in warehouses, in delivery, etc. After all, the wages there were better. For example, an Amazon worker is paid up to £20 an hour, while in restaurants cooks and kitchen workers (not chefs) get £5.7-9/hour.

Chefs aren’t particularly well paid either. In casual, upper casual and hotel restaurants, they get 30,000-35,000 pounds per year and only the so-called “group executive chefs” – that is, those who oversee 10 or 15 kitchens, put together menus, see trends, costs, suppliers, make important management decisions – have a satisfactory income, over £50,000′ he says.

At the same time, the restaurant and hospitality professions in general are increasingly “leaving” higher education: “under the last Tory governments, there has been a tendency to close university schools in hospitality and to open more colleges in their place, where catering is primarily taught as an art. But it’s not just art, it’s management, finance and much more. Of course, there are people who go against this trend. For example, “Le Cordon Bleu”, a world leader in the field of culinary education, collaborates in the restaurant management part with Birkbeck, University of London, combining research and practice, something very important” he points out.