Reader Soapbox

18 June 2004
Reader Soapbox

For years, the skills shortage has been an issue. Everyone talks about it, but what exactly are we doing about it? This question goes out to everyone who cares in the catering industry. Too often we're just money-grabbers who push young kids into positions before they've gained the necessary experience.

Why are chefs in restaurants, hotels and professional kitchens buying in ready-filleted fish, butchered meats, and ready-prepared salads? Where has the hard graft gone? It's now very difficult to recruit chefs de partie. Instead, we get sous chefs without the knowledge of seasonal produce necessary to properly respect food, and a bogus job title that gives them an inflated sense of their own worth. We're giving them a title that will only see them fall flat on their faces when they move to another job.

We must attract young talent and not make them disillusioned. Some television shows can make our industry look more glamorous than it really is. So, well done Gordon Ramsay. In Hell's Kitchen you introduced a group of B-list celebrities and the British public to our world.

We need to expose more potential chefs to the real world. To do this, chefs in the public eye should be setting standards, not making it look easier than it is and producing a generation who want to deal only with the finished article and avoid peeling the potatoes or picking the spinach.

We need to hear from and read about the up-and-coming chefs who are really pushing the barriers and setting standards in all aspects of the catering industry.

And that means contract catering, research and development chefs for supermarket chains, and food writers such as Roz Denny.

Let's fight to bring apprenticeships back into the industry, teach young chefs properly and make them work for their positions, instead of just continuing to line our pockets.

Come on, Britain. Let's take the issue by storm and fight this problem together. Let the rest of the world see how we're challenging this important issue.

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