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Kitchens in crisis: the fight to attract more staff

As kitchens try to cope with a dire shortage of chefs, the catering industry here in the South West is trying to do more to attract staff and keep them. That means improving working conditions and updating training.

Sharp knives but no sharp tongues - the stereotype of a stressful, shouty kitchen is passing out of favour. Credit: ITV News

At the Scarlet hotel near Newquay they make sure they keep the atmosphere relaxed and the kitchen an enjoyable place to work.

We like to run a calm kitchen, there is not much shouting and screaming at all.

That part of kitchens has gone, even in the best kitchens where they have a history of doing that sort of thing. It just doesn't work anymore.

– Tom Hunter, Executive Chef

The industry warns there is a dire shortage with 11,000 more chefs needing to be trained in the next few years.

The Scarlet has only just managed to recruit a full brigade of chefs for the kitchen - they work shifts that suit them and are paid competitively, with managers trying to keep a better work-life balance for their staff.

Hopefully we won't need to recruit so much because people feel valued, we develop them, and they want to stay.

– Tom Hunter, Executive Chef

Changes like those at the Scarlet are being seen in kitchens across the country.

Other initiatives are being introduced too - with closer relationships being forced with catering colleges so that students get the best training, and kitchens get the skills they need.

Credit: ITV News

The Hix Academy is one such example - a partnership between the chef Mark Hix and Weymouth College.

Mark grew up in Dorset, and still returns to the College once a month to share the skills he learnt with a fresh crop of trainee chefs.

"The restaurant and hotel business is one of the biggest growing indstries in the UK. It brings in tourism to the country and unfortunately there is no education, even in school for priming people up for going into the business

– Mark Hix, chef

There is a warning that fine dining might disappear as kitchens are deskilled and menus simplified. But by improving training, pay and working conditions, kitchens are responding to staff shortages to protect their future.

You can watch the second episode of our 'Kitchens in Crisis' series below:

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