Local restaurateurs are being forced to offer generous incentives to their chefs amid a disastrousnation-wide chef shortage.
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HEATING UP: Oak Room chef Jamie Shepley said young people were deterred from the cooking industry due to the long hours and labour-intensive work.

Australia is now in the grips of a chronic chef shortage, with more than 38,000 chefs needed across the country to fill empty spaces behind the kitchen pass.

Wagga’s Oak Room chef Jamie Shepley saidhe had indeed felt the squeeze of the shortage, which put a great deal of extra pressure on the business and its staff.

“I’ve definitely noticed this recent decline of chefs in the industry,” Mr Shepley said.

“When I advertise for chefs these days,Igenerally get replies from international companiestrying to place immigrants, but very rarely will I get replies from local applicants.”

Mr Shepley said the shortage was potentiallythe resultof young people not wanting to workin the industry due to the difficultnature of the work.

“Compared to 15 years ago, young people aren’twilling to put in effort andwanteverything handed to them on a platter, which is frustrating,” he said.

“It’s a toughjob that’shighly labour intensivewithlong hours, and once young apprentices realise thisthey often cease their training.”

As a result of the shortage, Mr Shepley has found himselfobliged to offer alluring enticements, including higher wages and more flexible hours, in a bid to lure chefs into kitchens and keep them there.

“We’re always having to offer better hours, wages and conditions to draw staff into their roles and hold on to them,” he said.

“This has a follow on effect, meaning our food and drink prices have to be increased to cover the extra staffing cost.”

According to Thaigga Thai owner Robert Baliva, though the whole country is faced with the crisis, regional restaurants are under even more pressure than those in bigger cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne.

According to Mr Baliva,he payshis chefs approximately 20 to 30 per cent more than the average industry wage, just to draw them into his kitchen.

“The chef shortage is affecting the whole industry, but bringing people out here is hard, because they want to stay in the bigger cities, so we have to pay them to stay” he said.

Mr Baliva said this made the restaurant’smargins very tight and, as a result, there was “no other choice” but to increasefood pricesin February.

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