The shortage of chefs in Kerry is so severe that the county council yesterday discussed calling on the the Department of Tourism to intervene.
Kenmare Fine Gael councillor Patrick Connor-Scarteen said the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport should make incentives available “to attract more chefs and people to the catering industry”.
Currently restaurants and hotels in Kerry “are experiencing severe shortages”, Mr Connor-Scarteen said.
One website last weekend had 64 vacancies for chefs of levels, from head chef to trainee, in Kerry.
Dining areas are packed but the restaurants are struggling to cope and “temperatures are rising” in more ways than one in the kitchen, he said
“There is huge frustration in the catering industry right now.”
Making tourism and travel a Leaving Certificate subject needs to be looked at as well as working conditions to ensure a skillset for Kerry’s biggest industry, he said.
He has called on the industry itself to change to make it more attractive for chefs in terms of pay, seasonal work, and workplace conditions.
He said in some establishments, kitchens are “too small and too hot” and he has heard of chefs having to work in kitchens where the temperature is more than 40C.
Chefs are among the best-paid workers in the industry and hoteliers are ensuring their conditions are good to hold on to them, according to one hotelier who did not wish to be named. “The days of the wolf behind the hotplate are well and truly gone. The image has completely changed and the pay is very good — yet they are not to be found this season.”
The head of the department of hotel, culinary and tourism at the Institute of Technology, Tralee, and Fáilte Ireland board member Mary Rose Stafford said the shortage of chefs this season is “ serious”.
“There isn’t a quick fix to this,” she said.
“It’s not just chefs — there is a huge shortage too in waiting staff.”
The best thing that the hotel and catering industry can do is “upskill” existing staff to the level of chef, she said.
The Kerry Economic and Community Plan 2016-2021 notes that tourism “the key driver” of economic activity in the county with 14,000 employed in tourism and more than €400m generated by visitors annually.
“At least one in every five jobs and businesses in the county depend on tourism”, it says.
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