Critical shortage of chefs - Low pay means low interest

Our obsession with all things foodie has grown in tandem with the growth of secularism.

Where once Catholics celebrated the rosary, today some of us fret unduly about risotto. Artisan food producers are venerated as the keepers of an undefined, but reassuring, flame.

This fetish is driven by unrelenting food porn on television. Despite all that over-seasoned palaver, Ireland needs 5,000 chefs.

Jobs in the sector are poorly paid. The average pay for a chef is a very moderate €27,679 a year, a sous chef gets €32,364, and a head chef €42,899.

In a country where the average price for a three-bed, semi-detached house in Dublin broke the €400,000 barrier in the first quarter of this year, these are not, by any stretch of the imagination, attractive packages.

Restaurants are weather vanes — if the economy is doing well, they can do well; if it staggers, many restaurants fall. This volatility is recognised by advantageous Vat rates, but, despite that, the relatively high cost of eating out in Ireland is an impediment to tourism — especially staycations.

Yesterday, the Small and Medium Enterprises’ Association expressed concern around what it described as the high cost of doing business and made particular reference to wages.

Their figures may be right, but as the chef crisis shows, low pay means low interest from prospective employees. In this supply-and-demand world, restauranteurs will have to pay more to get staff.

That’s the way our world works.


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