Why training is the best way to fix NZ’s chef shortage

by L&D26 May 2016

If shows like MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules have taught us anything, it’s that there’s no substitute for learning cooking skills on-the-job.

A chef’s apprenticeship involves knowledge and skills being developed in a restaurant with customers, and under the personal guidance from executive chefs.

Despite the skills shortage of chefs in New Zealand, there are currently 311 chefs training on-the- job in high end hotels, boutique eateries, and popular brand name restaurants.

These include: Auckland’s Soul Bar, Ruth Pretty Catering, Fleurs Place in Moeraki, The Hermitage at Mt Cook, the Intercontinental in Wellington, and Millennium Hotels & Resorts.

In particular, the ServiceIQ’s New Zealand Cookery Apprenticeship has apprentices learning the vital basics to complex techniques.

Tamara Johnson started her career by completing the chef apprenticeship program and winning the ServiceIQ Apprentice Chef of the Year 2013.

After stints in top hotel kitchens overseas, and as food co-ordinator on TV cooking shows My Kitchen Rules and Masterchef, today she is Chef de Partie at Madam Woo restaurant in Auckland.

Johnson said her apprenticeship gave her an edge over someone who has just finished up at cooking school.

“I would say that a chef is more likely to hire you based on your experience level in the kitchen over years in a classroom,” she said.

Moreover, the NZ government has set aside $14.4 million for more apprenticeship training across a number of sectors.

ServiceIQ CEO Dean Minchington said the government is demonstrating great commitment to training for this industry.

“I expect it will become even more important in the months and years to come in the hospitality industry which, as part of the tourism industry, is so vital to New Zealand’s economic success,” said Minchington.

ServiceIQ offers three core hospitality apprenticeships covering catering, food & beverage and chef training.

The programs are available to hospitality businesses that want to upskill talented employees with the potential to be chefs.

Minchington added that this includes young entrants who have successfully completed a hospitality cooking programme at secondary school.

“We want to support more young New Zealanders with a skill for great cooking and more employers in need of quality chefs,” said Minchington.