Focus Your Energy on Growing Apprenticeships

December 13, 2022
Paul Rifkin

Now is the right time to actively regrow the waning numbers of chefs. I receive many phone calls and emails re chef recruitment, all looking for head chefs, sous chefs, and any chefs sometimes… the shortage is real across many industries.

How did the industry reach this large shortfall?

While COVID-19 has been partly responsible, the main cause is the disappearance of apprentice chefs and traineeships at most venues over many years. There have been many reasons driving this over the past 10 years…

  • Head chefs who just do not want to deal with apprentices
  • Tighter teams with less room for juniors
  • Cost benefit analysis that shows apprentices are too expensive and come with too long a payback period
  • The ease of putting on a visa chef
  • Disinterest and ignorance of the benefits to industry long term
  • 4- and 5-star Hotels, the previous training ground for apprentices, outsourcing so much that there is no room anymore for broad training

What can you do?

I believe that Clubs and Pubs have the potential to be excellent training grounds for apprentices. More and more of these venues are offering better dining facilities than many restaurants, affording an apprentice a diverse training opportunity.

How do you attract or encourage apprentices to see your venue as an opportunity?

Your venues are linked to the community they exist in, this gives them a wider draw for local kids, the trick is to engage them early. By developing a relationship with the local schools with work experience and careers days, the opportunity is there to educate kids and parents of the merits of a chef career.

School Based Apprenticeships are a terrific tool.

A school-based apprenticeship is just like the apprenticeships of years gone by. Get the kids in early and grow their enthusiasm from year 10-12.  More info link SBAT FAQs (

The key here is the parents and teachers. Cheffing has long been seen as the recommended career for troublemakers at school, get them out early and into “hands on” work. Yet the more successful chefs are often educated, have finished their HSC, been to university or, in some cases, have had another career first.

A chef these days requires a keen mind with a head for figures and people management, along with the physicality to function. It is not about being a celebrity chef, but as they become more engaged with the customers, cheffing has gone from Back of House to Front of House.

Why is now so important?

Government incentives are available with many subsidies for apprentices and trainees, this makes right now a perfect time to take an apprentice on board. You will be reducing the future reliance on visa chefs and increasing the future pool of chefs, which is a win win for hospitality venues.

Paul Rifkin

By developing a training program, you might be able to take on a new apprentice each year, that way you can have a first, second and third year on board at all times. By encouraging apprentices to move around to your other venues, all will benefit in the long run.

Does your venue have the resources and vision to grow the industry again?

This is the way forward for your catering department. Don’t leave it too late to act and be caught short in the future, you are, after all, in it for the long haul.

Make cheffing a great career again by being part of the solution.

Chef Paul Rifkin

Paul Rifkin – chefpaulrifkin consulting Head Chef Mentoring and Fine-Tuning Specialist for Club Catering


Apprenticeships, Kitchens, Paul Rifkin

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