Why your club needs to reconsider how it hires apprentice chefs

By Paul Rifkin

Club Catering Consultant

I receive at least a phone call per day re chef recruitment, clubs looking for head chefs, sous chefs, and any chefs sometimes.

How did the industry come to this, such a large shortfall?

Yes, COVID-19 has been partly responsible, the main cause has been the disappearance of apprentice chefs and traineeships for most venues.

There have been many reasons driving this over the past 10 years:

· Head chefs who just do not want to deal with apprentices

· Teams are tighter with less room for juniors

· Cost benefit analysis that shows they are too expensive with too long a payback period

· It has been easier to put on a visa chef sometimes

· Disinterest and ignorance of the benefits to industry long term

· Hotels, the previous training ground for apprentices, have outsourced so much that there is no room in them anymore for broad training

Paul Rifkin

What can you do?

I believe that clubs have the potential to be an excellent training ground for apprentices. More and more clubs have better dining facilities than many hotels, and this affords an apprentice a diverse training opportunity.

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

Clubs 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.

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, finished their HSC, have been to university or had another career first.

These days, a chef requires a keen mind with a head for figures and people management, as well as the physicality to function. It is not about being a celebrity chef, but becoming 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 for up to 50 per cent in subsidies for apprentices and trainees. Now is the 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, a win-win for hospitality venues.

By developing a training program in a medium to large club, you might be able to take on a new apprentice each year. That way you can have a 1st, 2nd and 3rd year at all times. By encouraging apprentices to move around to other clubs, all will benefit in the long run.

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

This is the way forward as your catering department gets back on its’ feet, don’t leave it too late to act and be caught short in the near future.

Make Clubs the new fertile training ground for future chefs.

Club Catering Consultant Paul Rifkin has more than 40 years’ experience in large-venue kitchens as a chef and mentor, including 17 years at Campbelltown Catholic Club as Executive Chef. 



apprentice chefs, apprentices, hiring

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    1. Thanks for reading Loy Tsang. Paul has decades of experience in the club space and is a regular and trusted contributor to Clubtic. Please tell your club and hospo industry friends to subscribe.

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