Ken Burgin

Is this the real reason we can’t find chefs?

Is the chef shortage a result of work that’s too hard, low pay, a sudden lack of work ethics … or because of a housing problem?

Instead of blaming young people or immigration changes, or even Masterchef, I’d put a lot of it onto the lack of affordable rentals close to the main hospitality and tourism hubs, where the work is. In my city of Sydney, that’s in the CBD, on the harbour and at beach-side suburbs.

At the wonderful Aust Culinary Federation Chef’s Dinner the other night, I talked to a wide range of young chefs. They love their work, mostly in those busy areas, and they live a looooong way away – a couple of them told me about catching the last train home at 1am and falling asleep for an hour until they get off at 2.30am. Then back to work for lunch the next day. Some live with parents, others with friends in cheap housing.

OK those hours aren’t exactly fair (and probably illegal), but at another time they would have found a reasonably-priced house to share or a flat within 5km, with a 20 min. bus or train to work. Adding four hours of travel to every work day is just asking for burnout, and a resignation. This is not just a problem for chefs, but also for teachers, police workers, cleaners and all the people doing the essential middle-level work that keeps society functioning.

Let’s stop blaming young people and social media, and understand that the problem is much more fundamental…

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