Viewpoints from Aussie Cuisine

  • Compared to the extensive training undertaken by aspiring chefs, there is a serious lack of front of house/service training in Australia and therefore serious issues with the overall quality of hospitality service in our restaurants. ‘Unlike in Europe, where service/front of house is considered a long-term career choice, this is not so in Australia. Therefore, hospitality service tends to attract young workers without formal training, such as university students and backpackers. To tackle this issue, greater emphasis on the job training and professional supervision is required’.

  • ‘It is estimated that by 2020 the tourism and hospitality industry will be 120,000 workers short of requirements, whilst there are now some 30,000 hospitality positions short’, says Michael Bennett.

  • 50 percent of chef apprentices quit within the first six months and on average only 39 percent will complete their course. Research suggests some 70 percent of chefs leave the industry by age 32. This is a disastrous result, a great waste of energy, culinary talent and resources.

  • Well-trained chefs provide an essential pillar to the AussieCuisine and if that pillar is weakened the further evolution of our cuisine is on shaky grounds. This is a very serious problem not only for restaurants and the hospitality sector but also for the entire Australian tourism industry. As such it deserves urgent attention by the leaders of the industry, the educators and the government.

By Carolina Holzmeister

A report on ‘All about Chefs: An Aussie Cuisine Forum’, which was held at the Mise en Place Sydney 2017.

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In attendance:

Michael Bennett, Chief Executive Officer, HTN

David Chen, career services officer, Le Cordon Bleu

Grace Chompuchan, career services manager, Le Cordon Bleu

Fritz Gubler, publisher, Aussie Cuisine

Iwan Gunawan, student, William Angliss Institute

Carolina Holzmeister, food writer, Aussie Cuisine

Karen Lateo, general manager, Entrée Chefs and Lifestyle Management

Jean-Marie Liere, MD, Our French Impressions

Dilki Natasha Mahathelge, student, William Angliss Institute

Thanawut Phatthanaphon, student, William Angliss Institute

Dane Richards, hospitality consultant and food writer, Aussie Cuisine

Martin Zgraggen, Trainer Assessor Hospitality Programs NSW, William Angliss Institute

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Program:

  • Introduction:

The presentation of the Aussie Cuisine project.

By Fritz Gubler

  • The project so far:

The evolution of the Aussie Cuisine project.

By Carolina Holzmeister

  • Presentation of the first question:

What is the impact of your training and work experience on your career?

By Dane Richards

  • Presentation of the second question:

Why do you think there is a shortage of chefs, particularly apprentice chefs, in the culinary industry in Australia? How will this influence our further gastronomic evolution?

By Michael Bennett

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At Mise en Place Sydney 2017, our host Fritz Gubler introduced the Aussie Cuisine project. Warm croissants and fresh coffee were served to highlight the French influence on the history of Aussie Cuisine. As Fritz explained to the audience, it all started with the arrival of the First Fleet in January 1788. When Governor Arthur Phillip sailed into Botany Bay, among his personal staff was a French chef and a French steward.

An overview on the research project so far was presented by Carolina Holzmeister, including recent research papers about produce and influences on menus of Sydney and Melbourne restaurants. The project evolved into the celebration of Australian national dishes with the Sydney seafood chowder challenge. A competition among chefs to create the best seafood chowder was held at the Mise en Place and was conceived to create greater awareness of our national dishes and proved to be a popular enterprise.

Dane Richards, a forum co-host, was invited to open a debate of the impact of the training and work experience on the career of chefs. These are the conclusive comments:

  • Becoming a chef these days means being able to travel overseas and work internationally, as chefs are able to find job positions in most capital cities in the world.
  • Australian culinary graduates tend to be encouraged to work at reputable establishments overseas, mainly in the UK, France, Spain and USA in order to develop their skills and prowess, which can be perceived as an exacerbation of our skilled labour exports. Whereas oversees chefs tend to seek work in the Australian hospitality industry because of our renowned Aussie lifestyle, instead of a greater level of professionalism.
  • Despite the top quality of our Australian produce and highly skilled chefs, there is an apparent issue with the quality of service in the hospitality industry in Australia. Unlike in Europe, where front of house is considered a long-term career choice, this is not so in Australia. Therefore, hospitality service tends to attract young workers without formal training, such as university students and backpackers. To tackle this issue, greater emphasis on the job training and professional supervision is required.

 Michael Bennett and Fritz Gubler were the co-hosts of
 the Aussie Cuisine forum at the Mise en Place Sydney 2017

Michael Bennett, a forum co-host, led a discussion on the shortage of chefs, particularly apprentice chefs, in the culinary industry in Australia. These are the conclusive comments:

  • It is estimated that by 2020 the tourism and hospitality industry will be 120,000 workers short of requirements, whilst there are now some 30,000 hospitality positions short.
  • The introduction by the NSW Government of apprenticeships based on the European training model, which is focused on a 36-month apprenticeship program, can hopefully change this scenario by improving the level of professionalism in the hospitality industry.
  • One reason for the shortage of chefs is the relatively low wages. There is little attraction to chef’s apprenticeship in hospitality as Australian apprentices under 21 years receive in their first year 55 percent of the cook grade three’s wage rate, whilst Australian apprentices over 21 years old receive 80 percent of the cook grade three’s pay rate in their first year. Furthermore, in some cases apprentices tend not to receive their correct wages at work.
  • The popularity of TV food shows and the iconic status of some celebrity chefs has led to the glamorisation of the chef’s profession. However, the gritty reality of a chef’s career means working very long, often irregular hours, with little social time, while receiving relatively low remuneration in a stressful and hard working environment. This distortion of reality means that 50 percent of apprentices tend to quit within the first six months and on average only 39 percent of apprentices will complete their course.
  • According to a survey mentioned by Michael Bennett, money/financial reward is surprisingly ranked number four in what motivates an apprentice, whilst quality of training is number one, respect from their peers is number two, and opportunity to progress in their careers is number three.
  • A key question is how to maintain chefs in the industry, as 70 percent of chefs leave their jobs by age 32. Mentoring seems to be the solution to inspire young chefs, as they need to be guided to maintain their positions, instead of being dealt with the traditional tough treatment in the kitchen. The challenge seems to be how to mentor the mentors, since training is a commitment from the trainer’s perspective.
  • Some members of the hospitality industry lobbied the NSW State Government to start a pre-apprenticeship pilot program named Aspire with a 12-week duration. This could not only provide work experience but a sense of expectation of the career. If the apprentices pass the work experience program, they would move straight into the second year of their apprenticeship.
  • The new law that allows culinary apprenticeship to be completed in only one year could have a negative impact on the level of qualification of chefs in Australia. In order to further develop the chefs’ curriculum, the hospitality industry needs to have a strong voice and be represented in the current government so that rules can be changed and improvements can be made.