Cook school offers fast-track courses to tackle Brexit staff shortage fears

Edinburgh School of Food and Wine owner Ian Pirrie offers nine-month courses. Photograph: Alistair Linford
Edinburgh School of Food and Wine owner Ian Pirrie offers nine-month courses. Photograph: Alistair Linford
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A cookery school has launched a series of intensive courses targeting “career changers” and which is aimed at plugging the shortage of kitchen workers expected post-Brexit.

Leading chefs and restaurant managers have warned that they are already struggling to recruit staff – with many saying the situation will get worse when Britain leaves the European Union.

Now the Edinburgh School of Food and Wine has created a series of nine-month intensive courses to replace the standard two-year version aimed at getting potential workers up to speed faster. They say they have started to see an increase in the number of people in their 30s and 40s taking redundancy payments from jobs in industries such as financial services who are keen to move into the restaurant industry.

Chef Mark Greenaway, who has just opened a new restaurant, Grazing by Mark Greenaway, in Edinburgh’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Princes Street, has previously spoken of struggles to recruit staff at his previous venture, with many applicants failing to turn up for interview.

He said: “When we put the adverts out for chefs for Grazing, we got over 50 applicants – so it looks like there are still chefs out there looking for exciting new challenges, which is great.

“However, once Brexit takes effect, I have no idea how it will affect the trade.”

Emmanuel Moine, the manager of the Glen Mhor Hotel in Inverness, recently warned that he was struggling to recruit summer staff as a result of Brexit and was being forced to pay his chefs more in a bid to retain workers.

Edinburgh School of Food and Wine owner Ian Pirrie, who moved from a banking career to run the cookery school in 2008, said: “It is a huge problem. People we have spoken to in the industry say recruitment is very difficult.

“The skills shortage has been well documented and is only expected to worsen post-Brexit.

“We are already getting a lot of ‘career changers’ now, it is not just people coming out of school. Some are in their 30s and 40s and have maybe taken a redundancy package from a financial services firm and want to do something different.

He added: “We’re trying to bridge the gap. Often, these course are two to three years long with a lot of theory. We are offering a short version with as much hands-on experience as possible.”

Pirrie said that restaurants needed to shake off the old- fashioned image of long hours and an aggressive kitchen culture.

He said: “We need to realise that millennials are a different breed. It’s not a bad thing, but they are not going to want to do 60-hour weeks. There is still this old-fashioned perception that kitchens are full of people shouting at each other and working long hours, but it is not the case any more in a lot of places.”