Monday 13 September 2021 5:13 pm

Why there has never been a better time to be a young chef

I spent a lot of time in our City restaurants last week and it finally felt like finally the City was coming back to life. Coq d’Argent, 14 Hills and Madison were all packed. It was warm and sunny and the recovery from Covid in central London seemed to be getting into gear.

But behind the scenes our industry is facing unprecedented challenges. There is a massive shortfall of restaurant staff, particularly chefs. We all knew Brexit would be a challenge but no-one anticipated the speed at which a combination of Brexit, Covid and the strong economic bounce-back would create the current crisis. 

We are all now in the trenches in the war for staff. Short term pain, long term gain many would say. Staff shortages lead to better pay, which will surely attract more Brits to replace all those missing Europeans. Maybe. Front of house we have had some success: enthusiastic, hard working young people have joined us as waiters to get us through summer. Many were students who are now returning to university. But junior chef vacancies have remained stubbornly difficult to fill. That’s despite earnings climbing to £35,000 a year, more flexibility in working hours, and an expanding range of benefits and career development opportunities.

So, as we approach the busiest time of the year for restaurants, we are excited but also anxious about our ability to cope. At D&D we have launched a number of initiatives aimed at making working for us as enjoyable and as fulfilling as it can be. We’ve also launched schemes to attract people from outside the industry into hospitality. Each of our Summer Schools has resulted in some 30 new recruits. So we will continue the Schools into the autumn.

But the show must go on. And we are this week launching what we hope will be quite a show. The 17,000 sq ft 500-plus cover Haugen opens this Wednesday in Stratford, East London. Housed in a spectacular wood and glass pavilion designed by Acme for developers Lendlease, we have created a café, restaurant and rooftop bar that aim to bring a taste of the Alpine to London. Haugen is a totally self-indulgent restaurant complex we hope will bring as much enjoyment to our customers as we have had in creating it.

Tatiflettes, rӧstis and fondues will all be washed down with Alpine wines and schnapps… Verbier just a 10 minute train ride from Bank! We hope Haugen helps cheer us all up and think of the better times to come.