Top chef Ben Tunnicliffe has warned that Cornwall is in dire need of new food industry professionals, thanks to a recent dearth of food recruitment.
He fears that the area could lose its reputation as a top food destination if nothing is done to rectify the situation.
Fears for Status
Tunnicliffe owns three restaurants in West Cornwall – the Newlyn pub, the Tolcarne Inn, and Ben Tunnicliffe Sennen Cove. He feels that there has been difficulty lately in hiring and also retaining the services of chefs at all levels, not just at the top.
He adds that the hospitality industry in Cornwall is currently crying out for new blood, with many positions going unfilled. He admits to finding it very difficult to fill positions in his own ventures, something that has never been so hard.
"The last few years have been a struggle, but this year it's tragic," he said. “We have vacancies at all levels from trainees to head chefs but hardly any interest and unfortunately, not enough commitment from those that do apply."
The reputation of the area as a top food destination will not continue if new recruits are not found.
Agreement from Locals
Emily Scott is another local business owner who agrees with Tunnicliffe’s outlook. She runs the St Tudy Inn in North Cornwall, and is on the lookout for more food staff herself.
"I'm very willing to nurture and train people with the right mindset, but for some reason finding them is difficult," she said. "The shortage of young chefs is definitely putting a lot of pressure on the industry as a whole. It's a tough career, kitchens are a high-pressure environment and the hours are unsociable. You have to be very driven and have a real love of food in order to succeed."
"People have rightly come to expect extremely high standards from the food on offer here in Cornwall,” Tunnicliffe adds. "Without new blood it's difficult to see how the food scene in the region can continue to stay on top of the game. Chefs I know have travelled all over the world for work, started businesses, written books or diversified into events and consultancy but you have to start at the bottom and it's a long way up."
The worry is that if more young chefs do not start getting into the business from that bottom position, there may not be anyone to fill the top positions over time. This could lead to a real shortage for the hospitality industry as a whole.
A Rewarding Career
Despite the long hours, Tunnicliffe – who has gained a Michelin star for his efforts – maintains that working in a kitchen is a worthwhile and rewarding career.
"Food and hospitality is the most important industry in Cornwall," he said. "The opportunities are huge if you work hard - and not just financially. It gives me a real buzz when someone comes to the pass and tells me they have enjoyed my food. Putting a smile on people's faces isn't something you get to do in every line of work and I want to watch more young chefs experience that."
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