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Vancouver Chef Labour Shortage?


fud
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This is nothing but a total marketing ploy by the VCC.

While here in Charlottetown, I have seen the same thing by culinary colleges here.

They charge an arm and a leg to attend and the students coming out of them have only the basic skills and an arrogant attitude.

They have little or no respect for their fellow cooks or their hydro-ceramic engineers (dishwashers) and think that they are the next Rob Feenie.

They think that coming out of the schools that they should have no position lower than sous chef or executive chef and they are not taught people skills.

Personally, I think they are the biggest waste of money and do more to add to the chef shortage by instilling unreal salary expectations and saddling the students with a 25,000 dollar debt load.

They get their first job which usually pays jack shit and they find that the work is much more stressful than in the controlled environment of the school and quit.

IMHO, they should make everyone work their first 2 weeks in the dishpit so they have a little respect and humility and a reality check as to what the business is really like.

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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Here Here I agree 100%, I spent 3 years at Hotel School and learnt next to nothing, I say nothing beats hands on practical hard work in a real kitchen not a controlled environment like school kitchens.

These budding "Executive" Chefs come out of school loaded with a false perspective of the industry and huge expectations.

PUT EM IN THE DISHPIT

Marcus Stiller

Fish & Fish Cafe

www.fishcafe.ca

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Oyster Guy

Harsh but true

I have to agree on what you are saying

The situation created by the educators of our business is not showing the reality.

Sure you can be a rock star; but what percentage of cooks makes good money and what vertical career path do they have in the Vancouver market? Making ten bucks an hour as a line cook does not pay a student loan. Working and giving your soul to a local company and waiting five years to get credit; still you might be making 13, if you are a stand up cook, can do huge volume, doing the work of two.

Time begins to slow down- boredom sets in; you do the ten-thousandths burger or even the 100,000 thousandth Fennie dish.

The reality is there is no vertical career path in Vancouver in Restaurants- when great chefs leave the restaurant business and do better teaching or working for a hotel or go work for a big chain and become their Executive chef, I will not name names but it is a common occurrence now. The Vancouver scene is going to be missing more then a few cooks if it does not address its professional problem.

We have like twenty chefs association all looking after their own self interest; a restaurant association struggling to stay above water; a pub association that is like a mafia, protecting its territory (I understand- But? What cost)

The worker shortage is real but the unprofessional environment is even worse, the market forces in the west are being controlled by the fact there is not a job shortage any more.

Other trades are making more then Doctors and they are respected once they get their ticket, in our industry there does not exist any standards to wage and what a Journeyman (Man or woman) gets. Other trades, a ticketed person always gets a certain wage and once they reach plateaus they do not have to prove their professionalism every time.

So many chefs have kick the dog syndrome that when they get to the top they are the first to get the power; rather then fix the problem they become part of it. It is a vicious cycle.

The men and woman need too have the same goals; the different associations need the same goals, White Glove society!

When will the industry pull for the common woman or man? Time is running out- soon restaurants will not open for lunch because they cannot find cooks not because there is no business. Millions of dollars will be lost by the industry in sales.

It is farther then our own self interest and the reality of hells kitchen- some of us put with (&^*(&^*& far worse then hell. I am not complaining-but I have been doing this for 26 years, I do not plan on retiring just yet but I would rather be part of some solution the part of some problem.

But after 15 years of waiting for the industry associations to do what they promises at conferences and see the education business profit on our backs by feeding the fire.

Someone has to mind the store?

Steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Interesting read!

So do you guys/gals think that the culinary programs should be relegated as "simple skills courses" instead of "how to be a sous chef" training as advertised? I think it's important for the industry to have schools catering to the basics like knife skills, terminology (granted it can be learned in the kitchen - and in many cases is), food theory and interaction, etc...

I totally agree that spending 2 weeks or more in the 'pits' is a valuable and useful lesson in being humble and also in teaching respect but surely there needs to be training to get to the higher eschelons of cooking. For example if a lowly dish washer gets kicked onto the line, they learn lots of valuable skills and they learned from the ground up. However, say that person becomes really good at what they do, is it fair to have them directed by someone who came fresh out of a big named school or would it be appropriate to offer them training at that time and give them the opportunity to move up? Sounds similar to many industries today. In business you can have people who have come from the ground up get bypassed by some Harvard Business grad when they get to the higher positions in a company. Surely the education is useful, but at the same time, experience and an already nurtured bond with fellow colleagues has power also.

I'm not in the industry so I'm just putting this stuff out and I'm enjoying the discussion.

"There are two things every chef needs in the kitchen: fish sauce and duck fat" - Tony Minichiello

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Hi fud:

totally agree that spending 2 weeks or more in the 'pits' is a valuable and useful lesson in being humble and also in teaching respect but surely there needs to be training to get to the higher eschelons of cooking. For example if a lowly dish washer gets kicked onto the line, they learn lots of valuable skills and they learned from the ground up. However, say that person becomes really good at what they do, is it fair to have them directed by someone who came fresh out of a big named school or would it be appropriate to offer them training at that time and give them the opportunity to move up? Sounds similar to many industries today. In business you can have people who have come from the ground up get bypassed by some Harvard Business grad when they get to the higher positions in a company. Surely the education is useful, but at the same time, experience and an already nurtured bond with fellow colleagues has power also.

Schools are a business- they are looking after their own interest; you cannot teach someone to be a pro in that short of a time. Their expectations are so unrealistic and this is not beneficial to anybody except for the schools. The private schools charge huge money and promote also unrealistic expectations and TV has created this false impression of reality.

The rock star is only less then 1% of reality, life really is not like TV; thank god.

You work your {(fucking ass) off; Sorry can not find a better adjective} and school does not prepare you for that; in the business things change before your eyes; things break, people quite, customers leave, you have so many Variables that they can not teach. The main thing also is this is not Europe and the skills that cooks really need is not being met.

The most important thing is the schools are not meeting the needs of people like me who need some improved training lets say in some specific areas in the kitchen; baking, sweet breads, accounting and others.

They have talked about this for years but are always pulled to the money instead of working a huge need. We are one of the most undereducated workforces in Canada.

Our Business has three very different sectors that have very different needs for training and education. You have restaurants, hotels and industrial catering; each has its own merits and each has its own skill sets and never the twain shall meet.

I have worked in all of them, have gone to school, have been a TA in school so I understand first hand what is up. Also I have been around working in all parts of Canada with many of the best chefs and understand where their at.

In 1987 I went to a world congress on Hospitality and Tourism Education in Toronto and met industry people from all over the world.

Sat in on many local (CND) speakers and industry educators and the promises were amazing.

The years go bye!

All the things about shortage of staff and what the industry has to do has come to fruition but they have not lived up to their ideas.

Steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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I hate to be a lone dissenting voice, but there is an incredibly shortage of skilled cooks in this city.

Although training programs like VCC, PCI and the like may be 'churning' out wanna be feenies and failing to give adequate 'real world' experience, they are no different than any law school or business school churning out wanna be Matlocks, Gordon Geckos and the like.

The talent needs to be cultivated, and if it means a few kids have higher expectations coming out, so be it. Optimism is what fuels ambition, and without that ambition we'd never grow.

We have to fall to grow, we have to make mistakes to learn, and if these kids are doing it in a safe, controlled environment, and not with my guests food, all the better. Let them graduate to the deep end of the pool once they've got a little more confidence in their craft.

"Behold the turtle, he only gets ahead when he sticks his neck out"

Let's not forget where we came from, some take the path through the pit, some through school, still others learned their craft from Mom, or Dad, or foodtv, whatever it is, we all come from ignorance into knowledge, and hopefully, from knowledge to wisdom.

Owner

Winebar @ Fiction

Lucy Mae Brown

Century - modern latin -

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I hate to be a lone dissenting voice, but there is an incredibly shortage of skilled cooks in this city.

Although training programs like VCC, PCI and the like may be 'churning' out wanna be feenies and failing to give adequate 'real world' experience, they are no different than any law school or business school churning out wanna be Matlocks, Gordon Geckos and the like.

The talent needs to be cultivated, and if it means a few kids have higher expectations coming out, so be it. Optimism is what fuels ambition, and without that ambition we'd never grow.

We have to fall to grow, we have to make mistakes to learn, and if these kids are doing it in a safe, controlled environment, and not with my guests food, all the better. Let them graduate to the deep end of the pool once they've got a little more confidence in their craft.

"Behold the turtle, he only gets ahead when he sticks his neck out"

Let's not forget where we came from, some take the path through the pit, some through school, still others learned their craft from Mom, or Dad, or foodtv, whatever it is, we all come from ignorance into knowledge, and hopefully, from knowledge to wisdom.

:smile:

Sherwood

That is beautiful!

We are in agreement

We all are saying there is a shortage

steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Schools are a scam.

I remember applying to culinary school and getting rejected... During the orientation I was watching students at work, and I turned to the Chef giving us a tour and asked "Is this a #$%@ing joke?". Oh well, not going to culinary school was the best thing that ever happened in my career... (although now I'm not in very good standing with the local school or the apprenticeship board...)

I'm still very young as far as cooks go (21), yet these days I'm considered a veteran. I can work any 'station', make any dish, do savoury and pastry, and do both better than most. I learned from several very talented French chefs, as well as much on my own. Making a mistake wasn't an option in the calibre of restaurants I was at - I had to make sure that the first time I did something it would be perfect, so I'd learn the techniques at home on my own time... I'd also come in early to work (without getting paid) to help the Chef do something (and he'd personally teach me techniques), or hang out in the pastry shop on my days off... It was a very tough time in my life, but I wouldn't trade it for anything...

It's sad when I train a kid who spent $20K+ on school and they can't even make a mayonnaise - theres simply no hope when I try to get them to make a Macaron or even properly cook a piece of meat. Schools are nothing more than self-serving businesses, selling a false promise...

I personally hate what our industry has become... Food that is all flash and no substance, chefs have become 'celebrities', yet it's impossible to get a decent wage if you're a cook, and I'm finding it very hard to get a decent meal these days as well (unless I go to one of the restaurants I used to work at...).

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I remember applying to culinary school and getting rejected...  During the orientation I was watching students at work, and I turned to the Chef giving us a tour and asked "Is this a #$%@ing

...

it very hard to get a decent meal these days as well (unless I go to one of the restaurants I used to work at...).

Why is it that every cook I have worked with from Calgary has this attitude?

The point is that you can learn from everybody. True, you may have 100 things to show them, but I bet they have one thing to show you.

The need for technical training and textbook knowledge is huge. Also, the need for real-world, hand on experience is also huge. There are things you might never learn, like why a slow rise is sometimes better for bread, and why spinach and oranges (it's the iron and vitmamin C your body is craving) go together so well, just working away in a restaurant kitchen. There are also things you cannot feel in a classroom, like when the hostess tells you that there are 50 menus open and you're gonna get screwed.

Having spent a while in the classroom at Camosun, preparing to challenge my Red Seal, I learned many, many things (as a seasoned, professional cook) that I have been able to share with my co-workers.

Granted, the whole process did not cost much over a grand, I felt it was invaluable training and mostly education towards me being a better cook. Would I feel the same if I had to get a zero-interest student loan and pay three times the price? Yep. $20,000? No way. I worked with a AI 'cordon bleu' guy who could not even kill and clean me a crab. *sigh*

I should also say, that after/because of going through all this, I landed a job with an excellent young chef, who was willing to share with me, with anyone who wanted to learn, what he knew. I remember the first time we cleaned a rockfish, he told us to be wary of the "a-hole", like we would be offended by the word "ass". That's a good teacher! :laugh:

-- Matt.

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I hate to be a lone dissenting voice, but there is an incredibly shortage of skilled cooks in this city. 

Although training programs like VCC, PCI and the like may be 'churning' out wanna be feenies and failing to give adequate 'real world' experience, they are no different than any law school or business school churning out wanna be Matlocks, Gordon Geckos and the like. 

The talent needs to be cultivated, and if it means a few kids have higher expectations coming out, so be it.  Optimism is what fuels ambition, and without that ambition we'd never grow. 

We have to fall to grow, we have to make mistakes to learn, and if these kids are doing it in a safe, controlled environment, and not with my guests food, all the better.  Let them graduate to the deep end of the pool once they've got a little more confidence in their craft. 

"Behold the turtle, he only gets ahead when he sticks his neck out"

Let's not forget where we came from, some take the path through the pit, some through school, still others learned their craft from Mom, or Dad, or foodtv, whatever it is, we all come from ignorance into knowledge, and hopefully, from knowledge to wisdom.

We are all in agreement.

There is a distinct lack of skilled chefs in, not only Vancouver, but all across the country.

All I was saying is that these schools contribute to being part of the problem rather than to part of the solution.

A cook taught in a restaurant setting will not be able to mess up your guest's food if he/she is working with someone professional enough to teach them and watch what they are doing.

I have been in this position for the last 10 years. I always get the new people and it is up to me to teach them the ropes and evaluate their skills, both learned and potential.

Do you hire people who have gone to bartending school with no real work experience to work your bar?

All I am saying is that you are either part of the problem or part of the solution or just part of the landscape. I like to be part of the solution.

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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I have noticed over the past few years, with the ever growing number of cooking schools, that students have come strutting in, looking for the chef's job.

I agree that they have to learn somewhere, but also need some realistic guidance on what to expect when they hit the job market.

The higher price schools tell their students that they are ready for sous chef positions, when in reality, they are ready for prep cook positions. They are justifying they high price tag to the students and their parents.

Not to toot anyone's horn, but Chef Tony at Northwest runs a school like I think I would run it. Lots of education, not such a high price when compared to the others and he keeps it real. The contact I have had with the graduates are prepared for what greets them when they are done.

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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Why is it that every cook I have worked with from Calgary has this attitude?

The point is that you can learn from everybody.  True, you may have 100 things to show them, but  I bet they have one thing to show you.

The need for technical training and textbook knowledge is huge.  Also, the need for real-world, hand on experience is also huge.  There are things you might never learn, like why a slow rise is sometimes better for bread, and why spinach and oranges (it's the iron and vitmamin C your body is craving) go together so well, just working away in a restaurant kitchen.  There are also things you cannot feel in a classroom, like when the hostess tells you that there are 50 menus open and you're gonna get screwed.

Attitude? What attitude? :cool:

I guess the cooks I know from Vancouver don't have this attitude, they're too mellow because they're always high.... :raz:

Yes, you can learn from everybody, some more than others. Most of the culinary school grads I've worked with haven't shown me a single thing, other than that they don't deserve to be on the line... On the other hand, I've learned a ton from chefs that were born in France, or worked in 2 and 3 star restaurants (and not as a stagiaire....). Also learned a ton from one cook who recently won a national competition and got 2nd in another... Every co-worker I had at a certain restaurant taught me a ton as well...(one of whom became the saucier at a VC restaurant known internationally) Those are the days I miss, being able to learn from everyone on the line. Nowadays it feels as though I'm relegated to teaching people...

Textbooks? Yeah I got them. Dozens of them (and many thousands of dollars). And I've read them all, front to back... Knowledge is definitely required to be a good cook, you can't rely only on what you've learned on the job. This is what school SHOULD be for, unfortunately I haven't seen it in any of their grads. The CIA is the only school where the grads I've worked with were half-decent, but the price is unreasonable...

The labour crisis here hasn't helped the situation, at every restaurant there are 1 or 2 skilled cooks, the rest are new or there simply aren't any more.... Restaurants are closing down because they can't find cooks, or at the very least closing down a couple more days per week... Affordable housing is non-existant in Calgary so theres no new cooks coming to town either (rent prices are through the roof as are house prices). All we got is what the culinary school pumps out, which isn't very helpful...

Edited by Mikeb19 (log)
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Times are a changing, there is a shortage of 'good' cooks and the kids coming out of these programs know that. People will now cross the street for $.25 an hour, if you even look the wrong way at someone they will walk. Its become a 'kids gloves' enviroment, we are forced to coddle and put up with a lot more crap than ever before.

The kids coming out of school need a lot more guidance than ever before, when I did my apprenticeship (20 years ago) we worked a station for 8 hours and then did another 8 hours OT (own time) somewhere else in the kitchen to learn as much as possible. Now cooks look for OT if they have to stay an extra 5 minutes and then they expect to be 'spoon fed' thier training. They expect chefs to provide them with 'insparation' on a daily basis, the only insparation I ever got was the threat of a boot in my a**.

I still think that as a trade the culinary field needs to be more regulated, require all cooks to apprentice and take their schooling that way. Bring the D'brulles, PVI's,VCC and all the others into the fold and standardize the basic training. Sure have the upgrade courses available but lets ensure that these kids are getting the basics that they need to at least survive the first week in the real world, it always amazes me the number of students who get hired that come to me a week later and say they have to leave because the job is 'too hard'.

When it comes to wages the only way things will change is if we start charging more to offset the labour cost and that means the customers will have to carry the load. Why can the Fairmont hotels in the city afford to pay a 1st cook $18.00 an hour? because they charge $21.00 for a clubhouse sandwich (okay maybe not quite that much but you get the point).

Colin

Colin Dunn

Burnt Out Exec Chef

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It is all about expectations and this is where all involved are letting the kids down; creating very false realties about what is really going on in the trade. We all cannot be rock stars and only 2% of the cook populous becomes media friendly. Most big name chefs have money before they become famous so it is not the trade that makes them rich. They also have a lot of other skills besides cooking- such as they were a lawyer or engineer, they come from money and go into business for themselves; this is where it is at, not working as a domestic for someone else.

Steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Working in the front of house for the last 18 years I have seen some pretty funny shit with new cooks on their first day - case in point: esteemed US restaurant I was working at - Chef only hired CIA graduates so he could work them - they'd show up for their interview in their whites and he'd basically tell them that they were entering the military - so the kid would come on his first day - he'd start cutting chili peppers for 3 hours or so - Chef would then tell 'em that they could go for a piss, smoke, whatever for ten minutes - kid would come back to prep and start cutting the peppers again - then we'd fucking watch - everyone in the whole place watching - sure enough....he'd start wincing - looking around and then tugging at his crotch - it was like a 80% success rate - so the kid would be dying and then everyone would cheer and clap and Chef would go over and say, "Welcome to what cooking is really about...and the funny thing is that we don't even use chili's on the menu!" - hilarious.

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When I went to hotel school we spent six months of our 3rd year in the kitchen of either a hotel or deignated restaurant, we were treated like shit and were worked like slaves for no pay.

Is there an external i.e. away from the school aspect to the training at any schools in Vancouver.

I am not sure that the kitchen staffing issues have everything to do with $$$ but more a lack of work ethic, a lack of spirit of entrepeneurship and a sense of entitlement.

Marcus Stiller

Fish & Fish Cafe

www.fishcafe.ca

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When I went to hotel school we spent six months of our 3rd year in the kitchen of either a hotel or deignated restaurant, we were treated like shit and were worked like slaves for no pay.

Is there an external i.e. away from the school aspect to the training at any schools in Vancouver.

I am not sure that the kitchen staffing issues have everything to do with $$$ but more a lack of work ethic, a lack of spirit of entrepeneurship and a sense of entitlement.

Money isn't the only issue but it is certainly a big one.

Appreciation (or the lack thereof) is a major one as well.

If you treat people like shit and pay them like shit, they are going to act like a shit.

You can only go so far with a good work ethic when the owner is being an asshole to you and paying you squat.

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

"Why then, the world is mine oyster, which I with sword, shall open."

William Shakespeare-The Merry Wives of Windsor

"An oyster is a French Kiss that goes all the way." Rodney Clark

"Oyster shuckers are the rock stars of the shellfish industry." Jason Woodside

"Obviously, if you don't love life, you can't enjoy an oyster."

Eleanor Clark

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Money isn't the only issue but it is certainly a big one.

Appreciation (or the lack thereof) is a major one as well.

If you treat people like shit and pay them like shit, they are going to act like a shit.

You can only go so far with a good work ethic when the owner is being an asshole to you and paying you squat.

Keep on shucking

Oyster Guy

Agreed. Too many chefs think that because they were treated like shit when they were apprentices, that they can do that to the next batch. Theres a huge difference between being an @#$hole and tough love...

Don't get me wrong, during my apprenticeship I had it tough, I was pulling 70+ hour weeks (making a low salary as opposed to a wage), and I learned more in that time than I ever dreamed possible. And while I certainly got yelled quite a bit, the chef also showed his appreciation when I did a good job. I can honestly say that every single time I got shouted at that it was my own fault, the chef was brutally fair, which I can definitely respect.

I don't know about VC, but in Calgary theres alot of chefs and owners who don't know what the @#$% they're doing... After working in arguably 2 of the toughest and best gigs here, I worked for a whole bunch of chumps who thought they were hot @#$% but didn't know a thing. Right now I'm working with a chef (young) who can't even properly sauté a piece of meat in a pan...

I can count on a single hand the amount of restaurants I'd be willing to spend money on in this city... Oh well, soon enough I'm ditching this place, heading to Quebec or even Europe (or both in due time).

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I dont mean literally treated like shit , but for those who need a broader explanation here it is, I am referring to worked hard , given the least desired tasks, early or late shifts and being the general 'get this do this boy'. I call this paying your dues, and yes a pat on the back goes a long way.

Further more when I refer to no being paid what I was referring to was the fact that I was still in school and it was a part of the practical aspect to the training.

Marcus Stiller

Fish & Fish Cafe

www.fishcafe.ca

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I can count on a single hand the amount of restaurants I'd be willing to spend money on in this city...  Oh well, soon enough I'm ditching this place, heading to Quebec or even Europe (or both in due time).

I've travelled alot, and eaten many great meals abroad. With those meals as a benchmark, we've got some great restaurants here in Vancouver. Add the fact that menu prices here offer more than fair value compared to other parts of the world.

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I've travelled alot, and eaten many great meals abroad.  With those meals as a benchmark, we've got some great restaurants here in Vancouver.  Add the fact that menu prices here offer more than fair value compared to other parts of the world.

Sorry, should have made it more clear, was talking about Calgary (since the topic is about labour shortage in the cooking biz, our two cities have this in common), I'm sure theres at least 5 half-decent ones in VC (although from the stories I've heard about a certain TV chef I'm not so sure anymore...).

Unfortunately Canada ranks nowhere when it comes to the international dining scene, theres nothing new or interesting coming out of here, the places to watch are without a doubt France, USA, and Spain...

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Hi all

Paul that is a funny story, I am sure you have many more; it reminds me of a cook who prepped about a pound of Jalapenos then he hadto go to the bathroom, about ten minutes later they had to take him to the hospital. The sad thing here is it was not even a practical joke or initiation, just plain bad luck or lack of knowledge, I am sure he wore cloves or washed his hands well after doing them, the memory probably sticks in his brain for ever.

Edited by stovetop (log)
Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Mike- Vancouver island is doing lots of interesting things, remember the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Edmonton has some very good restaurants and I can not belive that there is nothing in Calgary?

Quebec has many interesting things happening, along with Toronto.

steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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  • 4 weeks later...

The story continues....

Vancouver Metro ran an article today talking 'bout the ongoing labor shortage in the hospitality industry and referenced the BC Restaurant Association's survey on the topic:

BCRFA Survey Results

Metro News Feenie Article

For me this is an interesting topic but is not unusual from other industries (i.e., construction trades). However identifying that there is a shortage is one element, knowing that schools can pump out a number of anxious "trainees" is another but when it comes down to it can restaurant owners make enough profit while having to increase pay to the new staff? Conundrum.

Resolution? Maybe what you see in Calgary is the short term effect - cycled closures of restaurants simply because there isn't enough staff to operate.

Other resolutions?

Brian

Brian Misko

House of Q - Competition BBQ

www.houseofq.com

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