‘Cost of recruiting a single chef from China is £15,000’

Fears of a demise of the Chinese restaurant industry due to a lack of chefs have led to the launch of the first fully-regulated Chinese-specific catering course in the UK.

Backed by the Chinese Cuisine Association and Tianjin Food Group, the new Chinese Culinary Arts course, which starts next month at Crawley College, will look to secure the industry’s future by producing ‘home grown’ Chinese chefs in the UK.

The course – a mix of online learning and practical assessments – is aimed at current and aspiring chefs in the catering industry that want to enhance their skills and forge a successful career path in this sector.

It is also aimed at saving restaurant and hotel owners upwards of £15,000 to recruit a Chinese chef from the Far East, while also offering them an opportunity to increase their existing dining options.

At present, most Chinese chefs for the UK’s 2,700 Chinese restaurants are recruited from overseas with owners using recruitment agents to find chefs willing to relocate to the UK.

The current recruitment process for Chinese chefs hinders the sector as it is time consuming, costly and includes overcoming significant UK government red tape, the latter preventing the recruitment of chefs for Chinese takeaways – which accounts for 75% of Chinese food purchases in the UK.

As a result, many Chinese restaurants and takeaway owners are feeling the economic pinch and are facing the risk of closure because they cannot afford the sums required.

This course, the first significant step from external Chinese organisations, aims to alleviate that by ensuring a stream of Chinese chefs trained in the art of Chinese food – at a much lower cost.

During the process of setting up the course it became apparent that traditional British training kitchens were not equipped towards Asian cuisine and were therefore unable to deliver the requirements of the course.

Our work has escalated from what started as the design of an education programme into a mission to reintroduce authentic Chinese Culinary Arts across the UK”

With this in mind, PAM Education and Tianjin School of Commerce approached Target Catering Equipment as specialist commercial kitchen design consultants to prepare a training kitchen layout for Crawley College that would meet their exact needs and requirements. This included the installation of induction wok ranges, which are fast being recognised as the future of Chinese and other Asian commercial kitchens.

Target, having previously worked with many Asian restaurants in the UK and recently completing a major kitchen design for a staff canteen in a large leading electrical component factory based in China, displayed the knowledge and services that were required to move the project forward to its next stage of implementation.

It is envisaged the course will re-energise the industry as a showcase for Chinese food and provide the stimulus for new business opportunities.

The course has received significant inward investment from China to ensure that it will produce chefs of the future.

It is a level three qualification managed by Coventry-based PAM Education and run in conjunction with Chichester College Group and Tianjin Second School of Cuisine Food Group.

Russell Grocott, PAM Education founder and director, said: “Our work has escalated from what started as the design of an education programme into a mission to reintroduce authentic Chinese Culinary Arts across the UK. Our programme provides budding Chinese chefs and restaurant owners with the opportunity to learn skills and gain a regulated qualification recognised world-wide supported by the finest Master Chefs based in China.”

Successful completion of the course will secure a Diploma in Chinese Culinary Arts.

Course content is delivered primarily online, including weekly webinars, with practical assessments at Crawley College, part of the Chichester College Group, at the end of each term.

Topics include the origin and development of Chinese food culture, how to prepare and cook Chinese hot and cold dishes, and the development of skills for cutting, shaping and presentation.

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