Chefs should be placed on critical skills list amid major shortage

It is “almost impossible” to find a chef in Ireland at the moment – with an estimated 10,000 vacancies in kitchens across the country.

On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, hotelier Lorraine Sweeney said the supply of chefs is ‘the biggest issue facing the hospitality industry right now’.

She joins calls for kitchen work to be placed on the essential skills list so that chefs who want to come from abroad to work here can be fast-tracked through the visa process.

“It’s really difficult [to find chefs]Ms Sweeney told Jonathan Healy. “It’s a huge problem. This is undoubtedly the biggest problem facing the hospitality industry.

“Chefs and other categories but obviously the manager of a hotel can go to work at the reception, make the bed or serve the food but he cannot go into the kitchen and cook.

“There is no extra for not having a leader in our industry.”

“Almost impossible”

She said it’s now “absolutely next to impossible” to find good kitchen staff since the pandemic.

“Chefs must come from abroad. In fact, I thought chefs were already on the list of critical skills, but in fact, they are only on the Ministry of Enterprise calendar,” she said.

“They need to learn the essential skills, which means they can be fast-tracked into the country.

“We need more people in this country who want to work. They are very much needed in hospitality and literally the hospitality industry finds it impossible to function, especially, without chefs.

Critical Skills

Also on the show, Paddy Lynn, founder and CEO of “We Have Chefs”, said his company sources qualified chefs from Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

He said it currently takes five to six months to process the visa applications needed to bring a qualified chef to Ireland.

He said putting chefs on the essential skills list would cut that wait time to four to six weeks.


Ms Sweeney said Ireland had failed to train enough chefs for years.

“Before, there was an apprenticeship, you went to college one day a week and it took four years and you worked your way up in the kitchen,” she said.

“We get people who have flipped burgers at a fast food restaurant and they come out and put on a hat and call themselves chefs.

“They actually demand high salaries. We ask people to interview us to see if they want to work with us instead of trying to find out what their particular skills are for working in the restaurant.

When asked if the hospitality industry was an attractive sector for a chef, she said: “I’ve had people who have worked for me for 15 and 20 years, so I certainly wouldn’t like to be tarnished by the that we treat people badly.”

“In fact these days if you have a chef, you’re so lucky to have him that you wrap him in cotton to be honest with you.”

In March, Fáilte Ireland warned that there were 40,000 vacancies in the tourism industry, including 10,000 for kitchen staff.

You can listen to the full segment again here:

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