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Monday, December 05, 2022

Chefs are making big dough amid labor shortage

Demand for experienced restaurant workers has brought salaries to a rapid boil—pays have risen by up to 75% and a recently hired chef has struck a $400,000 deal, Side Dish can report.

According to interviews with chefs, restaurant consultants and headhunters, salaries are rising due to massive labor shortages and rising demand for food following the pandemic lockdown.

“I think there’s a new standard,” said Alfred Ehrlich, a chef-turned-executive search/personnel consultant who heads Kitchen Maestro. “The people I represent are earning 20 to 75 per cent more than usual. The pendulum swings rough, and labor now has the upper hand—especially for highly skilled cooks. ,

New York’s top chefs could make $300,000, while the Hamptons could make $160,000, he said, adding that signed NDAs prevent him from disclosing the details of the deals. He recently paid a chef hired in Miami a whopping $400,000 to run the kitchen, he claimed.

“If it is the season and a restaurant wants to open, they have to pay. They can’t afford or they will shut down,” Ehrlich said.

Dawn Evans, a restaurant consultant known as Chef Whisperer who is helping create Taste of the Taste — six Hamptons food programs with more than 70 participating restaurants — said there has never been a greater demand for skilled chefs. has been

Restaurants are hunting top toks by offering unprecedented pay and perks, and everyone down the line — from the line cook to the dishwasher — benefits as well, he said.

“Staffing in New York and the Hamptons is intense for all restaurants, and has led to unprecedented offers to cooks that have no relation to restaurant volume. There are not enough qualified, talented chefs to fill these positions,” Evans said.

With higher salaries being paid, even restaurants are seeing their profits squeezed by decades-high inflation.

“It’s crazy because the No. 1 story for restaurants is inflation,” Ehrlich said. “But on the other hand, you can only charge what your demographic will pay. A lot of places can’t raise their prices or they’ll lose customers.”

Chef salaries were on the rise even before the pandemic, according to final data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2019, which found that chef and head cook salaries were 8% year over year, for an average salary of $56,310 in 2018. was increased.

But now, seasoned chefs who were making $117,000 a year can pull in $165,000—and even line cooks were seeing an increase from $17.50 to $27 an hour—exclusive. Typically in seasonal hotspots like the Hamptons, according to Ehrlich.

Higher salaries can also come with perks like signing bonuses, and accommodation and travel allowances, Ehrlich said, because chefs with name recognition can increase restaurant profiles — and revenues — while drawing in diners.

A leading East End chef said the staff shortage was exacerbated by the pandemic lockdown, forcing many restaurant workers to seek careers in other sectors.

Chef Drew Hayato
Chef Drew HIatt says staff shortages were exacerbated by the pandemic lockdown, forcing many restaurant workers to seek careers in other sectors.
Edmund J Koppa
Drew Hayato
Hyatt is now executive chef at the revamped Pridwin Hotel
Edmund J Koppa

“I know about 37% of hospitality workers found other jobs because of COVID and some of them didn’t have proper papers, didn’t get unemployment, so they went to other jobs like construction or landscaping where at least in the Hamptons People are still getting that work done,” said chef Drew Hyatt, who is now executive chef at the revamped Pridwin Hotel. “But American citizens also found they didn’t have work so they paid for schooling, Got certified and now working on others.”

An industry insider put it more bluntly: “The rich always need to cut their grass, whether there’s a pandemic or not.”

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