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While Adelaide eateries could be short of chefs

THE city's vibrant food culture is in jeopardy because of immigration changes introduced last week, restaurateurs have warned.

Under the new rules, overseas chefs will face strict English language testing before being granted working visas.

Migration agents say the new system will make finding suitably skilled foreign chefs a near impossibility - and will lead to many restaurants closing.

Your say: Should skilled workers undergo strict English tests before being granted visas?

The new legislation requires head chefs, chefs and cooks from overseas to pass IELTS (International English Language Testing System) to a level 5 standard - about half the proficiency of a native speaker.

The changes will also affect chefs already working on 457 visas who may find themselves booted out if they can not meet the new English requirements.

Before the changes, chefs were included on a list of occupations not requiring a high level of English competency.

Migration Solutions managing director Mark Glazbrook said the changes were "outrageous". "Restaurant owners are not going to be able to find the people they need from the local market to run the kitchen," he said.

Mr Glazbrook said although the changes had come about as a result of a union push to protect Australian jobs, it was likely the legislation would have the opposite effect.

Eric Leung, new co-owner of T-Chow in Gouger St, said plans for a new yum cha menu would be shelved if they could not get a visa for the chef they wanted from China, saying: "I want to expand, that's for sure, but at this stage in Adelaide there is no way I will be able to find a yum cha chef that is better than the chef I have found in China."

Beyond India restaurant owner Robby Gupta said none of his five chefs would have been granted a 457 visa had the new changes applied.

He said chefs and cooks only needed functional English to work in a restaurant kitchen.

"What we look for is someone who is hard-working who has worked in a busy Indian restaurant and who understands Indian cuisine - we don't need a chef who is good at office work with excellent English but who is not hands on," he said.

Mr Gupta said his plans to open a Nepalese restaurant had been thwarted by the tough new requirements

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