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A SHORTAGE of trained chefs

 
A SHORTAGE of trained chefs is threatening the growth of Scotland's hospitality trade, a leading industry figure has claimed.

Neil Thomson, chief executive of the Federation of Chefs Scotland, believes the hospitality sector needs around 3000 more chefs if food service is to play its part in the tourism industry's attempts to move Scotland up the value scale as a "high-quality" destination.

Thomson, who last week won the Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland's lifetime achievement award, said the industry is struggling to recruit and retain enough fully trained chefs. The 59-year-old, who has worked in the hospitality industry for 45 years in both cooking and training positions, said: "We need to do more to make training as a chef a first choice career for young people. If we don't then visitors coming to big tourist draws, such as the Commonwealth Games, may be disappointed.

"I get phone calls asking if I can suggest a chef all the time. We need around 3000 more," said Thomson.

He added that the current plethora of television cooking programmes such as Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen was discouraging young people from entering the profession. The frequent kitchen fueds shown in such shows were actually "frightening off" potential trainees.

Thomson said senior figures in the tourism industry should pay attention: "People have a perception of Scotland as a place to visit for the best of all possible food. They want to experience Scotland's larder."

Thomson added that it took at least three years to train a chef properly.

Despite the problems, the number of outlets serving high quality food has risen sharply over the last few years. Arts and culture magazine The List reviewed more than 800 restaurants in Glasgow and Edinburgh alone for its latest eating and drinking guide.

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Guide editor Donald Reid said that the number of new openings was rising. The guide covered 85 new venues in 2005, but that had grown to 112 this year.

Iain Herbert, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Forum, said his organisation recognised the importance of well-trained chefs.

He said: "Food and drink are a deciding factor when people are considering coming to Scotland. Chefs are a vital part of our high-quality offer and any shortage would be concerning."

A spokeswoman from VisitScotland said its EatScotland quality assurance scheme would ensure that visitors to Scotland knew where to go to get top quality cooking.



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