Masterchef “Fascination” vs Hospitality Industry Crisis – What’s the Mismatch?

If it’s already a skills shortage crisis, what will happen if action isn’t taken and the situation gets worse?”

The finale to Masterchef Australia 2015 aired this week to a whopping audience of 2.7 Million people! That’s 2,700,000 people in a country that’s reported to only have a population of just over 23 Million or in other words nearly 12% of all Australians watched Billie McKay take the title!

This is the same country that right now has this very profession featured on the National Skills Needs List because the industry is experiencing a critical shortage of cooks & chefs!

So where’s the mismatch? We appear, signified by the viewer ratings, to have an absolute fascination with the profession and all the culinary delights it produces. We’re told each week by exiting contestants that it’s ‘been the time of their life’ and has only solidified their hopes & dreams to pursue the profession. So why doesn’t this mass media ‘hype’ transcend into a wave of people wanting to enter our industry? And probably a better question is – how can our industry better leverage the ‘hype’ to produce a wave of talented, excited & passionate people to enter the industry?

I have lost sleep over this very question!

This is the question we as an industry NEED to answer.

I was loosely discussing this same topic with a friend today who’s not in the industry and explaining to him about the National Skills Needs List and how cooks / chefs feature on this list. He asked a simple question — “If it’s already a skills shortage crisis, what will happen if action isn’t taken and the situation gets worse?” I had to pause and think, every time when I contemplate this problem I am always looking for solutions of how we can help the industry (we have a campaign RIGHT NOW called 2 Hats aimed squarely at this), thinking about consequences of the situation further deteriorating hadn’t ever crossed my mind.

After some considered thought, I responded “It’s already a crisis, if action is not taken now it will inevitably lead to a spiralling of labour costs as the shortage will force ‘bidding wars’ between desperate owners to secure good staff & descending standards as store owners are faced with the only option to keep the doors open being to use unqualified staff.” This response concerns me deeply as I fear this could be the exact path we’re on unless we take some drastic action.

As with most BIG problems – it’s often hard to know where to start. However, if you’re reading this blog as a hospitality business owner, it needs to start with you. What could you do this week that might help encourage a ‘talented, excited & passionate’ person to enter our industry via your business? Could you offer more flexible hours? Could you offer several part-time apprenticeships to cater to people having other jobs wanting to “try” or mothers returning to work? Have you ever tried to “diagnose” why a “passionate foodie” you meet hasn’t asked to work in your kitchen?

Let’s be conservative and suggest only just a small percentage of Sunday’s finale watching 2.7 million are passionate foodies – but surely that’d be enough to fix our industry crisis? Ask people you meet “Why not work in my kitchen?” It seems like a strange, almost reverse job interview scenario – however you may discover some minor obstacles that you can sweep out of the way and help the next talented person start in your business.

I’d love for the likes of MasterChef, My Kitchen Rules (MKR), etc., to be the billboards for the industry, kicking-up a huge amount of interest – we in the industry then just need to play our part in helping convert this interest.

So I challenge you this week – identify some of the 2.7 million Australians, ask “Why not work in my kitchen?” and see what obstacles you get served. Perhaps you’ll be able to conquer a few, perhaps they’ll help you shape your job opportunities moving forward or perhaps you’ll help counter the crisis by taking on a few more apprentices!


Redmako Learning is your local hospitality training specialist. We are the most widely used Registered Training Organization (RTO) in the hospitality business industry. We deliver training in the workplace for school-based and non-school-based staff and students that’s fully or partially funded by the government.

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