British Columbia

Too few cooks in the kitchen: Victoria faces chef shortage

A shortage of chefs in Victoria is so bad one restaurant is shutting down its operations for an entire month.

1 restaurant says it has to shut down for entire month of August due to staff shortage

The chef shortage in Victoria is so severe one restaurant is closing down for the entire month of August. (Shutterstock)

The shortage of chefs in Victoria is so bad one restaurant is shutting down its operations for the entire month of August.

North 48, a local restaurant known for its eclectic menu, has not been able to find replacements for three line cooks that had to leave Victoria.

Chef and co-owner Sam Chalmers says he's been looking. with little success. for new staff to hire over the last few months.

He says Craigslist — which is a major hub for restaurant job recruitment in Victoria — listed 55 openings for line cooks in the past five days.

"The need for experienced cooks in this town is crazy. I've never quite seen it like this. It's been very hard — impossible now — to replace these guys," he said.

He says he has no other choice but to shut down the restaurant to maintain the integrity of his product and be fair to his remaining staff.

It's something he never envisioned doing when he first started out in the business.

"This is one thing that completely caught me by surprise that we would not be able to rehire essential positions like this. It's a reality today."

Chalmers says he'll take the month to regroup and come up with a plan for the future of his restaurant.

Higher living costs, low wages

Part of the reason for the staff shortage in Victoria is costs, says Steve Walker-Duncan, the department chair of culinary arts at Camosun College.

"A lot of business models aren't set up to pay the cooks an appropriate wage commensurate to the amount of training and the work that goes into it. People are saying they're not prepared to operate in those circumstances," he said.

In cities like Victoria and Vancouver especially, he says sky-rocketing living costs intensify the problem.

"People are talking with their feet. They're looking at other career options that have got better results and better long-term options for them."

Walker-Duncan is sympathetic to smaller independent restaurants who have to keep costs low but said wages are an essential consideration.

"Ultimately, it comes down to operators building models that work, which means they can pay cooks a wage that is something that they can survive upon," he said.

"Cooking is a tough life."

With files from On the Island