Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia short on chefs, cooks, says restaurant managers

Some restaurant managers in Nova Scotia are scrambling to find chefs because of a kitchen staff shortage.

Shortage forcing restaurants to limit operating season, shorten menus

Gordon Stewart, executive director of Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, says the province is in need of young workers for "a young people's industry." (Allison Devereaux/CBC)

Some restaurant managers in Nova Scotia are scrambling to find chefs because of a kitchen staff shortage. 

Gordon Stewart, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, says he receives around three to four calls a week from restaurant owners asking for chefs and cooks — even just to fill in for a short time. 

"There just simply is no pool of chefs out there," said Stewart. 

"The need is now and it's usually instant, when they need it." 

Stewart said that in several years, the province will be short of about 1500 kitchen staff. 

He said the shortage isn't new, but in the past restaurant owners have relied on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to compensate. 

Stewart estimates that in the coming years, Nova Scotia will be short of about 1500 kitchen staff. (Allison Devereaux/CBC)

"The Temporary Foreign Worker did help us over that hump. With that ending, that meant that the shortage just got worse, all of a sudden," he said. 

He says the most experienced chefs have moved on to other roles in the restaurant business. 

"It's a young people's industry. We don't have those young people. There's a lot of competition for those young people."

Stewart said not all graduates of the Nova Scotia Community College's culinary program will go into the field, and many will leave to find work out of province. 

"We can absorb all of them," he said of the graduates. "Even more."

Cooking up a solution

Chris Tzaneteas, owner of Argyle Bar and Grill in Halifax, says he sometimes relies on kitchen staff to work double shifts. He said he's received little response to openings posted on job boards and social media.

"It's been a problem, and it's a problem for my colleagues in the industry," he said.

"People are working probably a lot more hours than they should be working. You're putting a lot more pressure on your current staff. It's tough, it's challenging."

As a result, the shortage is forcing some restaurant owners to rethink how they do business. 

Stewart said some seasonal restaurants have shortened the season itself, choosing to open later and planning to close earlier this year. 

He says some are modifying their menus, removing breakfast or lunch altogether. 

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