PEI

Too few cooks: Some P.E.I. restaurants face shortage of kitchen staff

Some restaurants on Prince Edward Island are having trouble finding enough cooks for their kitchens. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurant workers have left the industry for school or other trades, said Liam Dolan, owner of Peakes Quay Restaurant and Bar.

'Talk to any restaurateur on this Island; they don't have enough cooks'

Fatima Hernandez, manager of Crafters BBQ & Grill in Charlottetown, says it has been tough finding local cooks to hire. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Some restaurants on Prince Edward Island are having trouble finding enough cooks for their kitchens.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurant workers have left the industry for school or other trades, said Liam Dolan, owner of Peakes Quay Restaurant and Bar. He said his kitchen could use two or three more cooks. 

"There's never enough," said Dolan. "You talk to any restaurateur on this Island, they don't have enough cooks, very rarely they have enough cooks. It's just the nature of the beast we have right now."

Peakes Quay has reduced its menu so the kitchen's limited staff can handle all orders, Dolan said. 

"As a chef myself, I understand what it's like in the kitchen," he said. "It's tough. It's hard, but we'll get through it."

'You don't get many resumés'

Fatima Hernandez, the manager of Crafters BBQ & Grill in Charlottetown, said her restaurant luckily hasn't had to reduce its menu, but it has been difficult to hire new cooks. 

Hernandez says Crafters luckily hasn't had to reduce its menu during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite fewer cooks in its kitchen. (Submitted by Fatima Hernandez)

"You don't get many resumés," said Hernandez. "We've got maybe 10, and before it used to be a full mailbox of resumés that you need to go through like a whole day checking experience, checking their education, if they have previous experience and everything."

Hernandez said Crafters has increased the salaries of its cooks, to keep the ones they have.

They recently hired a new cook who's a student at the Culinary Institute of Canada at Holland College. But the restaurant is still having trouble finding local cooks.

"I bet cooks from anywhere, even Toronto, Vancouver, they would like to find a job here because how many restaurants have closed over there?" said Hernandez. "But it's really hard when you don't have enough customers and you cannot offer, like open the door for new people to come up here."

Possible solution

Dolan said one solution to the shortage of cooks on P.E.I. is to offer more support to people who want to continue in the industry.  

"We have young dishwashers or prep cooks that maybe want to move on to try it further and have a basic cooking course that can help the small operations," said Dolan.

Liam Dolan says Peakes Quay could use two or three more cooks. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

He said cooks can first be trained on basic dishes like burgers, soup, steaks, and fish and chips. 

"Hopefully that will then introduce them to the kitchen, that they'll move on and maybe go to the Culinary Institute then and become a chef," said Dolan. 

There has been one entry-level cooking course in past years offered by the Culinary Institute.  

Dolan said he hopes there will be more of those basic cooking courses in the years to come.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Jessica Doria-Brown

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