18 September 2012

Celebrity chefs look to Australia visa option to solve staff shortages

Some of the country's most famous celebrity chefs are preparing to meet with senior politicians to discuss an Australia visa arrangement which would allow restaurants to bring in foreign chefs easier.

Australia visa

Australia is struggling to attract top quality chefs.

Under current Australian immigration policy, foreign applicants need to have job offers paying at least AU$51,400 (£33,000) to qualify for a 457 visa, a figure chefs claim is much too high.

Australian employers are supposed to try and source local labour before they can look abroad yet one immigration specialist says cooking is different, as most Australians attempt cookery after watching celebrity chef shows, without realising the realities of the industry.

"Many young people want to become chefs after watching programs such as MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules," said immigration specialist Angela Chan, who is compiling a case for restaurateurs to present to politicians.

"However, the reality is that standing for many hours on cold concrete floors peeling onions or having one's hands immersed in water cleaning fish all day is anything but glamorous but it is all part of the basic training that chefs undergo.

"Some apprentices simple do not want to travel too far to go to work as it is time-consuming and expensive and their motivation is very low."

Neil Perry, one of Australia's best known celebrity chefs, is part of the group requesting better access for visas for the restaurant industry and says it has been 'impossible' to find local staff.

"That's the first thing we think about when we open a restaurant," said Mr Perry. "Not the food or the fit out, it's the staff."

"Finding staff is the biggest headache, it's tragic. The industry has trouble. It makes it very difficult."

Leonie Cotton, casework manager at the Australia Visa Bureau, says the hospitality industry would benefit from access to a visa program.

"As more and more people leave current occupations for better paid opportunities in the mining industry, gaps have opened in other industries, particularly the hospitality industry," said Ms Cotton.

"Plenty of people with experience in the hospitality industry would jump at the chance to further that experience in Australia."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.

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