During many of our meetings with industry professionals, we have discovered that a high number of entrepreneurs are facing the same problem. In this article we intend to elaborate on this.

The restaurant trade is experiencing a shortage of skilled workers. This observation applies both to France and its European neighbours, including Germany. This is an important reason why we are implementing the Cook Concern project in the first place. It may come as a surprise that in a country like France, where unemployment is currently at almost 10%, or equivalent to about 3 million people, some job vacancies are difficult to fill.

What is the cause of this discrepancy? As we have seen in some of our previous articles, the cooking profession still seems to have a reputation as a trade for bad students who failed at school. In any case, the fact is that anyone who decides to become a chef is choosing a profession that really does have a future. It is highly likely that they will never have to struggle with unemployment. It is well known that this is definitely not the case for all students. But we are not here to overhaul the education system and redefine mentalities. This problem, does, however, affect us directly, and we set out to find initiatives that aim to overcome this structural problem. We will be presenting one of these to you today.

CULINARY COMPETITION FOR THE UNEMPLOYED – AN ORIGINAL INITIATIVE

In an attempt to combat the lack of trained chefs, the employment office in Orleans, France, decided to organise a culinary competition for unemployed amateur chefs with the aim of giving them professional training in gastronomy. And so it was that, starting in September 2017, unemployed people who fancied retraining in the catering industry were invited to submit their applications.

Applicants were required to provide their CV along with a letter of motivation, but also evidence of any participation in culinary blogs, which would prove a candidate’s genuine interest in the food industry. In addition to the media attention generated by such a competition, the first three applicants were offered a one-week intensive course in gastronomy. Employment opportunities were also made available to allow participants to gain initial practical experience.

STAGING THE FINALE OF THE CULINARY COMPETITION

Of the 15 pre-selected candidates, 11 went on to the final, which took place on 4 December in Orleans. Here each of the candidates was given a basket of fresh ingredients and asked to prepare a 3-course meal. The main dish was a chicken supreme, accompanied by Darphin apples and pumpkin puree. The jury had to evaluate not only the taste but also the presentation of the chefs and their dishes.

In the end, first place went to Albert Mounié, a fifty-year-old former sommelier. It seems that his experience of the set products was what enabled him to stand out from the others. Proud of his result, he returned home to find a job immediately. How can you turn your hobby into a profession? This was a fantastic initiative of the Orleans employment office – one we hope will appeal to others. We’ll keep you posted.