Chef frustration nears boiling point

Warren HatelyBusselton Dunsborough Times
Vasse MLA Libby Mettam
Camera IconVasse MLA Libby Mettam

The region’s restaurateurs are struggling to recruit skilled overseas chefs because of costly new changes to WA Government red tape.

Vasse MLA and shadow tourism minister Libby Mettam says the difficulties stem from the Government’s removal of Perth from its skilled migrant Regional Sponsored Scheme.

“Masters and PhD graduates can now be fast-tracked, but not students with hospitality sector-specific skills,” she said.

“Restaurant owners are telling me hospitality graduates are leaving Australia in droves to return to their own country or somewhere else, such as Canada or New Zealand, where there are opportunities for sponsorship and a pathway to permanent residency.”

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Wills Domain owner Darren Haunold said his difficulties started in September when he was hit with a $3000 handling fee to recruit a foreign chef.

The application was eventually knocked back, but he still has not had his money returned, and he and his immigration agent were mystified.

“We’re finding great frustration with this process,” Mr Haunold told the Times.

“These are highly skilled chefs who are working overseas and wanting to come to our country to add to the depth of skills.”

Mr Haunold said high-end restaurants such as Wills Domain relied on foreign chefs because Australians shunned hospitality and overseas experience gave chefs the skills needed for fine cuisine.

“We’ve successfully sponsored staff for eight years,” he said.

“Our kitchen requires a specific set of skills that is in decline in this country.”

But Premier Mark McGowan said hospitality shortages were complex, and Department of Workforce and Training studies showed South West hospitality shortages were “unlikely to be related to migration pathways”.

“Our policy was developed to ensure that WA workers were given priority for WA jobs,” Mr McGowan said.

He cited skyrocketing Tafe fees under the previous Government as contributing to shortages.

“The South West regional labour market review is under way currently and will give the State Government a better understanding of how it should go about improving the sector for training organisation, industry and students,” he said.

“We are prioritising our investment in training to focus on courses that equip people to take up jobs that are, or will be, in high demand.

“We provide high levels of subsidy to potential students in the hospitality industry to give them access to a range of high-quality training options and courses.”

But Ms Mettam said the approved foreign occupation list was too narrow and did not include hospitality jobs.

“We should be encouraging our chefs to broaden their experience overseas and for overseas chefs to come here and enrich our sector,” Ms Mettam said.

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