Chefs and restaurant owners in Cornwall have been speaking out about the difficulties of recruiting and retaining chefs of all levels – warning that the region’s hospitality industry needs an influx of new recruits.

Ben Tunnicliffe, who has several vacancies at both his Newlyn pub, The Tolcarne Inn, and his beach restaurant, Ben Tunnicliffe Sennen Cove, says he has never found it so difficult to fill positions:

“The last few years have been a struggle, but this year it’s tragic,” he commented.

“We have vacancies at all levels from trainees to head chefs, but hardly any interest and, unfortunately, not enough commitment from those that do apply.”

It’s a sentiment echoed in north Cornwall by Emily Scott, who says she is always on the lookout for dedicated new team members at the St Tudy Inn.

“I’m very willing to nurture and train people with the right mind-set,” she said, “but for some reason finding them is difficult. The shortage of young chefs is definitely putting a lot of pressure on the industry as a whole.”

She added: “It’s a tough career. Kitchens are a high-pressure environment and the hours are unsociable. You have to be very driven and have a real love of food in order to succeed.”

Tunnicliffe agrees that it’s a demanding job, and that a passion for food brings its own rewards.

“Food and hospitality is the most important industry in Cornwall,” he said. “The opportunities are huge if you work hard – and not just financially.

“It gives me a real buzz when someone comes to the pass and tells me they have enjoyed my food. Putting a smile on people’s faces isn’t something you get to do in every line of work, and I want to watch more young chefs experience that.”

However, with many of his peers within the industry experiencing similar recruitment problems, Tunnicliffe is warning that Cornwall’s reputation as a top food destination might not be sustainable:

“People have rightly come to expect extremely high standards from the food on offer here in Cornwall. Without new blood it’s difficult to see how the food scene in the region can continue to stay on top of the game.”