Industry leaders have been urged to stop complaining and get involved with colleges if they want to recruit better staff.
Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White and Oliver Peyton have all slammed the standard of catering colleges over the past year, while Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, this week claimed that current NVQ qualifications were teaching "theoretical cooking which is a disservice to the individual and of no use to the industry".
But Mark Rossi, executive chef at Abode Hotels and Michael Caines Restaurants, said that a lot of chefs complained about the level of new students but didn't do anything about it.
"It's all very well complaining that the level of new students isn't what it was 10 years ago, but if you're not out there into the colleges and getting involved, then what do you expect?" he told Caterer. "I'm not having a dig at anyone in particular, but people need to stop moaning about it and just do something."
This view was supported by Sector Skills Council People 1st. A spokesman urged employers to "talk directly to students - there must be a dialogue between colleges and the industry".
Paul Heathcote, who set up a joint-venture chef academy with South Trafford College in Manchester, insisted that there had already been a big improvement in the relationship between employers and colleges.
Heathcote praised the Academy of Culinary Arts' Chefs Adopt a School scheme that encourages children from a young age into the profession, and added that there were other schools of excellence.
"The issue of recruitment will always be there as we're a transient industry. But we do have an obligation to teach students real life skills, such as how to treat customers, as well as how to sharpen a knife," he said.
By Gemma Sharkey
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