Restaurateur Jason Atherton has urged chefs to talk up the industry and encourage people in Britain to join hospitality to help solve the skills crisis.
The operator of 17 restaurants worldwide was speaking at a private event for Restaurant Associates (RA) chefs and clients at the foodservice company’s Nomura contract in the City of London last night.
Atherton, who consults to RA, the fine-dining arm of Compass, told chefs: “People are saying we’ve got to rely on immigration – we haven’t got to rely on anything. At the end of the day, when a problem comes along, you have to think how to solve it. What we’ve got to do, if we’re going to be truthful to ourselves as an industry, we’ve got to make it a more attractive place to work – period – and it’s got to be in line with other industries.”
The chef, who this year has been shortlisted for the Restaurateur of the Year – Group Catey award, went on to comment: “We’ve got this perception that we’re a second-rate industry to come into – we’re not. Our industry is a beautiful thing, but we’re not very good at selling it. It’s all about doom and gloom, how many hours you’ve got to work and how bad the pay is, all that type of stuff. We don’t concentrate on the good stuff – how fulfilling it is, how exciting it can be, there aren’t many industries in the world where you can travel freely with this skill.
“So for me it’s not about concentrating on immigration – if immigration is going to get cut, it’s going to get cut – we’ve got to start getting people in Britain to want to come into our industry. That’s what we’ve got to do and that’s got to be the future, surely?”
Atherton, who operates the Michelin-starred City Social and Temple & Sons restaurants in partnership with RA, also confirmed plans to take Sosharu, his izakaya-style restaurant in Clerkenwell, to Shanghai next spring.
“We’ve agreed heads of terms with the Edition hotel in Shanghai,” he said. “We’re going to do three restaurants inside the hotel on the Bund – we pulled out of Table No 1 for that reason, to be able to concentrate on one location. Neri & Hu, who designed Pollen Street Social, are designing the hotel alongside Ian Schrager. It will be very much like Berners Tavern – all-day dining on the ground floor, Sosharu on the roof with 7 Tales bar and then we’re collaborating with a very famous Chinese operator for the third concept.”
Earlier this week, Atherton staged his third Social Sunday to raise funds for Hospitality Action, for which he is a trustee.
The fundraising event saw seven of Atherton’s London-based restaurants team up with chefs from across the country to cook multi-course menus at lunch.
The event, which included collaborations between Peter Sanchez-Iglesias of Casamia in Bristol and Paul Hood of Social Eating House, and Tom Brown of Outlaw’s at the Capital and Marcus Rohlen at Social Wine & Tapas, among others, raised £35,000 for the industry charity.
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