Australia is facing a huge shortage of chefs for the millennium celebrations and the Sydney Olympics next year, says a recruitment agent just back from a fact-finding trip.

Big hotel groups preparing to open new properties in Sydney in time for the games say they are looking at a shortfall of about 5,000 chefs, particularly at the demi chef and chef de partie level, says Simon Worth of London-based Thomas & Worth.

Head chefs are easier to come by, because they have returned to Australia from hotels in the Far East following the economic crisis in Asia last year.

Seventeen new hotels are being built in Sydney to accommodate guests coming to the Olympics and all of these will be competing to attract new chefs, said Worth. "A lot of the big hotel groups are wondering what's going to happen."

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