Chef and restaurateur Dev Biswal's plans to reopen the Ambrette restaurant in Rye, East Sussex, are being hampered by a shortage of skilled chefs in the area.
Biswal closed the restaurant in Rye High Street over the winter in order to focus on his Canterbury and Margate restaurants, which are less affected by seasonal fluctuations in trade.
He hopes to re-open the Rye site in six to eight weeks with a more casual concept and a changed kitchen layout, aimed at attracting in the day-trippers who flock to the medieval coastal town in the summer months.
"We are at the moment investigating a reopening of that site but the challenge we are facing is recruitment and getting the chefs to Rye to work and that is one of the big reasons why we were forced to shut down in the first place because we couldn't find skilled or semi-skilled manpower to run that kitchen," he said.
"Rye in the summertime is booming but in winter it turns into a ghost town. I was shipping chefs from Canterbury to Rye but it wasn't worth it at the end of the day going all that way to serve a handful of customers so we decided to close and now we have been trying to recruit for the past few weeks but we haven't had any joy."
Biwal said he hoped to find a chef, second chef, assistant and two porters as well as a team of four for front of house.
"I think we will try something different," he said. "The high street has a good supply of day-trippers but the Ambrette, as a fine dining restaurant, doesn't lend itself to lunch very well. I think we will come up with an offering that is slightly more casual where you can have three courses and get out quickly."
But he added: "Recruitment a massive challenge and getting more and more difficult by the day. I advertised online for a chef and said that some experience of south east Asian cuisine would be an advantage and only had two applications, both from abroad. The government needs to do something immediately. If you drive from Thanet to Canterbury you can see big restaurant spaces that are empty and it's because there isn't enough skilled manpower in the market.
"I have tried to train local chefs from catering colleges here but the whole project didn't work as well as expected. We had partial success I would say, with some good chefs but most could not survive the pressure."
Meanwhile, Biswal said that trading in the Kent coast town of Margate was a "very different experience" with a different kind of customer, and a much younger clientele as the town becomes more popular with people moving there from London. Canterbury was also trading well, he added, with a lot of European tourists, in particular those from Germany.
Videos from The Caterer archives