MANCHESTER’S famous Curry Mile is facing a staffing crisis because of a shortage of trained chefs.
Strict immigration rules mean that work permits for trained chefs from India and Bangladesh are time-limited to three years.
And young Asians born in the UK are increasingly reluctant to join the profession, leaving a skills gap in the kitchen while the demand for Indian food continues to expand.
The staffing warning comes from the Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs (GBR) representing 2,000 restaurants in the UK. They say the situation is now so grave that they are recruiting staff from non-Asian backgrounds.
The organisation claims the problem is being caused by a lack of training courses and reluctance among young Asians to join the profession.
Indian food is the most popular ethnic cuisine in the UK, with more than 2.5m curries being consumed every week in 8,500 restaurants.
The GBR is calling on the Home Office to grant specialist chefs from overseas an extended work permit so they can help to combat the problem. Currently the permit for workers is three years and the organisation want it extended to five.
Chairman and restaurateur Enam Ali warned: “This will only get worse unless more young people can be persuaded to come into the profession, preferably having been through specialist training.
“The market is not only growing it is also becoming more sophisticated. Customers are demanding higher levels of skills both in the kitchen and front of house. But 99 per cent of the staff taken on by Indian restaurants are untrained. It is left to restaurateurs to bring them up to the required standards.
“This simply is not good enough. Colleges should be doing more for an industry on which UK people now spend £2.8 billion annually.”
A spokesman for the Rusholme Traders Association, representing restaurants on Curry Mile, believes the claims are exaggerated but backs calls for permit restrictions to be relaxed.
“Yes there is a problem but I do not think it’s a crisis,” he said. “What certainly happens now is that staff become chefs but they have started as dishwashers or something similar and they make their way up to chefs.”
Mancat College undertook a partnership project with the Rusholme Traders Association to train staff, who received a qualification on completion of the course.
Patsy Hammond, head of hospitality, catering and facilities management, said: “The project was very successful, with more than 100 taking part.”
The Home Office said: “There are certainly no plans to relax work permit arrangements to deal with this problem.”