John Lewis becomes 1st retailer to launch Chef Academy to support hospitality sector

The John Lewis Partnership has become the first retailer to launch its own Chef Academy to help address the current shortage of qualified chefs in the UK.

A joint survey released recently by UKHospitality, the British Institute of Innkeeping, and the British Beer and Pub Association, revealed that staff shortages in the hospitality industry are reaching critical levels. The survey found that 76% of operators within the sector currently have chef vacancies.

The Partnership will be taking on up to ten apprentices this year with the potential to increase that number in the future as part of a long-term commitment to support the hospitality industry.

They will spend a year learning and working in the kitchens of the Partnership’s head offices and hotels*, which cater for our 78,000 Partners. The apprenticeships are being advertised on with anyone welcome to apply. We will accommodate individual circumstances with flexible hours and shifts wherever possible.

More than 80% of the course will be hands-on experience with candidates learning different roles, helping to create everything from breakfasts to eight course fine dining dinners, as well as catering for big occasions like weddings and charity events.

Upon successful completion, apprentices will receive the industry recognised Professional Commis Chef Level 2 qualification. Whilst the course is primarily designed to set them up for a career in the hospitality sector there will also be opportunities for them to take on permanent roles as Commis Chefs or Chef de Parties at one of the our hotels should they wish.

Michael Abadee, an Executive Chef for the John Lewis Partnership, who has been in the hospitality industry for 30 years, said, “The UK has always delivered some of the world’s best chefs, but that has come under threat in the last two years as the industry has come under increased pressure.

'The Academy is a huge opportunity for people with a shared love of great food to be inspired and develop the skills they need to become the country’s future chefs.”

UKHospitality CEO, Kate Nicholls, said, “Our figures show chefs in particular are in short supply in the UK - 76% of food-serving hospitality operators are looking for chefs to hire – and so we very much welcome this new academy. Last month we launched our new hospitality workforce strategy in order to support initiatives just like this, at a time when we are facing a staffing crisis.

“Vacancies in hospitality are at a record high, costing the industry £21bn in lost revenue as operators are forced to trade fewer hours or close for whole days. In a climate such as this, initiatives like this one are an important part of efforts to ease the crisis.”