With the number of new restaurants popping up in the Metro, it’s clear the Twin Cities has a huge appetite for eating out. However industry experts say new culinary hot spots are running out of cooks who are skilled enough to work at high-end restaurants.
“Right now everyone I know is looking for cooks. No one has enough staff," said Salt Cellar co-owner Kevin Geisen.
Geisen and his fellow owners of the Salt Cellar in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill think they have the recipe for a successful spot.
"Steak and seafood supper club. Open for happy hour at 3:00,” said Geisen of his restaurant’s genre.
It was when they opened a sister restaurant, The Ox Cart, a couple of weeks ago, they ran into trouble finding chefs.
"We weren't fully staffed until two days before we opened. A week and a half before we opened, we didn’t have enough staff to cover the evening shift. That's how tight it is,” said Geisen.
Experts say our recent restaurant boom is creating a chef shortage, from executive chefs down to line and prep cooks. Additionally, the Metro’s growing reputation as a culinary destination is causing more home grown talent to get gobbled up by restauranteurs on the East and West Coasts. Leaving many restaurants here having a tough time finding the skilled chefs needed to staff their kitchens.
"More restaurants opening. More people liking to go out so, it is a good news problem, but it does cause stress in the kitchen,” Dan McElroy of the Minnesota Restaurant Association said.
Experts like McElroy say the circumstances for a chef shortage have been in the works for a long time, with the economy growing faster than the pool of talented workers. A trend people are seeing all over the country.
“It’s not a big surprise. My friends in manufacturing are dealing with the same thing. Healthcare. many areas dealing with the same thing. We have a slowly growing workforce," McElroy said.
The shortage means executive chefs like Alan Bergo at The Salt Cellar will have to do more training of their kitchen staff to find their next top chef.
"As we work hard to work through it, and find creative ways to train new chefs. It will eventually begin to right itself,” Geisen said.