WITH much of the Border hospitality sector struggling amid the latest coronavirus outbreak, a Wodonga chef hopes his new agency will ease pressure for some.
Riverina and North East venues have been rocked by staff shortages since Christmas and New Year, which were caused by a surge in Omicron cases in the community and isolation rules for household contacts.
Wodonga's Scott Bowerman founded Chef 4 Hire in early December to offer his own service as a head chef on a casual basis.
Buoyed by his success, Mr Bowerman now plans to recruit up to 10 head chefs to fill temporary vacancies at Albury-Wodonga and North East hospitality venues.
"The hospitality industry is struggling to find staff to stay open during these hard times," he said.
"The last two years have been really hard for hospitality with lockdowns, restrictions and border closures.
"Now they're allowed to trade but Omicron has taken so many staff out of businesses just when venues are really busy and need to do well.
"I'm just about to employ around 10 chefs that are more then willing to jump in and help out these businesses struggling to find staff or keep them."
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Having trained at Shepparton before plying his trade in Albury-Wodonga and Western Australia, Mr Bowerman said he first had the idea of Chef 4 Hire in late 2018 but it was particularly timely now in light of the global pandemic.
"I always thought it would be nice to work in different kitchens and help them out when they were short-staffed," Mr Bowerman said.
"There was a shortage of chefs back then but not to the extent we have now.
"COVID has knocked so many out of the industry because they needed a stable income.
"Most of my colleagues have left the trade because they had to support their families.
"People still want to go out to eat and enjoy life.
"I believe the agency will help venues stay open or keep a function booked for Saturday when they've lost staff on Wednesday."
Mr Bowerman said while he would only recruit head chefs now to work on the Border, he would widen the service to kitchen hands and front of house staff in future.
"I hope to hire 10 casual head chefs by the end of February," he said.
"Towards the end of the year, I would like to take the service to Melbourne operators too."
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