Government urged to fast-track immigration process of chefs in bid to avoid Olympics skills shortage

Foreign chefs must be given the same immigration fast-track as Premiership footballers to stop the 2012 Olympic Games being blighted by a kitchen skills crisis, Gordon Brown has been told.

Sector skills council People 1st and trade body the British Hospitality Association (BHA) have sent a joint letter to the prime minister urging him to act immediately on the issue.

London mayor Ken Livingstone has already warned that increasing the standard of hospitality the capital offers visitors is crucial to their perception of the 2012 Olympics.

Four in 10 UK chefs do not possess a Level Two qualification – deemed to be the minimum needed to prepare food from scratch.

Brian Wisdom, chief executive of People 1st, said: “The government has known for some time that employers here are struggling to find highly skilled chefs.

“There is a certain irony in the fact that a sushi chef with 12 years’ training – who we really need in this country – gets denied entry, yet footballers from the same part of the world with less years’ training behind them take priority.”

BHA chief executive Bob Cotton added that high-quality Asian restaurants were struggling to find enough chefs locally and needed to look abroad.

“With our food tastes evolving, there is an urgent need for great chefs, and this will become even more of an issue with the influx of millions of tourists heading to London in advance of the Olympic Games,” he said.

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