Pubs and restaurants around Albany are on the hunt for chefs as a shortage across the hospitality sector continues to take a toll on the region. A quick online search reveals the extent of the chef shortage with eateries across the region seeking people to don the chef’s hat. Australian Hotels Association WA chief executive Bradley Woods said Albany was not alone in a hospitality shortage being experienced across the State. “The hard border restrictions and the exodus of overseas residents compounded existing skills shortages across WA’s hospitality sector,” Mr Woods said. “There are significant efforts being made by the State and Federal Government to ensure we meet our future workforce requirements, including heavy investments in TAFE as well as generous wage subsidies for apprentices and trainees. “Whether they be international students, backpackers or skilled migrants, workers from overseas have long played a vital role in Australia’s hospitality industry and the pandemic has made it clear just how important this workforce is to our sector.” The Advertiser gained insight from an Albany pub, bistro, winery and cafe, whose owners revealed their predicament and how it was affecting their business. The Earl of Spencer Historic Inn owner Neil Simmonds has been searching for a chef to join his team of three for more than two months. Mr Simmonds said he had only received three expressions of interest. “I have never found it so difficult to find reliable staff who want to work,” he said. “Fully qualified chefs shouldn’t be on JobKeeper if everything is back open now and fully fledged. I think there is a bit of shortage for proper skilled people. “Usually when you advertise you could get 10 applicants but I’ve had three on the internet and no one in person.” The publican said his chef shortage had forced him to close the pub one day a week. “I’ve got family, I’ve got kids, I can’t work seven days a week all the time so I decided to shut because my other chefs can’t do seven days either so we have to have our days off,” Mr Simmonds said. Mr Simmonds said the pandemic had taken a “huge toll” and with no new backpackers coming in he warned his industry peers to “expect a shortage for a while”. On York Street, Albany’s French-inspired bistro Majuba is multiple chefs down, putting head chef Johann Prins-Gurtel under the pump. Majuba’s Andrea Love, who opened the bistro with Prins-Gurtel in January last year, said the venue was liaising with a chef in South Africa to make the move to the south coast of WA. “We opened with a full complement of staff and then COVID came by and unfortunately a business like ours fell through every crack from a financial support perspective. There was no JobKeeper and JobSeeker, no one would look at us because we were a January start-up of 2020,” Ms Love said. Ms Love said after advertising chef positions for a month there had only been three applicants. “One was international who can’t come over because of visa restrictions,” she said. “We have had good track record with customers coming from far and wide and every single day we are turning them away because we can’t deal with that many people and it’s heartbreaking.” About 20 minutes out of town in Kalgan, Monty’s Leap is also bearing the brunt of the shortage. Winery co-owner Phil Shilcock said the issue was not limited to back-of-house staff. “Experienced hospitality staff are in short supply,” he said. “We are employing juniors to work the weekends but they are limited in what they can do, (for example) they can’t serve alcohol.” Mr Shilcock said he was looking for another chef to assist with the “madness”. “We are coping alright but it needs to be addressed; our crew have been here since we opened, they are doing their best,” he said. Another victim of the chef shortage is The Alkaline Cafe is on Frederick Street, where owner Melissa Homewood has been looking for kitchen staff for seven months now. Ms Homewood has been acting as a jack-of-all-trades, trying her best to keep the cafe afloat while having no success finding a chef. “I had to close my kitchen yesterday because I’m just so exhausted. It’s not fair on me or my staff who are doing their best,” she said.