Finding cooks a “serious problem,” says Island restaurant owners

Kyle Hensman enjoys working at the Olde Dublin Pub as a cook. Restuarant owner Liam Dolan wishes he could find more like him. Darcey Cudmore photo.

By Darcy Cudmore

The Guardian

Freddy Doiron is busier than he has ever been.

He had to do a bit of everything during his busiest summer yet as a restaurant owner, including spend time in the kitchen.

“I have to do the paper work, the schedules, all of that before I even start my shift.”

He can’t seem to find cooks, said the 58-year-old Doiron, the owner and operator of By The Bay Restaurant in North Rustico for 18 years.

“It just seems like no one wants to be a cook, they want to work out front at the cash or serve but the real need is for cooks.”

Since he hasn’t been able to find staff, Doiron has had to ask his long-time employees to carry a heavier workload than usual.

Liam Dolan knows how he feels.

“This has been going on 10 or 15 years now and is getting worse,” said the owner of Olde Dublin Pub, Claddagh Oyster House and Peakes Quay Restaurant, all in Charlottetown.

“It’s a serious problem we have in the industry. It’s a tough, but very important job for a restaurant owner to fill, and there’s no doubt, there’s a real shortage of cooks.”

The shortage stretches farther than P.E.I. and even Canada. This is a global problem, said Dolan, who sits on the board of Restaurants Canada and travelled to Ireland recently and talked to restaurant operators there.

“It’s the exact same everywhere. Finding good quality cooks who want to work day-in and day-out is really tough.”

It all starts with training facilities, he said.

“If you’re 16 years old and like the kitchen, you should be able to learn the proper ways of the trade in high schools. Then, once you’ve worked in the kitchen, there is lots of potential for advancement in the trade.”

If things continue, Doiron and Dolan worry about the next generation of local restaurant owners.

“These big franchises are growing while local restaurants are going the other way,” said Dolan.

“We need to do something to change this.”