To enjoy great food we need great chefs. But are Perth restaurants and hotels paying enough to lure the world’s best culinary artists to our fair city?

Julie-anne Sprague gets the word on wages.

WHILE most Perth chefs may not be earning what their eastern States counterparts are, they are, it seems, enjoying a stable employment market.

Marie Goodman Personnel managing director Marie Goodman says the employment market is strong for those in the business of food.

“We seem to be busy, we have more jobs here,” she says.

“People are coming here from Sydney to get work.”

The Brisbane market is also growing.

Zenith Hospitality Services managing director William Rule says while Brisbane chefs are paid less than those working in Sydney, the rate of pay is increasing.

“Chefs are paid about $10,000 to $15,000 less than those in Sydney, but more and more restaurants are paying more and more money and get signature chefs,” he says.

“In a good quality restaurant or cafe a chef could expect to get paid $40,000 to $50,000.”

Sydney’s Olympic Games hangover, combined with the Ansett collapse and the events of September 11, has affected the market and the wage spend for highly experience chefs.

AA Appointments Sydney branch manager Naomi Crawford says that, while executive and head chefs can expect a ball park figure salary of $60,000, the shrinking employment market means some chefs are getting paid substantially less.

“There has been minimal movement in head and executive chefs in the hotel industry within the last six months, but when offered, they are paid approximately $60K and above,” Ms Crawford says.

“However, due to the current oversupply of sous, head and executive chefs in Sydney, salaries have dropped, most recently some around the $40,000 mark.”

She says there remains demand in the market for commis and demi chefs.

Ms Goodman says salaries for Perth chefs vary, but expects the big-name restaurants to be paying its leading chef between $60,000 and $70,000.

“In Sydney they earn much more but the cost of living is much higher,” Ms Goodman says.

However, she also says chefs coming to Perth are looking for hourly rates over a salaried income to try and earn more.

The demand for qualified chefs in Melbourne has sent the salary cap soaring.

AA Appointments Melbourne branch manager Linda Price says while head and executive chef positions are available, employers are surprised at wage expectations.

“Clients are prepared to pay a higher figure but initially put a lower offer on the table because they sometimes don’t realise how much it takes to get a really good chef,” she says.

Ms Price says there is a big demand for chefs in Melbourne but that it is hard to fill the positions.

And while several of Perth’s hotels claimed chef wages within hotel chains have remained static, those working in the industry say you can earn more in a private restaurant.

But there are benefits for working at a hotel, with many hotel recruiters citing a stable environment, fewer working hours, opportunity for training and opportunities for transfer within the group or chain as main selling points.

But Ms Goodman says Perth’s hotels are not retaining high quality international chefs, which is affecting Perth’s tourism market.

“I’ve had chefs from Europe who won’t settle here. Hotels need to have at least three restaurants, most here don’t,” she says.

“Chefs in hotels are earning less than the ones in the restaurants. Hotels are cutting costs. Tourists expect much more.”

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