The Lee Kum Kee International Young Chef Chinese Culinary Challenge competition aims to attract fresh talent to the profession by creating a platform of exchange for young chefs to learn from each other
A leading figure in Chinese cuisine training claims that the starting salaries of young Chinese chefs are now comparable to university graduates. Mr Wai Sing Yeung MH, Vice-chairman of the Chinese Cuisine Training Institute Training Board, Chairman of The Association for Hong Kong Catering Services Management Ltd. says that despite vast employment and promotion opportunities in the Chinese cuisine industry, the number of people interested in pursuing a career in the industry is falling short of meeting the huge demand for talent.
To overcome this challenge, ten culinary institutions from Hong Kong and Macau have joined forces to form the “Lee Kum Kee International Young Chef Chinese Culinary Challenge – Hong Kong and Macau Final,” an exchange platform for young chefs, with the hope of elevating industry standards while building the professional image of chefs and promoting Chinese cuisine and attracting new talent.
Labour shortages weaken industry competitiveness
With vast employment and promotion opportunities, the starting salaries of young Chinese chefs today is comparable with fresh graduates – a young chef can earn a monthly salary of around HK$11,000 – 13,000. An executive chef working at a hotel can enjoy a wage over a million dollars (HKD) annually. Despite these impressive statistics, the number of people interested in pursuing a career in the Chinese catering industry is falling short of meeting the huge demand for talent.
The talent shortage means a more difficult time to fill the estimated 200,000 jobs in the Chinese chefs job market. Currently, around 15-20%, or 30,000- 40,000 positions remain vacant. The industry categorizes Chinese chefs into the following three categories: “Chinese Cuisine,” “Siu Mei” and “Dim Sum,” the latter category is the worst hit.
“Since the establishment of the Chinese Cuisine Training Institute (CCTI) in 2000, the institute has provided 1,200 places every year and we have seen our graduates enjoying a close to 100% immediate recruitment rate, preparing our graduates for an exciting career. This booming industry requires a constant stream of talent to meet the demand and it is therefore our top priority to provide suitable training to groom junior chefs for a lifetime career in Chinese cuisine”, said the Vice-chairman of the Chinese Cuisine Training Institute Training Board, Chairman of The Association for Hong Kong Catering Services Management Ltd. Mr. Wai Sing Yeung MH.
Ten culinary institutions from Hong Kong and Macau join forces to attract fresh talent
Given the challenges faced by the industry, ten institutes from Hong Kong and Macau have joined forces to organize the “Lee Kum Kee International Young Chef Chinese Culinary Challenge – Hong Kong and Macau Final”, creating a platform for young chefs to learn from each other, promote Chinese Cuisine, and to elevate the overall image of the Chinese culinary experience and attract younger generations to join the industry. The challenge is organized by Lee Kum Kee, co-organized by CCTI. The other partnering associations are: The Association For Hong Kong Catering Services Management Ltd, Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants & Related Trades, Institution of Dinning Art, Eating Establishment Employees General Union, Hong Kong Chinese Chefs Association Limited, Association of Restaurant Managers, Associacao de Operariosde Macau and United Association of Food and Beverage Merchants of Macao.
The competition involves a total of 55 young chefs from Hong Kong and Macau who have to each cook two dishes within 90 minutes. Each dish must be inspired by the “Chinese New Year” theme and contestants must include two major ingredients: Giant Grouper and beef. The top eight finalists will represent Hong Kong and Macau and compete with other chefs from Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia in the “Lee Kum Kee International Young Chef Chinese Culinary Challenge 2014” in March 2014. The international challenge hopes to expand the chef’s horizons while elevating the professional standards of Chinese cuisine industry in the different competing cities.
“This is a valuable opportunity and also the first time Lee Kum Kee has been able to work with so many institutions in Hong Kong and Macau, to try to alleviate the labour shortage faced by the Chinese cuisine industry. With 125 years of history, Lee Kum Kee is committed to the catering industry and has been working closely with industry partners. We are both concerned and supportive of the industry and intend on continuing our development of programs to promote Chinese cuisine. We encourage young chefs to improve their skills through this challenge, so as to raise industry standards. We hope that the competition can elevate the industry’s image and attract fresh talent,” said Lee Kum Kee Managing Director-North Asia & Pacific Region, Mr Anthony Tse. Lee Kum Kee has been actively supporting the training of industry talents, for example, launched the “Hope as Chef Project” to offer professional training to under-privilege teens in mainland China.
“To elevate the professional image of Chinese chefs, the industry has slowly evolved to adopt more professional working attire and titles – in closer alignment with Western cuisine training standards. Many Chinese chefs today expect to wear professional uniforms and adopt specialist titles that reflect their expertise in one of the Chinese cuisine categories. We hope that the younger generation can understand that Chinese Cuisine is a profession with wide ranging career opportunities. We hope that this generation of chefs can consider the industry as a life-long career option, full of exciting possibilities”, said Chairman of Association of Restaurant Managers, Chairman of Dragon King Restaurant Group, Judge of the Hong Kong and Macau Final Mr Wing Chee Wong.
Sustainable, healthy and safe ingredients: Local Oasis Giant Grouper and Australian grass fed cattle
In addition to the labour shortage, the limited supply of fresh ingredients also hinders creativity of chefs. In an attempt to find solutions to this, Lee Kum Kee is promoting the use of sustainable ingredients to consumers and restaurants. The “Lee Kum Kee International Young Chef Chinese Culinary Challenge – Hong Kong and Macau Final” specially selected the local-raised Oasis Giant Grouper and Australia Grass fed Cattle as ingredients for the competition to reflect its wish to promote safe, healthy and sustainable ingredients.
Oasis Giant Grouper is reared with high-grade feed and is raised in closely monitored re-circulating water system where water quality and water flow within the tanks are strictly controlled. Wild Giant Grouper have been over-harvested and is becoming rare with the possibility of becoming extinct. However, if locally raised Giant Grouper can gain popularity, there is a bright future for the local market to supply clean, fresh and sustainable Giant Grouper that does not harm our environment. Australian grass fed cattle grazes on natural pastures which are spacious, lush and free of pollutants.
Ten culinary institutions from Hong Kong and Macau have joined forces to promote Chinese cuisine. Mr Charlie Lee, Chairman and CEO of Lee Kum Kee Sauce Group and industry representatives officiated the opening ceremony of the “Lee Kum Kee International Young Chef Chinese Culinary Challenge-Hong Kong and Macau Final.”