Sep 21
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The End of the Chef?

21 September 2022

Michael Brick, General Manager at Meris Food Equipment

During Fine Foods Australia 2022, I was fortunate to be invited by Minnie Constan at FSAA to participate in a panel discussion. The topic was about utilising technology to combat current staff shortages.

Discussion often returned to how various equipment and technologies were allowing more automated cooking, using presets and programs to allow ‘non-cooks and chefs’ to serve high-quality foods consistently.

Towards the end of the panel, an audience member was genuinely curious as to what we thought about the future of chefs. Would there be jobs for this up-and-coming student of the culinary world?

This question struck me, in an industry where we strive for staff and food safety, consistent quality and reduced labour inputs, are we removing the need for skilled Chefs and Cooks? Are we pushing people out of the industry in favour of smarter equipment and process-driven systems?

Considering the staffing crisis affecting the food and hospitality industry, there is an expectation it is only temporary. That our industry will self-correct and return to a balanced state, akin to how it was before COVID. However technology will never stop evolving, but how will this change the industry’s attitude towards jobs? Will roles change or be removed entirely?

I see various trends and changes in the industry that will affect my answer to this question. Globally, consumers are spending more than ever on eating outside of the home and purchasing ready-to-eat meals. This increase in demand has changed how businesses perceive food as a product. More businesses, even those whose core business model doesn’t focus on foods, are taking advantage of these opportunities by installing small benchtop equipment to sell various ready-to-eat food items. 

These businesses might heat, warm or prepare food in small spaces that is more akin to a retail environment than a kitchen. This is generally performed by a staff member aged between 16-18 years old working their first job. This scenario demands that businesses select equipment that minimizes or removes the chances of mistakes or injury. No longer are the worries of full trays of smoking lumps of pastry formally known as croissants.

Simplified processes in conjunction with automated equipment achieve consistent results, our business Meris performs a lot of work within this space. We perceive this as a necessity, as the only way for businesses to produce a food offer, to meet the aforementioned demand, is the use of such types of equipment.

A lot of work goes into the development of food offers such as these. We have in-house chefs and experts developing recipes and programs through testing and refining. Retailers and Food Manufacturers employ their people, and even outside firms to assist in this process and even drive the projects too. We see some great culinary experts involved here, often in the front end of the process, as opposed to the usual kitchen end we associate chefs with. 

There has also been an increase in the Meal Kit Category, such as Marley Spoon and Hello Fresh, attempting to capture a large slice of the growing market. Development chefs are creating these products within large facilities, trialling and refining the product to best appeal to the tastes of the home consumer, and simplify the home meal preparation process. Chefs such as these are often hidden from the public eye and high street restaurants.

I can personally name over a dozen top chefs that have opened casual dining offers such as burger chains or chicken shops that start with unique and delicious product development, which then transition into a process-driven offer to allow for scalability and consistency. These have been growing and will go on to become the next leaders within the Quick Service Restaurant field.

On the other hand, the more process-driven, controlled environments on the rise, the more demand will grow towards the contrary. Finer dining, more creative, bespoke dishes with even higher service levels. A more ‘traditional’ chef-inspired role will remain forever.

I truly believe there will always be jobs for the passionate, motivated and creative visionaries of the hospitality industry. My advice to the young culinary student, and anyone with similar concerns is to take the plunge. Immerse yourself into the industry and learn as much as possible. Discover what you love, and cook the foods you love to cook. Once you have done this, you will be one of the people that stamps your legacy in time. People that are creatives and visionaries will always rise to the surface, and find roles specific to them.

Remember, all equipment is simply a tool to make your job easier. No equipment can replace the skill of a trained chef. If you have the passion, our exciting industry has a great and important role for you. 

If you would like to discuss your food future please get in touch, [email protected] 1800 265 771 or meris.com.au


What our clients say

“The FlashGrill is so good. Always such an even cook. Never have to worry about re-heating, it’s always at temp. Super easy to clean and nothing ever sticks. We cover the plate with 30 frozen burgers, cook them, then add another 30 straight away with no change in cooking time between the first lot and the second and get the same great result. It’s really impressive” Katrina Sanderson, Food Operations Manager - Bowser Bean and Vantage Fuels

It enhances flavours by cooking at low temperatures.

"FlashGRILL completes any food. It enhances flavours by cooking at low temperatures. It can perfectly caramelise and grill the products. It is great for white meat and fish. It is very satisfying to cook different kinds of meats and ensuring clients can fully perceive the differences in tastes due to the specific flavour of each product being preserved."Chef Francesco di Maria, - LA FIORENTINA Ristorante-Pasticceria Roma - Italy
“Since I have had the possibility to cook at lower temperatures, meat does not stiffen or burn. It remains evenly cooked and intact, and enhances flavour. Thanks to FlashGRILL, which keeps the temperature even on the full cooking surface, I managed to optimise cooking in my work kitchen. I also use the CLOCHE every day. Thanks to it, I obtain great results with meat and fish, like tuna. I am extremely satisfied.”Chef Diego Asara, - GINGER SAPORI E SALUTE Roma - RM
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Operational costs down, profits up with Perfect Fry...

...Since installing the Perfect Fry, we’re saving $4,500 per week in labour costs by not having the kitchen open for as many hours.Craig Mitchell, Bar Manager - Buckingham Arms Hotel, Adelaide

Perfect fit for our stores - counter top and no smells...

Hot Chips are a universal product that appeal to multiple market segments in all seasons. The Perfect Fryer is perfect for the Wendy’s environment as it has a very small footprint and is able to be used in kiosks due to its in-built filtration system.” “We are looking forward to continued growth and development of the Wendy’s brand with an enhanced food offer”Wendies

Perfect Fryer go great and produce a consistently high quality product...

...We have expanded the range to offer three Perfect Fryers, two are used for chips and the third for other deep fried product.IGA

Five weeks in we are seeing daily food sales growth and are confident we are going to achieve our sales targets...

...The cooking equipment we selected is all automated for a consistent result every time and is safe and simple to use. It has provided us with the opportunity to introduce a diverse range of new food that is proving popular with our customers.Eddy - BP

Delivering a high standard of menu items across all our stores and locations...

...We were impressed with the quality of food the perfect fry producs, right from the trial cooking our chefs did, additionally, all staff members cooking will now be able to produce those results consistently.Mr Marshall - Degani
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The Perfect Fry is competitively priced and has really helped us to grow our food-based revenue...

...We use the Perfect Fry instead of a kitchen for the last 15 years. The machines are incredibly easy for any staff member to use, our roster of up to 26 bar staff utilise the machines on a daily basis. I highly recommend the Perfect Fry.Yohan Karunatileke, Venue Manager - The Welcome Stranger Hotel in Melbourne CBD
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