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Shanghai Seeks Western Food Chefs

Despite its offer of an annual salary of 500,000 yuan (US$60,482.9) plus a spacious residence, the Shanghai International Convention Center has failed to recruit a domestic chief western-style food chef for half a year.

Rough statistics show that Shanghai now has nearly 1,000 western cuisine restaurants, large or small, but only registers less than 100 chief western-style food chefs and most of them working in four-star or better hotels are foreigners.

Being unable to find a satisfying Chinese chief chef, the Shanghai International Convention Center had no other choice but to hire a French chef through complicated procedures.

"If there are such native chefs in Shanghai, we would like to hire one at an even higher price. At least we won't meet language obstacles with a Chinese chef," said Yao Hongyuan, the catering chief of the Shanghai International Convention Center. "The professional standards for a chief western food chef are really high. He is expected to be good at his culinary art, experienced, imaginative and creative and versed in the varied styles and tastes of western food in different countries around the world. And what is most important is that he must be able to speak fluent English," Yao said.

In the 1930s western-style food restaurants were very popular in Shanghai and the city produced many famous chief western food chefs at that time. But those chefs gradually ran off and disappeared as time went by. After 1978, the year when China launched its reform and opening-up policy, Shanghai has seen an increasing number of foreign tourists and businessmen flocking to the city and human resources of western food have been short of supply since the food again became locally prevalent.

In the wake of this shortage of chefs, the Shanghai municipal bureau of labor and social security and the local cooking association have jointly educated more than 200 western food chefs in recent years but can hardly satisfy the huge market demand.

The Shanghai tourism committee has forecast all-round growth in its hotel industry in the coming three years, especially in the luxury market, and the local demand for senior western food chefs will continue to grow.

In fact, the "senior blue-collars" that Shanghai lacks is not just restricted to chief western food chefs. Statistics offered by the Shanghai municipal job exchange shows that the city's gap of "senior blue-collars" amounts to over 9,000, mostly in the fields of manufacturing and service industry, in 2002.

The job exchange's intermediary and advanced vocational training programs have attracted an increasing number of citizens since the early months of this year. Some popular professions include optometry, calligraphy and framing, Traditional Chinese Medicine prescribing, hairdressing and jewelry evaluation.

(China.org.cn by Chen Chao, August 19, 2003)

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