Agency Working, good or bad?
As we now turn our thoughts towards a new horizon in the Industry, chefs are beginning to contact us for advice on Agency working.
As a Freelance Chef for more than 30 years I am more than suitable to offer you a comprehensive and balanced view of the Recruitment Industry.
Without doubt Agency working has changed substantially over the years, some for the good, some not, but for sure it is now a major employer of chefs in the UK and will be for some time as chefs continue to be transient in their career.
You will find that almost every chef has their opinions on Agency working, but most of the negative opinions tend to be from chefs who have not worked within the system to appreciate the many benefits that it can bring.
Understanding the way Catering Agencies work is the key to success with them. Discovering the prime objectives of your recruiter and working closely with them can make Agency working a very long term and financially rewarding option. However, you must understand that Agency’s are just like any other employer and if you want high rewards then they will seek equally high standards, as Melika Cheurfi, Managing Director of Adkins and Cheurfi explains…
“For us when We are recruiting new chefs the three main things we look for are experience , reliability and good attitude.
You can be the best chef in the world but if you are unreliable or have a bad attitude clients will request not to have you back. We do ask for references along with proof of right to work ID and industry certificates, a recent health and hygiene certificate is a must.
We like to form great working relationships with our chefs so they feel comfortable coming to us with any qualms or issues they may have”.
Working with your agent is vital, remember they are relying on you to do a great job and its easier for them if they know that that they can place you without any issues. Keeping constantly in touch and letting them know your availability also makes them aware of that you are keen and ready for work.
Multi-tasking is also important, if you have a range of tasks or have a niche speciality then that too can be hugely advantageous.The most successful relief chefs are the ones who can go anywhere and do anything,do the job and come out with the client happy,no fuss no bother.
So, is it all worth it?
Chefs can gain huge experience in a very short space of time, most jobs are paid by the hour and weekly, and many (not all ) accept Self Employed chefs.
In terms of pay, you will likely need to go through a probationary period before you can get top money, the Agent will want to see how you work and how reliable you are before committing to a better wage, but its easy to pick up more as a relief CDP as you can as a Hotel Head Chef and £600-700 weeks are common.
Also now your working rights as a Relief Chef are protected under The Agency Workers Regulations which gives you the same rights as full time employees.
You have total freedom. If you don’t want to work, you don’t have to, you can take time off anytime you want and you can pick and choose the employers and areas of works, so pretty much perfect?
Of course the instability is still the major factor, and often the reason why chefs don’t choose it, and if you’re a Hotel type of chef, seasonal working may see you with periods of little work, but if you’re willing to take the chance or have no family commitments then its ideal.
No shows and walk outs are a big no no. If you have an issue always call your agent and allow them the chance to sort the issue out, but for many this is a great way of working to gain experience and make good money in mostly good conditions.Some great perks too,with free live-in for those who wish to venture further.
For sure the Recruitment Sector has its faults, but by and large most of the Agencies now are much more supportive of chefs and realise that Clients aren’t always perfect too and understand the difficulties Relief Chefs face.
Being a Relief Chef isn’t easy, its not for everyone, there is a great skill to walking into a kitchen and acting as if you’d been there for years, but it can be very rewarding and great fun and well worth thinking about.