NATIONAL vocational qualifications do not prepare young people properly for a career in catering, top chefs have warned. Confidence in college courses is so low that young people joining the industry with NVQs from colleges are referred to as "not very qualified".
They would like to see the course scrapped or made into a three-year course, with a year spent working in the industry.
The concerns come at a time when the catering industry is struggling to attract sufficient new recruits. The "massive" shortage of chefs has led to fears that Britain's culinary renaissance could be undermined.
Chefs are worried that some colleges may be promoting tourism courses above catering. While both attract the same level of government funding, catering courses include some costly practical elements which can make them up to four times more expensive to run.
In recent years, British restaurants have shaken off their "meat and two-veg" image and have improved the reputation of British food abroad. There has even been talk of London rivalling Paris as the European city to eat out in.
However, many colleges have failed to keep place with the gastronomic revolution pioneered by chefs such as Marco Pierre White.
A spokesperson for the catering recruitment agency, Thomas and Worth, said: "The old City and Guilds was a much better qualification. When the kids came out they were well trained. Now they are coming out disillusioned, with a false view of what the industry is about."
John Campbell, head chef at the Lords of the Manor restaurant in Stow-on-the Wold, Gloucestershire, agreed. "The NVQ is not a strong in-depth course," he said. Although some colleges such as Westminster, Birmingham and Bournemouth teach students well, he added, "the standard of training is not good because the lecturers are old.
"The industry has moved on from fussy food to honest, clean food. If you look at the standard of training people are getting from colleges it is not relevant - although it would have been 10 years ago," he said.