London awoke to stormy weather this morning: the day we vote on whether Britain should remain in the EU or leave. Clouds of uncertainty hang over the catering industry with respect to the outcome that a ‘leave’ vote could bring.

Image sourced from Newspan Building Solutions

Aside from the politics, I will say this: one of my fondest memories of working in kitchens in London is how everyone knows a smattering of Polish (usually the swear words), no matter where in the world they’re from. Our colleagues from the Continent help food businesses survive in the face of a severe staff shortage. Generally, overseas workers from outside the EU have required work permits to remain in the UK and have to meet certain salary restrictions before their application can be considered. Things might not be so drastic, but even the paperwork and  admin involved would be an unnecessary drain on a restaurant’s time and money.

I, for one, loved how my shift always started just after the day’s delivery. Fresh fruit and veg always lined the corridors or loading bays, waiting to be decanted and stored away. And no matter how my day would go, I felt lucky to start my working day casting my eyes upon that beautiful sight. If trade gets affected by Brexit, will we still continue to enjoy the bounty of ingredients that we currently cook with? I’m all for seasonality and loving local, but isn’t it a gift to have such great access to the fruits of the earth that we enjoy here in the UK?

Whatever the outcome, maybe it’s a call for chefs to take a hard look at how we nurture and protect our resources in the industry – especially the human resource?

Brexit and the UK catering industry

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