Perak losing cooks seeking greener pastures in KL and Singapore

It is usually the cooks below the chefs who are seeking greener pastures, the Restaurant and Chefs Association secretary said.

Manjit Kaur and Stephanie Lee

Manjit Kaur and Stephanie Lee

the star


May 23, 2023

IPOH – Restaurant cooks from Perak are heading to Singapore because of the higher salaries there.

Perak Ku Soo Shun Choon Hong (Restaurant and Chefs Association) secretary Chooi Chak Lim said this was the issue some of the association’s 400 members were facing.

He said cooks here were usually paid RM3,000 per month, but they are offered RM6,500 (S$2,000) in Singapore.

“So, many cooks are leaving Perak to seek greener pastures in Singapore. Some have gone to Kuala Lumpur, where they are also paid more compared with smaller states and towns,” he said.

Chooi said the chief chef, especially in hotels or big restaurants, would usually stay put because their salary was between RM10,000 and RM20,000.

“It is usually the cooks below the chefs who are seeking greener pastures.

“To overcome this issue, association members have to get fresh graduates who, after getting the necessary experience, will start to move elsewhere too. There is only so much in terms of salary that can be increased, especially in smaller states,” he said.

Perak Coffeeshop Association deputy chairman Ooi Beng Yeaw said many eateries were facing a shortage of cooks.

He agreed with Chooi that many cooks, after getting better offers, moved to either Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.

Ooi said fresh graduates in culinary schools were sought after, and thus the turnover rate was high.

“For traditional coffee shops, they are not really affected because such shops are family-run.

“Usually at these shops, the owner makes the drinks, toast bread and so forth, while the stalls are rented out to others.

“It is the bigger restaurants that mostly face this problem,” he added.

Ipoh’s famous Nasi Ganja stall manager Mohamed Nihmathullah Syed Mustaffah said his cooks were all brought in from India with a permit.

“So far, I have not had issues with a shortage of cooks. All my three cooks are from India,” he said.

Over in Sabah, there was no significant shortage of chefs in hotels in the state, according to people in the industry.

Malaysian Association of Hotels, Sabah and Labuan Chapter chairman Hafizan Wong said although there were some vacancies for chefs here and there, on and off, they would be quickly filled by locals.

In terms of the choice of chefs, he said Sabah hotels would often give priority to locals.

“Locals know our cultures and tastebuds better, and that is why we prefer hiring locals,” he said when contacted.

“When a problem arises in the hiring process, it is normally due to certain requirements or qualifications that must be fulfilled by the candidates before they can be employed.”

Hafizan said after Covid-19 pandemic restrictions were lifted, there was a short period when many hotels were forced to rehire as their chefs had moved on or started their own business.

However, the positions were quickly filled as many were also searching for jobs during that time, he said.

A recent survey conducted in the city found that seafood restaurants and other eateries were bustling with customers, indicating that there is no shortage of chefs.

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