Brexit has had a disastrous effect on British hospitality with the end of freedom of movement closing opportunities for young chefs, Michel Roux has said.
The legendary chef said even his Michelin-starred Gavroche restaurant was struggling to recruit staff following Brexit, while young British talent was being denied the chance to learn their trade abroad.
The Frenchman’s father, Albert, and uncle Michel, opened Le Gavroche, which became the first three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Britain, and The Waterside Inn in Berkshire, which was the first restaurant outside France to hold three stars for 25 years.
Roux, 63, told the Guardian: “When you talk about what my father and uncle achieved, and what happened after that, in the 1990s, it’s hard to avoid the B-word – Brexit – when you look at the situation today.”
Since the pandemic he had been unable to restart a lunch service even at Le Gavroche, primarily due to a lack of staff, he said. Many went back to their home countries during Covid and have not returned.
He said: “We’re seeing more young Brits coming through the ranks, front of house, which is great, and if they are good they climb the ladder incredibly quickly.”
But he added it was now much more difficult for young British chefs and waiters to get experience working in France and Italy – as the likes of Gordon Ramsay did – along with staff moving in the opposite direction.
“We now have to get a work permit for individuals – that costs about £5,000 before you start,” he said. “That’s bonkers.
“I know for a fact that if freedom of movement was reinstated tomorrow, I could fill the 15 vacancies I need to reopen for lunch, probably within a week. But what really upsets me is that a whole generation of British talent can no longer go to Europe and knock on a door and pick up a job, like just about all the Michelin-starred chefs in the UK did at one time.”