Restricting the free movement of EU nationals into the UK could result in UK chef's finding it harder to take on assignments in Europe fears the founder of a leading private chef service.
Philip Pesci, founder of Chef Xclusive, believes any restriction on free movement could be a huge problem for his wealthy clientele.
His company provides private chefs, mainly on 3-months and longer contracts, to homes across the UK and the world, with a second office set up in Greece to provide European chefs where required.
“Our clients are international, but a private chef isn’t just for movie stars,” he says. “They are looking for an ‘at-home’ solution. So whether that is taking care of a special diet or meal plan while they work, provide dinner parties or simply oversee the design of a new kitchen or vegetable garden. Our clients are busy people, and our Chefs are there both to manage the main home and any additional properties – be that a flat in Manhattan or a holiday chateau in Southern France.”
Restricting the ability to travel for these professionals, as many believe a hard-Brexit implies, could create a headache for transient households.
After all, if the government wants to curb the number of foreign nationals coming in to the UK, it would make sense for the EU to impose some sort of visa requirement for UK travellers returning in and out of the Union.
This could disadvantage British chefs who rely on regular European assignments.
“That would be a headache for our clients,” says Philip. “We currently leave the visa requirements down to them, adding an additional layer of administration could put them off from hiring in the UK.”
Currently Chef Xclusive specialise in UK chefs, but from their Greek office they do recruit internationally, and Philip may have to focus more energies in this market to offset any Brexit decisions.
He says, “I don’t think Brexit will cause any problems as to how we look for our chef acquisition, but we may be advising our clients differently – and that may lead to them employing more chefs who would then work in various countries accordingly depending on their status.”
Traditionally, a chef would be hired for say a 3-month contract, but Philip says this could be set to change.
“Clients are organising private chefs to be the solution for all of their properties. Whether that is 2-months in London, then a quick hop over to France, we would expect that our chef would probably go with them as thanks to the free movement of people across the EU our British chefs can cook there as well. Unfortunately, and nobody knows the million-dollar question, but if we tighten our borders and stop the ability of foreign chefs to work in the UK, and in turn UK chef’s working in the EU, this will create huge logistical issues for the clients. They could start to look for different solutions over different borders, which would mean a loss of work for our home grown talent.”
The New-Age Private Chef
And it seems as though requirements for a private chef are changing, no longer banished under-stairs, kitchens are the hub of the home – and a private chef has to manage that.
Whether it is making themselves scarce while their owner enjoys a quite coffee or hosting a dinner party short notice, personality and appearance are becoming routine requirements demanded by the jet-setting lifestyle.
Philip explains, “New chefs are required to be more balanced, we don’t tend to follow the Gordon Ramsey approach but equally, personality and appearance are just as important. Our clients are looking for personable individuals who can blend into someone’s home. Of course they must also be able to cook really good cuisine, and that includes everything from bangers and creamy mash, to Michelin fine dining.”
For Philip, sourcing these new and exciting chefs is essential, but perhaps as their manager, he is looking two years or so down the line, whereas his staff and clients are more focussed on today.
Right now, Brexit doesn’t seem to be worrying them too much.
He says, “I spend a lot of time thinking about it, but I have not had a lot of feedback from either our chefs or clients. I don’t think delaying the exit is a bad thing but I think the practicalities have gone out of everyone’s mind, although I am sure it will be hard hitting when it comes back.”
UK Chefs Disadvantaged by Weaker Pound
As a company based in the UK naturally they trade in Sterling, although the company remains flexible as to how the client pays them, but any currency fluctuations are then passed on to the chefs.
“Currency is always fluctuating, so we’re not too worried about that as we have to deal with it anyway, but right now it is not so good for the chefs,” say’s Philip in the wake of the recent Sterling drop.
As negotiations continue, what would Philip recommend the government consider from his industry?
“Ideally, there is no best scenario for me but it is for my clients that I hope we stay in Europe from a recruitment perspective. I think if we could negotiate some kind of deal where we could continue moving professional people in and out of the EU then that would be a good solution.
"But then again I hope the politicians have better solutions than me! I think possibly if we could have a process in place where we could apply for some kind of visa to allow them to work throughout the EU that would be manageable. But then we would have to reciprocate that in the UK and from talks of a ‘hard-Brexit’ I don’t know how that’s going to happen.”