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Chef patron of 1921 Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds speaks of staffing challenges

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Zack Deakins, chef patron of 1921 Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds, has explained the difficulties the restaurant is facing in filling vacancies.

Trying to fill just one position at 1921 is proving to be quite a challenge in the current climate.

If I told you we had arranged ten different interviews for a kitchen porter over the last four weeks, how many of those applicants do you think turned up? Eight?. . . Six?. . . Surely 4 at least, right? Nope, I’m afraid to say the answer is none! It’s a sorry situation and I must admit it is a problem I am not sure how to solve.

Zack Deakins is chef patron of 1921 on Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds.
Zack Deakins is chef patron of 1921 on Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds.

While a kitchen porter’s role in a kitchen may not be the most glamorous, it is vitally important to ensuring its smooth running. Making sure pots, pans are ready to use, plates are washed and polished, that utensils are all where they are supposed to be means the chefs can work more efficiently and effectively, which only improves the speed and quality of a kitchen’s output.

Everyone who works in a restaurant is an important cog in the machine and when one is missing it puts a strain on all the others. This is even more pronounced in a small team, when losing a member of the team is losing a fifth of the workforce.

Thankfully, we have had a few friends helping us out.

Pots and pans in need of washing.
Pots and pans in need of washing.

Most notably Gary, who was our kitchen porter up until a couple of years ago when he left to give himself more time with his children.

He was our kitchen porter for about five years and he is everything you want in a porter.

He is naturally clean, reliable and able to think for himself. I always feel a sigh of relief when I see him walking down Northgate Street.

I know from that point everybody’s day is going to get better.

He originally left us two years ago and although we have had a few others do the job since, he is proving very difficult to truly replace.

I know we at 1921 are not alone in finding recruitment a challenge, it is still however incredibly disheartening at times.

It is certainly not how I dreamed running a restaurant would be.

From the age of about 15 it was always my dream, my goal to one day have my own place, all those years dreaming of what I would put on the menu, what crockery I would have, how the restaurant would look and feel, what music would be playing?

These were the things that filled my dreams. . . not the sobering reality of not having anyone to do the pots this evening.

Pressures of recruiting, as well as many others, can make it easy to forget those dreams and why you worked so hard to get here.

But then an idea can pop into your mind, the ones that come out of the blue I usually find are the best ones.

It could be big, it could be small, more often than not it’s an idea for a new dish, but could equally just be a little tweak to the way we serve a drink or interact with the guests.

When one of these ideas take hold all the other pressures and challenges become kind of irrelevant because I know they are not insurmountable. They almost fade into the background.

We will always get through them because taking these ideas out of your mind and making them a reality, to create something unique and individual. . . well that’s why we are here.