As a result, some pursue their chosen field outside of the country, while others remain poorly paid or suffer with challenging conditions and uninspiring menus in restaurants where they work.
Some of the challenges that chefs face include being underpaid, not being recognised for achievements and having few platforms to learn how to cook a variety of meals and explore innovative recipes.
Martin Shipanga, (pictured above) a student at the Silver Spoon Hospitality Academy is leaving Namibia for Malta next week to pursue his career as a chef. He feels that he can learn a lot more about the industry outside of the country rather than remaining at home.
“In Namibia, chef’s jobs are scarce and we are not appreciated enough,” he said.
Shipanga said that it is often not easy to find a chef’s job in Namibia. He said the only way for a successful career as a chef is when you know a lot of the people already working in the industry. “It is sad that this industry in Namibia is all about who knows who. If you don’t have connections that can help you get a chance to be a local chef, then you will struggle. You won’t find a job easily,” he said.
Another concern that Shipanga has is with his fellow local chefs because, according to him, they don’t want to work together. “The head chefs do not take any advice from others. I am a great believer in exchanging ideas to better the end product. However, I often get the feeling that top chefs are closed off to other people’s ideas,” he said.
Shipanga said that in Namibia, chefs are not properly trained in all the food areas. He said that most chefs are mainly trained how to make chips and steaks rather than taught to prepare various cuisines using a variety of quality, fresh ingredients.
A chef at Klara's Market Place in Windhoek, Tina Indongo, raised a concern that most Namibian restaurants do not offer top international dishes such as chicken ala king or seafood paella. “These are the types of meals that many foreigners like to order. Not having these meals on the menu can destroy a restaurant’s good name. Tourists often circulate negative comments about restaurants they visit during their holidays and, along with local customers, they often will not come again to place that has a limited menu. These are some of the reasons why restaurants are losing customers,” she said.
Indongo said another of the main challenges that most chefs experience are the poor salaries. She said that the industry in Namibia doesn’t have a fixed pay scale. “This makes it very challenging for qualified and experienced chefs to be paid what they deserve. Certified chefs are often paid the same as those who are only cooks or those who do not possess official qualifications in the field. This is not fair at all,” she said.
Indongo is also very concerned about the way some restaurant owners treat their chefs. “I have noticed that at some places, chefs are not considered as important. I have personally heard restaurant owners saying that chefs do not generate profits. I disagree with such comments. I feel that chefs are very important because they prepare the food that the customers buy. Without a great menu and tasty food, clients may not return again,” she said.
Shipanga is worried that the challenges experienced in the food services industry in Namibia will make many talented potential chefs give up. “I have seen young, talented chefs giving up this field to do something else. That is a shame; people must do something as a career that they love and enjoy. I advise future chefs not to give up on the industry, no matter how tough it might get. I certainly will not give up,” he said.