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Madison, Wisconsin Has a Serious Shortage of Qualified Cooks

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Madison's burgeoning restaurant scene is being stifled by lack of warm bodies.

Geoff Livingston/Flickr

Known "foodie town" Madison, Wisconsin is suffering some serious labor pains in the form of a cook shortagePer a report by Madison.com, "the local appetite for steakhouses, Italian bistros and cozy farm-to-table hot spots has begun to outpace the number of trained, willing people available to work in them."

Even James Beard Award-winning chefs like Tory Miller can't seem to attract enough qualified talent; Miller, who owns three restaurants in Madison, tells Madison.com he's been unable to do brunch or late-night service at his newest restaurant Sujeo due to lack of staff. Miller has a fourth restaurant in the works and says he'll be looking to hire candidates from out of town. Another chef, Molly Maciejewski of the restaurant Sourdough, is quoted as saying: "A couple years ago, we'd put out an ad saying we were hiring and I'd get 15-20 responses. Now I might get three or four responses, two or three that are experienced enough for an interview."

It's not all bad news, though, at least as far as the cooks are concerned: The shortage means wages for Madison kitchen employees are on the rise, and many are also offering benefits packages to attract new hires. As far as long-term solutions, "Madison College will be doubling its culinary school with a new building, set to break ground in summer 2015," and the city is also "working on a three-week training program for cooks."

Of course, Madison isn't the only city facing a dearth of qualified kitchen talent: Even first-tier food cities like San Francisco and New York have faced their own staffing shortage woes.

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