San Diego

San Diego Restaurants Struggle to Hire Cooks

It's hard to fill the kitchen with quality employees these days, folks in the restaurant industry tell NBC 7

Some San Diego eateries are struggling to fill positions in the kitchen as a labor shortage is felt across California, restaurateurs tell NBC 7.

The California Restaurant Association said the hiring hurdles are a problem happening across the state. Locally, some restaurants are finding workers in short supply to fill line cook positions – from fine dining to the most casual of eateries.

This includes Damien Devine, the owner of Torpasta, a unique restaurant in San Diego’s Midway District that specializes in a Torpedo-inspired creation of the same name. The “Torpasta” is a hollowed out garlic bread stuffed with different kinds of pasta.

Devine’s eatery has been in business for the past 15 years but, recently, filling tables – and those sandwiches – has been easier than filling the kitchen.

“It’s hard to find anybody, and the people I do find, seem to be very flakey,” he told NBC 7.

Across the bridge at Coronado’s Maretalia, Blue Bridge Hospitality Executive Chef Tim Kolanko feels the same hiring pain.

“Finding skilled help is really hard, and what’s happening is the pay scale is escalating pretty quickly, with minimum wage hikes and the shortage of skilled help,” Kolanko explained.

The executive chef oversees several restaurants across San Diego and said competitors are getting creative in their mission to lure potential employees.

“People are offering signing bonuses – this is to an hourly employee,” Kolanko said.

The California Restaurant Association told NBC 7 the whole state is feeling the labor shortage – especially in dense urban areas like San Diego.

Despite the challenges, Devine and Kolanko are eager to hire committed workers.

“If they want something long-term that will support them and their families for a long time, this is the kind of place to be,” Devine said.

Kolanko said his company is all in.

“We show them that we’re going to invest in them – we invest our time, our training in them – and show them that this is a career, and we’re going to progress them in their career,” he said.

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