Latin American chef “not specialised enough” to get a work visa: INZ

Source: Facebook

I guess we can all agree that bureaucracy, without humanity, is dehumanising. Case in point, Immigration NZ’s recent decision not to grant a work visa to this South American chef, on the grounds of not being “satisfied burrito, nachos, quesadilla, and tortillas required the skills of a specialist chef.”

What happened

Chef Luis Cabrera, here with chef Peter Gordon.
(Source: Facebook)

Auckland Viaduct’s Besos Latinos Ceviche Bar serves traditional South American dishes from Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru. One of their chefs is now facing the prospect of having to leave New Zealand in July, unless she secures another temporary visa in the meantime.

The reason? Despite evidence that the restaurant employs a variety of specialised cooking techniques, INZ is not convinced that she needs specialised expertise in her job.

Luis Cabrera, the owner and head chef of Besos Latinos, is understandably enraged, labelling the decision ‘ignorant and racist.’

INZ’s decision is concerning for two reasons

Besos Latinos’ menu. Source: Facebook

Reason #1: Preconceived ideas about what it means to work in hospitality

There’s a problem when the public institution that’s tasked with assessing immigrants’ skills doesn’t fully understand immigrants’ skills. It’s crucial for chefs in ethnic restaurants to have a cultural understanding of the food they prepare, or at the very least appropriate and demonstrable training. In a fast-paced and competitive environment like the hospitality sector, you don’t get to improvise – and that’s something that INZ failed to acknowledge here.

“It’s just like saying Chinese dumplings do not require specialist chefs because they can be bought from the frozen section of Countdown supermarket,” said Cabrera. “It is a direct insult to chefs and the cuisine from my part of the world.”

According to Restaurant Association CEO, Marisa Bidois, cases like this are anything but rare. “Unfortunately, with no dedicated minister for hospitality, at times we battle to be heard and remove preconceived ideas about what it means to work in hospitality.”

Source: Facebook

Reason #2: Red tape worsening the skill shortage

We’ve all heard just how difficult it is for some sectors to find skilled workers to keep their businesses going. Hit by Covid-19 restrictions, and with net migration at an all-time low, the hospitality sector continues to be caught up in red tape when trying to hire talent.

Until 2021, roughly one-third of the industry was made up of migrant workers here on temporary work visas. But a recent survey by the Restaurant Association found that 78% of their members had difficulty recruiting staff for their business, and 84% had not seen an increase in suitable New Zealanders applying for the roles.

“We already had to close down one of our restaurants at the Elliot Stables, and if INZ continues to make it impossible for us to keep our staff then we could be in big trouble here too,” said Cabrera.