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Vegetarian cookery apprenticeship about to start in Austria


Training makes the profession accessible to people who have previously ruled out an apprenticeship in the catering industry due to their eating habits

VIENNA - A cookery teacher for vegetarian and vegan cuisine is to be introduced in Austria from next year. The Ministry of Labour and Economic Affairs (BMAW) has submitted the regulation for the "Specialist for Vegetarian Cuisine" to the review process. "The catering industry is happy about every new apprenticeship that has the potential to inspire people for the industry," comments Mario Pulker, Chairman of the Austrian Catering Association of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, on the development.

"The domestic catering industry is constantly changing and adapting to the current trends and needs of guests. Existing additional training programmes with vegetarian-vegan content are already well received and in demand. The new apprenticeship can help to further strengthen this aspect and counteract the current shortage of skilled labour," continues Pulker.

However, important details are still missing for this to succeed and for the apprenticeship to be put into practice: "In addition to a training regulation that clearly defines the training content, we need precise food descriptions, binding recipes and examination documents, among other things," says Pulker, concluding: "As soon as the ministry has drawn up these documents, domestic catering businesses and potential apprentices can be fully informed about the new apprenticeship."

From the perspective of the Green Economy, Austria is taking on an international pioneering role in modern training in the catering industry with this project. The new apprenticeship will enable catering businesses to respond to the trend towards vegetarian and vegan food among their guests. According to a survey by Smart Protein, 44 per cent of Austrians follow a vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian or flexitarian diet and avoid or greatly reduce their consumption of animal-based foods - and the trend is rising.

The vegetarian-vegan cookery apprenticeship makes the profession of chef accessible to all those who have previously ruled out an apprenticeship in the catering industry due to their personal dietary habits. As part of the vegetarian-vegan cookery apprenticeship, apprentices do not have to handle meat. This makes the apprenticeship accessible to all those who do not eat an omnivorous diet in order to protect health, animal rights and/or the climate.

Sabine Jungwirth, Federal Spokesperson for the Green Economy, explains: "Our commitment to modern and sustainable catering has paid off! With its vegetarian-vegan cookery teaching, Austria is an international pioneer and well-positioned for the currently rapidly changing eating habits." Joachim Ivany, member of the committee of the Austrian Gastronomy Association, said: "Today is an absolute day of celebration for Austrian gastronomy. Despite initial resistance from the trade association, this pioneering project is finally becoming a reality. With the vegetarian-vegan cookery apprenticeship, the catering industry is taking an important step towards sustainability!"

As the central point of contact for vegan and vegetarian cuisine, the Vegan Society Austria expressly welcomes the regulation on vegan/vegetarian cookery training. This will make Austria's catering industry fit for the future and will also give it the chance to inspire young people to take up this apprenticeship in the future. Felix Hnat (Chairman): "The draft regulation is very promising. The group of experts that has been appointed by the WKÖ to develop the apprenticeship programme is very high-calibre. However, the detailed content is not yet set in stone until the launch in January. The task now is to continue to work well together. Plant-based and regional apricot dumplings or home-made mayonnaise are a valuable addition to traditional cookery - gratinated Emmental cheese or cheese spaetzle are old hat."

The Vienna Social Democratic Business Association praises the project, but sees it as just a first step: "It's time to revolutionise the entire cooking curriculum!" emphasises Marko Fischer, President of SWV WIEN. The initiative for a vegetarian-vegan cooking curriculum shows that adjustments are possible, but it falls short. "It's a shame that aspiring chefs only have to learn traditional Austrian cuisine for years before they are allowed to immerse themselves in international gastronomy," emphasises Martina Haslinger-Spitzer, Head of the Gastronomy List at SWV WIEN. "In times of a shortage of skilled workers, we need to go much further. The diversity of international cuisine should be an integral part of training." The cookery apprenticeship shows that modernisation is possible, but without comprehensive renewal it will remain a relic of times gone by. "We need to adapt the curricula more quickly to the current needs of the industry. It's not about small changes to specific training programmes, but about a fundamental overhaul of the curriculum!" criticises Fischer. "The vegan apprenticeship is just the beginning, because the needs of the labour market are changing rapidly. As SWV WIEN, we have developed a concept with Apprenticeship 2.0 that enables us to turn Austria and Vienna into a talent factory for skilled workers!"

"We need chefs who understand and master the diversity and dynamics of modern gastronomy," Haslinger-Spitzer urges. "A budding chef should have the opportunity to get to know different international cuisines and specialise right from the start. The vegan apprenticeship shows that this is possible, but we need to extend this opportunity to all international cuisines." The time for half-heartedness is over. The industry needs radical modernisation. "Imagine that: Chefs who learn the diversity of international cuisine right from the start - that's the future!" says Fischer. These comprehensive reforms are essential in order to remedy the shortage of skilled labour and make Vienna an international culinary hotspot. SWV WIEN is calling on all those responsible to fundamentally rethink chef training. "It's time for a revolution in the kitchens!" concludes Haslinger-Spitzer. "Only through comprehensive reforms can we master the challenges of the modern working world and strengthen Vienna as a hotspot for skilled labour!" says Fischer.


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