Besos Latinos Ceviche Bar owner and head chef Luis Cabrera said INZ’s decision to refuse renewal of his chef’s work visa was “stupid and racist”. Photo / Dean Purcell
A South American chef faces the possibility of having to leave New Zealand after failing to get a work visa because Immigration NZ says it “doesn’t settle for burritos, nachos, quesadillas, and tortillas which require the skills of a specialist chef”.
Her employer, the owner of the Latin American restaurant Auckland, was angry and denounced INZ’s decision as “stupid and racist”.
A survey by the Restaurant Association found 78 percent of hotel businesses struggle to recruit the skilled workers needed to maintain their business.
Luis Cabrera, 40, owner of Besos Latinos Ceviche Bar in the Auckland Viaduct, said without his chef, he would struggle to keep his business operating with its current opening hours and that could have a negative impact.
“We’ve had to close one of our restaurants in Elliot Stables, and if INZ continues to make it impossible for us to keep our staff, we could also get into big trouble here,” said Cabrera, who is also the head chef. .
Cabrera said his restaurant serves traditional South American dishes from Argentina, Cuba, Mexico and Peru and only sells nachos and burritos as takeaways during the closing.
In a letter to the chef, who did not wish to be named, INZ said dissatisfaction with the item, along with the quesadilla and tortilla, required the technical or specialist expertise that a chef would expect.
She was told that her current visa expiration date is July 13, and that she must arrange to leave NZ before her visa expires if she does not qualify for a further temporary visa.
“The view itself is very ignorant and racist, like saying Chinese dumplings don’t need a specialist chef because they can be bought from the frozen section of Countdown supermarkets,” he said.
“It makes me very upset and angry. It’s an outright insult to chefs and cooks from my part of the world.”
After providing further information, the agency accepted that the restaurant used a variety of special cooking techniques – but refused the chef’s work visa application anyway.
Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said most hospitality businesses have difficulty recruiting skilled staff.
Bidois said the association is working with INZ to ensure there is an understanding of the industry and the subtleties of the role it requires.
“But, unfortunately, cases like Luis’ are not uncommon. Unfortunately, without a dedicated minister in hospitality, we sometimes struggle to be heard and dispel preconceived notions of what it means to work in hospitality,” he said.
“Skills shortages have long been an issue in the industry and there is no doubt that closing borders has made this even more challenging. This will be further strengthened as demand increases and will be a challenge our industry has to face.”
Bidois said skilled migrants played an important role in supporting the labor shortage in the industry.
“It is important that the industry continues to employ migrant workers where no suitable New Zealand candidate can be found,” added Bidois.
As of this year, about a third of the industry consists of migrant workers here on temporary work visas.
An Immigration spokesman said the chef had applied for a work visa under the long-term skills shortage list on February 9, 2021.
“To get this work visa, a person must have work experience, qualifications and job registration that are determined to work in a job with a list of long-term skills shortages,” he said.
“The onus is on the applicant and the employer to ensure they clearly demonstrate how the applicant complies with the relevant immigration instructions.”
He said INZ was satisfied after further information provided by his employer that the restaurant used various special cooking techniques, but there was no evidence that the chef was involved in the duties expected for the job.
“As a result, INZ is dissatisfied that he is taking up the duties of Chef de Partie or higher and has received a job offer that was on the list,” the spokesperson said.
The chef’s application was rejected on April 13, 2021, because it did not meet the requirements as stipulated in the immigration instructions.
“While INZ understands the challenges facing the hotel industry due to the impact of Covid-19 and the current skills shortage, INZ assesses all visa applications against the relevant immigration instructions,” the spokesperson added.