Working group "Pilot project international exchange in the cook profession" develops proposals to combat the shortage of skilled labour - especially in Asian restaurants.

The original idea behind the "International exchange pilot project for chefs" working group was to counteract the shortage of skilled labour, particularly in Asian restaurants. The members of the working group received numerous requests for vacancies. There are only around 50 vacancies in the greater Zurich area; extrapolated to Switzerland as a whole, it can be assumed that there are around 150 chefs specialising in Asian cuisine. Compared to the overall shortage of skilled labour, this is a negligible proportion. However, Asian cuisine is so different from Western cuisine that specially trained chefs are needed. This means that a highly qualified Swiss chef is not necessarily a good cook in Chinese or Japanese cuisine or must first learn the trade.

Obtaining a visa for chefs from third countries is de facto impossible. However, enquiries to various migration authorities have been met with rejection. The "quota places" for applications from third countries are far too small and, according to the law, are aimed at skilled workers who "create sustainable added value for the Swiss economy". A chef does not fall into this category, and the cantonal authorities are quick to distance themselves or refer to the legislation. This means that a restaurant must first recruit chefs in Switzerland, and if not available, from the Schengen area. In practice, however, this is not even possible as the chefs are simply not available. Many chefs have returned to their home countries, such as China, during the pandemic and no longer receive visas. The working group is aware of a few isolated successes in which chefs were recruited from China, but at considerable expense. With the current framework conditions, this will not alleviate the situation, as the legal framework simply does not provide the scope for this. The result is that several restaurants have had to close in recent months because they simply do not have enough chefs.

The working group has addressed this issue and is in the process of developing proposals to counteract the shortage of skilled labour. As an alternative, scenarios based on student visas or internships are currently being developed. Catering chains, chef associations or individual chefs based in Switzerland could benefit from this by sending chefs to China or Singapore for further training. Conversely, Chinese/Asian chefs could learn the Western trade in Switzerland and then be placed for internships in restaurants. This would counteract the shortage of skilled labour, at least in the short term. The long-term goal, however, is to obtain a contingent of chefs from the relevant countries who would receive a visa for one year, with the possibility of an extension.

Lucerne, 29.04.2024

René Bachmann

China Swiss Hub / Lucerne

mybow Brand Consulting offers brand consulting for companies that want to take the next step. In addition to brand consulting and the creation of new brands, mybow provides support throughout the entire process. mybow works with professional partners and has a large network in Switzerland and China. ChinaSwissHub is a specific area and focuses on brand localisation for companies from China.

Sacha Stöcklin

Cieacas / Shanghai China

The Center for Innovative & Entrepreneurial Culinary + Services (CieCAS) specialises in food and beverage professional development for vocational schools. Our courses aim to equip chefs and service staff with the skills they need to become professional kitchen and restaurant operators, similar to a chef or maître d'hôtel in Switzerland.

Marco Mehr / Christoph Wildhaber


The Zug Commercial and Industrial Training Centre (GIBZ) teaches around 2000 apprentices in 28 different basic training professions. In addition, over 200 students take part in courses in higher vocational education and training (HBB) and further vocational training courses. We promote their growth with practical teaching using state-of-the-art methods and an attractive learning environment. The Learning Support Office supports talented students and organises internships abroad.