New Zealand's chef shortage could worsen as Australia lures workers across ditch with higher pay

Australia could be making our chef shortage even worse by luring workers over the ditch with better pay offers.

The hospitality industry stands to lose 15 percent of its total workforce because the government won't extend the essential skills visa again.

The heat was on in the capital on Saturday for New Zealand's best young chefs as they competed at the Cordon Bleu Cookery School for the title of Jeune Chef de Rôtisseurs.

"I like the pressure, I like the creativity, I like working with food," said chef Josh Ross.

And he's good at it - 25-year-old Ross won today's competition and a chance to compete overseas.

"It's the first time I've done a competition like this. It's kinda like watching Master Chef all these years and seeing them do black boxes there, and now it's the real thing," Ross said.

While it's all action here, in Auckland Chand Sahrawat is closing down her three restaurants for two weeks in July.

"We have this acute critical shortage of staff. Our team has been giving us 150 percent so we just need to stop, let them have time with family," she says.

Sahrawat has just lost her head chef to Australia.

"They are definitely poaching because I'm being targeted on Facebook with ads."

It's becoming a more frequent story - as some chefs here are being offered $20,000 or $30,000 to move across the Tasman.

"They're being offered a lot more money and they're really targeting them," says Restaurant Association president Mike Egan. "They can go over there and get a sign-on bonus right away or airfares paid."

More than a third of all hospitality jobs advertised online are for chefs. The shortage is resulting in junior chefs moving up the ranks faster than ever.

"There are some young chefs now that are head chefs, and getting paid appropriately. But it's a big step up for them… that's quite tough on them and maybe they're not ready for it, but some are," Egan says.

The hospitality sector is disappointed the government isn't extending the essential skills work visa again - saying it could lose 15 percent of its workforce as a result.  Many restaurants have told Newshub they've already cut back opening hours to cope.

Including Capitol in Wellington, which has reduced its hours and boosted wages.

"The only way we can attract staff from a very meagre pool of people looking for work is to pay them more," owner Kate Hutchison says.

The industry hoping more Kiwis will choose a culinary career.