NEW ORLEANS -- Everyday it seems like new restaurants are popping up in the Metro area, but some say there are now more job openings than skilled workers.
Restaurant leaders say for over a decade now, the industry has seen double-digit growth and, in turn, that has created a huge need for skilled workers like Rachel DeFelice.
"This is like my second home, coming into the kitchen all the smells, just taking all the raw ingredients and making it into something delicious that people can appreciate," says DeFelice.
The aspiring chef says she is pursuing her dreams thanks to a culinary scholarship.
While local programs are helping students like DeFelice fill the void, industry professionals say there is still a huge shortage of workers ready to step into leadership and management roles.
"It's just finding good people, it's almost like there's just not enough experienced restaurant staff in city to go around," says Haley Bittermann, Corporate Executive Chef and Director of Operations for the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group.
Right now Bittermann is looking to staff the original Brennan's restaurant on Royal Street, which is currently under renovation.
Bittermann says with a lack of skilled and experienced workers in the hiring pool, the restaurant group is now focused on training and promoting its own employees.
"We can teach them the skills if they have the want and passion to do it," says Bittermann.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) Education Foundation has a program geared to fast track high school students looking for a career in the restaurant industry and now they are taking further aim at the worker shortage with a new partnership with Camellia Beans.
"We really wanted to give a lot of umph to this, so we decided to have a contest and we are offering a $5,000 prize for the school that comes up with the best recipe," says President of L.H. Hayward and Co., the packager of Camellia brand beans, Connelly Hayward.
"The restaurant and food service industry here in Louisiana represents over 10 percent of our total workforce," says Executive Director of the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation Alice Glenn. "That's over 200,000 people, so it's a huge foundational part of our economy."
Glenn says the goal Is not just to grow the industry, but to make sure positions are filled by Louisiana students looking to have a rewarding career at home.
The LRA education foundation's high school program, ProStart, is in 50 high schools around the state and it includes more than 1,500 students.