Britain's restaurant revolution could be under threat from a shortage of 60,000 chefs, Education Secretary Charles Clarke said on Tuesday.
Mr Clarke calls leisure an economic growth area
Mr Clarke, the MP for Norwich South, said TV chef Delia Smith had warned him of the danger to the new haute cuisine culture.
Mr Clarke said: "I was talking in my Norwich way last Friday to Delia Smith over there, and she said we were 60,000 chefs short in this country."
He said he did not know if that figure was accurate but the leisure industry was a "big growth area" for the economy.
Boost skill levels
A spokeswoman for the British Hospitality Association (BHA) confirmed for BBC News Online that trade publications are brimming with advertisements for chefs.
She said: "There is a shortage, because of so many new restaurants opening.
"We're always encouraging people to come into the industry at all levels."
Mr Clarke was speaking at a conference of business people and trade unionists in London about what had to be done to boost skill levels and productivity.
Delia admires Jamie Oliver's effort to train young chefs
He said the UK Government was encouraging different industries to develop ways of dealing with shortages that affected them through "sector skills councils".
Mr Clarke said Delia had sung the praises of Jamie Oliver's new London restaurant, 15, where the chef hired young people who left school with few qualifications and trained them to cook top quality meals.
He said: "She felt we needed much more of that kind of thing."