Sun setting on Belfast waterfront

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The catering and hospitality sector in Belfast

  • Chef Salary (May 2019) in Belfast: £21,137 per year / £10.80 per hour
  • Head Chef Salary (May 2019) in Belfast: £34,291 per year / £17.58 per hour
  • Cook Salary (May 2019) in Belfast: £18,884 per year / £9.68 per hour

Belfast is still frequently associated with its troubled history. Today, however, the city is a thriving metropolitan hub that is amongst the best places to live and work as a chef. Not only is the capital of Northern Ireland the least expensive major city in the UK to live, but it’s also home to some of the most exciting places to work in hospitality and catering.

Wages in the city might not be the highest in the UK, but when factoring in living costs, they’re certainly competitive. Andrew Webb, a leading economist, predicts that the Northern Ireland economy is set to grow, whether Brexit happens or not. Which means that wages in Belfast look set to rise. Our most recent data suggests that chefs in Belfast can currently expect to earn more than £21,000 a year, whilst the average salary of a head chef exceeds £34,000.

Belfast is a growing force. With new restaurants, bars and coffee shops opening every year, there’s an increasing demand for talented chefs, baristas and bar staff. Hospitality and catering skill sets are also becoming increasingly rare in the UK, which puts professionals in our industry in a strong position. Wages look set to rise for permanent and contract roles, whilst seasonal, flexible opportunities are stronger than ever.

As catering and hospitality professionals in Belfast, you need to develop skills to be successful long-term. This city isn’t short of training and upskilling opportunities. Belfast Met, Belfast Central Training and Belfast Cookery School all offer chef and catering specific courses. And if you work for a Blue Arrow catering employer, you may also be able to enrol on a Blue Arrow Apprenticeship course.

Little wonder Belfast is a hotbed of creative culinary talents. Danni Barry, one of an elite group of female chefs who hold Michelin stars, is the head chef of one Michelin star holder Eipic. Other Bib Gourmand Michelin-accredited chefs in the city include Ben Arnold at Home and Great British Menu national finalist Chris Fearon at Deanes at Queen’s.

Belfast is a city with a creative culinary scene. Not just stews on offer here. For elite chefs and staff cooks, the Northern Irish capital is a great city to live and work.

Get in touch with Blue Arrow in Belfast

Cost of living in Belfast

  • Average monthly rent in Belfast: £447-£1,000
  • Monthly travel pass: £56 Bus
  • Meal for two in a mid-range restaurant: £40
  • Council tax: Belfast operates a rates system, find out more here

Belfast might be a thriving capital city, but it’s far from expensive. In 2012, Belfast was named the cheapest city to live and work in the UK. Since then, prices have increased, but for catering and hospitality professionals, it’s still an exceptionally affordable place to call home. An average 1-bedroom flat outside of the city centre costs on average £447 a month to rent, whilst a family-sized 3-bedroom property in the wealthiest areas costs up to £1,000.

Transport in Belfast is operated by Translink for both rail and bus services. Though most public transport offerings in the UK are plagued by delays and poor customer satisfaction, Translink provides one of the better regional services. The cost of travel depends on whether you exclusively use bus services or trains too. For more information, check out the Translink website.

Working in our industry, the cost of food is something that’s important, not only for supplies at work but for eating out too. Belfast, unlike most capital cities, is very affordable. A meal in an inexpensive restaurant will likely cost around £12, whilst a three-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant should set you back no more than £40.

Rent in Belfast is cheap, but another thing worth considering when moving to a new city is the cost of council tax. In Northern Ireland, however, such a system doesn’t exist. Instead, there is a rate-based system, where you pay a certain amount based on the market or rent value of your home. To find out more about how much it could cost you, check the Belfast City Council website.

Bars, kitchens and restaurants in Belfast

Northern Ireland is not a country with an exceptional culinary reputation. But take a look at the restaurants, bars and kitchens in Belfast and it’s difficult to see why this is the case. With Michelin-star food in the city, high-class bistros and exceptional coffee shops, Belfast is a hugely inspiring place to develop your catering or hospitality career. This is without mentioning the variety of hospital, school and university-based jobs on offer.

From fish and chips to Michelin star restaurants, Belfast is home to some of the UK’s best restaurants. The exquisite seafood served up at The Ginger Bistro close to Great Victoria Street station is arguably the best in the city, whilst Deanes at Queen’s is the city’s best high-end dining experience. There are far too many great places to eat and work to list here, but needless to say, for chefs, it will be hard to not get inspired by Belfast’s eateries.

The Northern Irish capital is not just a hub for chefs and foodies, it’s famed for its bars and pubs, too. The ornate Victorian Crown Liquor Saloon serves up excellent craft beers in a cosy environment. Kelly’s Cellar, Duke of York and Whites Tavern offer traditional Northern Irish fayre. For a more modern twist, The Dirty Onion is a local favourite. As a hospitality hero, Belfast is a treasure trove of exciting places to work.

Of course, a modern city isn’t complete without a solid coffee culture. For baristas, a city can’t even be considered without the best beans to grind. There are hundreds of coffee outlets across the city, which means, of course, there are plenty of job opportunities. Arguably the best in the city is The National Grande Cafe, though you'll never be too far away from a good cup of Joe living and working in the Northern Irish capital. 

Whether you’re a head chef, a barista, a bar supervisor, or waiting staff, Belfast is up there with the best places to work. Inspiration lurks around every corner. 

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Where to find Blue Arrow in Belfast

Blue Arrow Belfast
1st Floor
16 Howard Street

Tel: 02890 315 005

Branch Opening Times
Monday - Friday: 8:00am - 5:30pm 

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Chef Jobs in Belfast

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