He also said he wanted to see more female contestants on MasterChef: The Professionals, suggesting women were put off by outdated stereotypes of the restaurant industry.
Speaking to i, the MasterChef judge said: “When I was at school my home economics class was just awesome. It was one of the best, most enjoyable classes I ever went to.
“I didn’t know at that age that I was going to be a chef. It was just diverse, fun, you made something – something to take home to show your family.
“There’s a real sense of satisfaction which I really enjoyed – as I did with metalwork and woodwork – those types of things taught in secondary school that you don’t really see in modern education.”
Mr Wareing said that vocational subjects “need to come back”, because “it is those industries that are crying out for people”.
Referring to the loss of staff in the hosptiality industry following Brexit, he said: “We rely on our EU community to support us and to prop us up. Now that’s all closed, I see in my industry, that’s an absolute game-changer.”
In a Q&A with headteachers at the Girls’ Schools Association conference on Tuesday, Mr Wareing said that his own Michelin-starred restaurant, Marcus – located in The Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge – had been forced to go from seven days a week to five since Brexit and the pandemic.
“My industry right now is suffering like it’s never suffered before,” he said. “Because we’ve closed the door on our friends next door and they’re not coming over here any more.
“I’ve never, ever seen a staff shortage like I’m seeing right now in hospitality, and to be honest with you, it’s actually quite scary and I’m really worried.
He added: “There’s plenty of work – what we need to do is set our schools on fire with energy and vibrancy, and get our young people thinking about what’s great about this island that we live on, and make it great again. Let’s rebuild.”
He urged schools to promote careers in the food industry and non-academic routes. “I just don’t think schools sell my industry well enough, because they don’t know enough about [it],” he said. “It is a place of opportunity, where you can express yourself, you can be who you are.”
“If you go and do your A-levels and you don’t go to university, that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that, but some of the schools that I know, it’s all about how many kids we can get into university, it’s all about the grades.”
Asked about female underrepresentation in haute cuisine – just six of this year’s 32 MasterChef: The Professionals contestants are women – Mr Wareing told i he “absolutely” wanted to see more female contestants on the show and at the top of the industry. “There’s just not enough of them, and there never has been,” he said.
Mr Wareing suggested that some women were put off by outdated stereotypes of “anti-social hours” and “aggressive” testosterone-filled kitchens.
“Kitchens have changed over the years, and they’ve become open, so the customer can see inside, the volume has come down,” he said.
He added: “Science has changed food – we can use science to make food easy to work with – which has just brought the energy and the aggression down.”