The original post, by Vann, was quite short, and it deserves a short answer:
"Chefs" have moved on to greener pastures. Basically, a pasture that provides decent working hours and wages to support rent and living costs
But here's a longer answer:
Two years before I moved to Switzerland, the Swiss hospitality industry was in a bind. They knew they weren't attracting any apprentices, and the Swiss hospitality relies heavily on apprentices for their future cooks, Chefs, pastry and baking, and servers. A study was done and it revealed that the current 6 day work week was to blame. Stodgy Swiss denial at first, but in the end they gave in and implemented a 5 day week, albeit split shifts,(as is the norm in Europe) but a 5 day week.
Ironically enough, when I left Singapore in the mid 90's it was the same question, and the same answer: A six day week. The solution there was to ignore that all the other trades were bringing in a 5 day week , and to import hospitality staff from neighboring Malaysia, Indonasia, and China.
So, for the U.S., the blame for lack of cooks can be 75% for the hospitality industry, and 25% for the cooking schools (which, ironically are part of the hospt. industry, even though they don't acknowledge it).
Basically, you have no criteria--no benchmark or standards for what constitutes a cook--what body of knowledge they should know, what skills they should posses. (The title of this thread is another red flag, the author confuses cooks with Chefs) Because of this, you can't "hang" a pay scale on to this trade, because of this, no cooking school can design a curriculum to meet the standards because there isn't any. This is the center point in the whole issue.
So who should design a standard or benchmark for what a Cook should know? Any one brave or stupid enough for the Fed. Gov't to step in? NO? How about the industry itself? Should they actually give a sh*t about long term strategies? I mean, they (US hospt. ind.) have enough clout to go and remove the minimum wage for servers, that must have took some doing and lobbying, right? So they don't have the power to design a benchmark? Or they just don't give a sh*t?
And the schools, time we roast their weenies too. How the (deleted) do you charge 60 grand for a course that requires no previous experience in the industry and then let loose the graduate on the employer, only to earn minimum wage. Does this say "I don't give a sh*t"?
And that is where all the COOKS have gone. On to greener pastures.
A Chef is one who is responsible for maintaining a profitable kitchen, the cooks, cook.