Category: food service

Just a Step to Side

Why am I not afraid of self-employment when really I should be?  Many people have tried, and most of those people fail.  I might too.  There is a good chance that I will fail in the quest for being my own boss and generating an income.

I am not afraid because if I fail, I don’t have too far to fall.  This is one of the perks of investing in a career that makes very little money.  The risks are lowered because I don’t have a large financial expectation from the get-go.  That means that if it takes 5 years to fully develop the business, I won’t be in dark in the lean beginning.

Just because I haven’t made money cooking, does not mean that there is no money in it.

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Turning the Tables

I complain about the negatives of kitchen life and the hardship that go along with this career path.  I don’t need to sum up all the drawbacks and inherent wrongness of this job line, so I will consolidated all my complaining into a list for those who may still be in the dark: it generally sucks all around, it’s hard and nobody ever says good job, no vacation time, no sick days (unless you are in the hospital, and deep cuts do not always counts, depends on if it’s a holiday in which case the answer is always no), fire, very sharp knives, very hot things that want to burn you, heavy things, competitive environment, egotism, low pay sometimes even no pay, no respect, sometimes you get yelled at like you are a child misbehaving, incompetent coworkers who get paid the same, small working environment, no privacy, constant harassment, you have to fight for the tools you need, you have to clean a lot, no sitting down, if you do get to eat that will be while standing.

So instead of further complaining, we are going to change the hands of power.  People need to eat, that demand will never go away.  Beyond job security, the stability is intrinsic.  I can take a break, walk away, say fuck you hungry people I am going to be a writer!  I will break your heart and you will hate me.  But when I say, hey, I am back in town, want something to eat?  You will not say no, you will not refuse my cool offer of a hot meal.

I want to travel everywhere on this great and green planet.   This wish is very conflicting with working in a restaurant.  But what if I could cook from home, making delicious and healthy meals, sell enough product so that I can give myself 2 months off a year?  I could be private chef for any special occasion.  I will be your very own caterer.  I will bring my own pots and knives, and I will be polite and cook and serve.  I will wash the dishes and you will pay me a good amount of money because it will be very nice.  Think about wearing whatever you want while you eat a fancy meal, instead of those stuffy clothes.

Sounds crazy, but you don’t know how good I am at being poor.  I have been refining my skill for decades now.  Food for motivation, your reality is what you make it.

The Poor Man’s Slow Hustle #4

True confessions of a chef #1

After 10 years of cooking professionally and trying with all the might my small yet determined physical self can offer, with all the passion in my glowing heart, and with all the smarts in the multiple folds of my brain, I only make a few dollars (literally a few, this is not a dramatized statement) more an hour than when I graduated from college.  10 year of toil, turmoil, and complete dedication.  I make less than I did before pastry school.  I make so little that I was upset when minimum wage got increased.  I make so little that I got a pimple of stress when my great job offered its shiny spot to me.

Eating is the number one necessity to living, but the work involved is not valued.  Like teaching your children, these building block of society our overlooked and negated to the needy.

I have preached it before and I will continue my soapbox speech.  Tipping is ridiculous and at this point it proves nothing.  You tip because you have to, not because you want to.  Since the industry has exploited the goodness of your dining generosity, it needs to be restricted.  Servers, food runners, hosts, cooks, dishwashers, and bar backs, we all deserve to make a living wage, and just like a capitalistic system, the wages should not be so binary.  Front of the house makes it rain, while back of the house is in the drought.

The system is not working, and this in turns makes it very difficult to want to go to the kitchen day in and day out, taking that precious passion and putting it towards you.

We are the overlooked crowd.  You read about running a restaurant, and the service  involved in making the guest have such a grand experience, and the struggle or impute of the chef is never mentioned.  It’s all about that happiness in the dining room, the articles never mentions the that person under the bandana.  It is starting to get to us.  I see a lack luster in cooks because we are not getting enough out of this bargain.  Someone has to speak up, and it will be Marigold and her golden wit.

Exploiting Passion and Accepting Settlement

I am so sick of justifying the pay cut to work in the kitchen because of passion.  I am irritated with hearing that cooks have this great passion, that we work these crazy long hours in non temperature controlled environments, that we are so tough because we do not take breaks, and contrary to many people’s opinion, we often don’t have time to eat ourselves. I am sick of hearing that we have more than it takes to put up with the demands of a fast paced and never ending physical workload, that we are mechanical in our need to not need sleep, to sustain solely on PBR and hidden whiskey, to live with your coworkers because its not like you ever have time for the house anyway.

Do not call me passionate, now that has become an insult.  Many people are in positions that makes them happy that have nothing to do with making zero money.  Why is it ok that cooks makes less than half of that of front of the house?  The hours are longer, the job is physically tougher, it is dangerous, and you need a high degree of skill and education to fill the role.  Food born illness and not properly handle food can cause serious problems.  Not to mention, that you need to eat to live.  Why do you trust the most underpaid people in America to sustain you with live giving nutrition?  Good thing that you are tipping so well to keep that water glass full.

This portrayal of the passionate chef is not only demeaning, it supports the macho driven ideals that are already so deeply engrained in kitchen culture.  If you cannot physically keep up with this near impossible work schedule, you do not have the beef to make it into the stew.  This is an aggressive environment, where emotions and stress run very high, competition is fierce like a lion continually proving his Alfa status, but you are not allowed to show an sign of weakness, hesitation, or second guessing.  It is this framework of egotism that exploits youth in the industry and keeps the kitchen testosterone heavy.

I am fed up with being exploited for my passion, I am fed up with portrait of the iron chef.  Like this heroic portrayal of the daily struggle makes us better people.  It makes us suckers is what it is.  This is poetic rhetoric is keeping us all down.  Keep your literature for fiction, this shit is real.

Why Eating in America Sucks #5

Recycling is a concept.  It does not actually exist. Yes there are those blue bins dotting down the alleys, but is the trash even sorted in this great large city?  I have my doubts.  Remember when you were supposed to put your recycling in a blue bag, tie it up, and throw it in with the rest of your trash?  Yeah, that happened.  That was the city’s solution to the recycling problem for years.  Yeah right like somebody actually sorted the trash and picked out those gross blue bags.  This is why I have my doubts that the new recycling program with those fancy blue bins are actually getting the job done.

Unfortunately the full and disturbing extent of the issue does not stop here.  With the alleys full of blue dots, at least we are pretending to care.  Not in food service.  Here, we don’t even pretend to try to recycle.  There is only one bin, and let me tell you it is black.

Not even cardboard boxes are recycled.  It is truly sick.

Even the places that say they do, it’s about a 50/50 shot.   Don’t be fooled, recycling is not happening.

Yes, this is part where you are supposed to get angry.

Why eating in America Sucks #4

Our reliance on disposable product.

Not just disposable, but as an additional insult to our mother earth, non compostable. I know you don’t want to throw away those overcooked eggs left from brunch, but think about the environmental impact of that Styrofoam container that is your to-go bag.  I understand that you didn’t pick that vessel, but that is what exists and that is what you are going to get.

If I do take my divine leftovers, I ask for it to be wrapped in aluminum.  Straight-up.  When the server comes to the table, I say please just wrap it up like a burrito in a sheet of foil.  All restaurants have tin foil and it is the least amount of packaging available that can serve as a doggie bag.  If they won’t do that, then I don’t want the rest of my plate.

Also, to mention, I am pretty sure that you are not supposed to microwave Styrofoam because of toxic chemicals in this lightweight plastic mutant.  I understand that Styrofoam was developed and is so widely used because it is spectacular for thermal insulation, but unfortunately this hexagonal crunchy structure of  probably hydrogenated plastic is not the right answer.

Every Styrofoam container should come with a warning label, like the kind found on cigarette packages.  Warning: this product will certainly add to global warning, pose a hazard to wildlife, contains carcinogens and release some 57 chemicals with the heating of this foam that can lead to cancer.  How would that change the food service industry?

It’s not your fault portion sizes are too big, I know, but maybe try a small plate and split your American meal designed for one.

It’s not your fault, but you are part of the circus.  You didn’t interview for it, but that doesn’t matter.  Styrofoam is not acceptable under any circumstances.  This goes beyond our dependence on plastic, this includes an active role to cut down on waste that will continue to haunt the world for millennia.

Throwing away food is wrong, but so is compromising the environment because we don’t know how to responsibly store food.  Do your part, and do not support this closed cell polystyrene foam system that is so convenient for handling hot foods, being both lightweight and strong.  It is not responsible, especially since you know that this “disposable” product is not biodegradable and there is no recycling practice in place.  If you aren’t swayed by the health risked posed to mother earth, be swayed by the health risk posed to yourself.