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FauxPas

A Day In the Life of a Line Cook at One of NYC's Fanciest Restaurants

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While this topic overlaps with some others (tipping culture, being a line cook in Vegas) I don't know if it should be relegate to one of those?

 

Anyway, it's some details about a line cook working at Le Coucou. Has anyone here eaten there? 

 

I wish they had gone into more detail about the actual workstation work, though I still found the article interesting. And yeah, it's crazy that these high-end restaurants are effectively paying their waitstaff so much more than the people actually cooking the food. 

 

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/line-cook-nycs-fanciest-restaurants?mbid=nl_nl20180305fig_trendingrecipes&CNDID=34168170

 

 

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I love to cook. But I'll be damned if I love it enough to work at that pace, for that pay (if I had the skills to do it in that sort of atmosphere, which I don't). I'm grateful that some people do. 

 

But dammit, folks ought to be paid a living wage. 

 

If I were to have a kitchen-based business, it'd probably be going to people's homes and preparing dinner party, brunch or lunch meals for small groups. Someone on eG used to do that, may still be; I don't recall the name and haven't seen him post of late. I have no clue if it's more financially sustainable than being a line cook. 

 

I wonder whether the line cook salary vs local cost of living (a single individual can live decently, if not wonderfully, many places in the South for $30K a year, for example) is fairly standard around the country.

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I think I'd choose being a line cook over being a roofer and similar jobs. No weather to contend with, safer jobsite, perhaps more of a sense of purpose in the kitchen. But it sure isn't an easy life.

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I'm a bit surprised by those expressing shock at the wage. Did anybody really think cooks make big bucks? I've been doing it professionally for 18 years and I still don't make a whole lot more than I did my fist day on the job in my previous line of work. Less money but a happier me.
 

3 hours ago, gfweb said:

I think I'd choose being a line cook over being a roofer and similar jobs. No weather to contend with, safer jobsite, perhaps more of a sense of purpose in the kitchen. But it sure isn't an easy life.


I worked in construction for the first part of my working life. I wouldn't say there's any more sense of purpose in cooking than construction, I just enjoy cooking more. You're right about the weather though.

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Here in Canada, cooking is a regulated trade like roofing or carpentry. In most trades, even an apprentice straight out of trade school will earn something on the order of $20/hour at a minimum (wages are low here in this province, it can be a lot more for in-demand trades in other provinces). I have my journeyman papers ("Red Seal"), and after folding my restaurants took a look at what places in the city were paying for journeymen. At the Delta, which is a union shop, I'd have been looking at $12.50/hr (that was a few years ago, minimum wage is about $1 higher now so other wages have crept up a bit in consequence). 

 

When a freelance writer can say that "it pays a lot better than what I was doing before," that's a pretty sad commentary on the previous gig. :P

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Posted (edited)

When a server makes $300 a night and the cook who prepares that fabulous food make a piddling amount there's something very wrong with the picture.  Seems it would be fairer if tipping was done away with and the food was priced fairly, then everyone could get a living wage.


Edited by lindag (log)
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A lot of places here use tip pooling to even things out between FOH and BOH. At the restaurant where I worked my way through culinary school, cooks got extra/hr above and beyond the base wage that was paid for by the pool. Occasional shortfalls were made up by the restaurant, but typically there was enough in the pool to compensate for any down weeks. It meant there was a reliable premium on each paycheque, which was very helpful. I understand that's illegal in some parts of the US, but it's a pragmatic alternative. 

 

The problem with pricing food fairly so that everyone gets a living wage? Well, everybody has to do it. Otherwise you're "the overpriced place" that everyone avoids, and you go bust. 

 

In my own restaurant I didn't tip pool most nights, because I was the only one in the kitchen most of the time. When I did have an apprentice on hand, the servers tipped him out a percentage. On slow nights (it was a small place) I wouldn't bring in a server, but would cover the tables myself and pocket the tips. 

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On 3/6/2018 at 9:29 PM, Tri2Cook said:

I'm a bit surprised by those expressing shock at the wage. Did anybody really think cooks make big bucks? I've been doing it professionally for 18 years and I still don't make a whole lot more than I did my fist day on the job in my previous line of work. Less money but a happier me.

 

I thought line cooks at fine-dining-type restos made good money.  Actually, I really thought I'd read that this was the case in "Kitchen Confidential" way backalong.  So that's why I was startled.  

 

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14 minutes ago, SLB said:

I thought line cooks at fine-dining-type restos made good money.

 

To an extent, fine dining restos can get away with paying the lower end of the spectrum in exchange for being able to add the famous name or 4-star reputation to your resume.  All those delicate garnishes (peeled grapes!) and amuse-bouches take a whole lot of  labor. 

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Posted (edited)
54 minutes ago, SLB said:

 

I thought line cooks at fine-dining-type restos made good money.  Actually, I really thought I'd read that this was the case in "Kitchen Confidential" way backalong.  So that's why I was startled.  

 


"Good money" is relative though. Some positions in fine dining establishments may pay good money compared to their counterpart at a lower level place but that doesn't necessarily mean it's good money in the overall wage market. If you make $10/hr at Plop 'n' Slop, making $13/hr at Big Plates/Little Food would be good money relatively speaking but it still leaves you pretty close to the poverty line at the end of the year.

Edit: In case it sounds like it, I'm not whining. I made my career choice. Just participating in the discussion.


Edited by Tri2Cook (log)
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You can make $12/hr working as a McDonald's shift manager in Indiana.  How can anyone survive in NYC on that?

 

Why would you take that job?  I get the resume enhancing angle, but when does that pay off?

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All this is kind of disturbing.   At my favorite cafe that I go to about once a week I tip my server very well, but the real reason I go there is because the food is so good and that means the cook is very good... how can anyone know if HE (he is a he) is paid a decent wage?

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I guess it all goes back to what you're willing to pay for a meal. On one end of the spectrum, there's the $15 minimum wage movement that would add a couple of bucks to your Big Mac combo at McDonalds. On the other, if you're going to lay down $150 for dinner at a premium restaurant, would it really be an issue if that tab were $170 instead, the difference going to increase salaries, all other expenses assumed to remain constant?

 

I personally wouldn't object to either (though $15 an hour is probably low-moderate income in NYC, but in many places in rural America, is a pretty decent wage rate). A meal is not necessarily a function solely of price, else we'd all eat at home all the time, and dine on beans and hot dogs. I eat out for one of two reasons -- convenience, or to enjoy a particular dining or taste experience I'm either not capable of creating at home, or lack the enthusiasm to do so. I expect a price tag for that. Early in my working career, I remember when average lunch prices crept above five bucks it made me cut back on how many days a week I ate out. I don't think an average lunch today going from $10 to $12 would have the same  impact. I don't eat out as often any more, but when I do, cost is generally not a consideration.

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It has nothing to do with fair or unfair. The ultimate economic law of supply and demand governs.

 

There are too many line cooks.

 

dcarch

 

 

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9 minutes ago, dcarch said:

It has nothing to do with fair or unfair. The ultimate economic law of supply and demand governs.

 

There are too many line cooks.

 

dcarch

 

 


True, and sometimes that law of supply and demand works to the good. We have more restaurants than a town this size should be able to sustain and they all stay busy because cooking is not a favorite pastime of most of the locals. Reliable cooks are in short supply so the pay is better than average. Still not going to be making a down payment on a yacht any time soon but I can keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.

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12 hours ago, dcarch said:

It has nothing to do with fair or unfair. The ultimate economic law of supply and demand governs.

 

There are too many line cooks.

 

dcarch

 

 

There's actually a desperate shortage of line cooks in many markets. The issue lies more in what people are willing to pay for a meal. 

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