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nwyles

Calling all cooks ! ? !

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I do not know how to say this, and be polite; forgive my English if I sound rude...

Why are you not a plumber or other trades person?

...your comments make cooks look bad, like being a cook is not honourable. Priests and missionaries make very little money, yet their lives are fulfilled. Why cannot a cook’s life be full with sustaining the life-force of humanity??

edit: problems with quotes!


Edited by cubilularis (log)

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I do not know how to say this, and be polite; forgive my English if I sound rude...

Why are you not a plumber or other trades person?

...your comments make cooks look bad, like being a cook is not honourable. Priests and missionaries make very little money, yet their lives are fulfilled. Why cannot a cook’s life be full with sustaining the life-force of humanity??

edit: problems with quotes!

to whom are you referring ? *Deborah* or I ?

i have never questioned the proffesion in a dishonourable context. and i`m glad i`ve had the opportunities that have made me who i am .

if i were to go back in time the only thing i would change has nothing to do with my career choice , but more my choice in women

:biggrin:

"edit for punctuation "


Edited by transfattyacid (log)

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Oh Neil.....

....you KNOW some of the problems that I have been having hiring staff.

The problem with most Culinary school grads that are expecting the $$$....is that:

#1 most of them have no experience and don't have any realistic view of what line work is like.

#2 when they realize what it is about...they immediately give it up.

#3 A lot of them think that cooking is cool because they could be like Rob Feenie on T.V.!

#4 Culinary schools tell them what they want to hear, because they want the student's money in the first place.

When I started in the industry as a line cook, my wage was $8 an hour. I lived in Kits with my husband, and we barely had two nickles to rub together.

I kept thinking for the first year that I worked, "What have I gotten myself into?"

But the thing about cooking is that either you love it, or you hate it. If you truly love it and have the patience to persevere, AND the smarts to advance, the money will come eventually.

But this is the crux of the situation: Most people don't want to persevere. They want instant gratification and reward for all their hard work. I have been doing this for 13 years now, and am finally where I want to be financially. But it is still hard work. For many years I worked two jobs to make ends meet and get a broader range of experience. It has finally paid off.

I will say it again. If you don't love cooking in a professional kitchen, then you will HATE it and get out before long.

My personal favourite these days: People arranging with me to show up for their first day of work, and they don't show. Can you people please stop wasting my time already? Just don't apply if you don't want the job! /Rant

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Irishgirl, you are spot on!!

But add one more...graduates who have a student loan of over $10k because they went to Dubrulle!

HARSH.

...must pay back within 6 months or pay !!!interest!!!

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Bottom line for potential chefs, prove your skills and the money will come. I guarantee that there is not a chef in this city that wants to lose a good person in the kitchen, butprove yourself first.

I have known many seriously passionate cooks who did NOT have ambitions to become chefs, or owners. Yet these are the gems that really keep a kitchen ticking. If there is one thing I have learned about being an owner it is that good staff are worth paying for. For one, they tend to stick around if you treat them right, even longer than the chef.

Oh, and about those chefs who's 'money has come', I haven't heard from many of them lately. They are probably back at the restaurant deep into a 60 hour week with the pain of having to cover for the lack of that extra line cook who hasn't yet applied for the job.

Now I ask you, how can a one off restaurant afford that, they can't, its unfortunate because the only places that can really afford that kind of money are hotels and large corporates.  The sad fact is that these people end up in a hotel kitchen getting less of an opportunity to develop their creative skills.

Restaurants could pay kitchen staff more, its just not normally a priority, often treating line cooks as disposable expenditures. Paying attention to the 'going rate' is a huge mistake, because a cook is such a huge asset for a restaurant. If paid more they would generally stay longer, work harder, and take more pride in what they do for you.

Gerald, as someone who has worked the line in a restaurant you previously owned, I can say that operation was a perfect example. This included the chef who was grossly overworked and underpaid! It was a kitchen that lost truly great people, and quality suffered because management would not pay to keep them, nor attract good talent. Yet the owners profited from it enough to move on to their own separate ventures. The priority there was not fair wages, it was about making money.

There are too many restaurants in this city working their kitchens hard and paying way too little for it. Servers, in comparison to line cooks, are filthy rich. That is something management could change without paying for - fairer distribution of gratuities - improving the lives and prides of cooks, your restaurants, and therefore our meals.

To quote Gerald once more, my message to restaurant owners who really need good cooks: "prove yourself first".

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We were paying back my husband's student loans during the early years of my career :rolleyes:

It was pretty crazy, but we survived. We own a home now. I feel proud.

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irish girl i agree with you also , and i have had a similar path with regard to getting where you want to be.

one thing that you mention in your post is that students see Mr Feenie on TV and want to be a cook because they precieve it to be glamourous.

the media attention that chefs are, now more than ever, coveting is a double edged sword .

personally i dont see Mr Feenies dance as cool , it makes me cringe as i`m sure it does to most who view it .

but it does attract people to the trade, the problem is the wrong people . those who just want the dance.

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Dept. at Earl's great at hiring kitchen guys as well as the pretty young girls ?

Let's hear it.

OK, so I have a background in pretty high-volume, factory style cooking. Chandler's, Milestone's .... big numbers, paint-by-number food. Don't go in looking for magic, but come back and it was the same as last time. BTW, churning out these numbers of covers is closer to magic than you think. Maybe 10 people in this city can work a saute shift at Milestone's on a Friday night in July. :laugh:

The best cooks I know are line-cooks, first and foremost. If you can't to that, you can't do shit.

Is this the result of cooking becoming trendy? Do we have Jamie Oliver to blame for this? A glut four or five years after the fact.

Being a cook in a hotel restaurant, with a Chef whose background is largely independent, is an interesting environment. We don't take the shotgun approach like some bigger chain restaurants can do. That's their strategy. That middle is hard to fill, but they get lucky sometimes.

-- Matt.

edited for joke after I read the whole thread:

What do you call a restaurant with no servers? Take out.

What do you call a restaurant with no cooks? Closed.


Edited by Matt R. (log)

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Glamourous expectations aren't limited to the cook's line of work. I work in the games industry, I have spent most of my life in it. I work for a very large games company in Vancouver and most young kids I know aspire a job as a game tester. Play games all day and get paid to boot! yay! Well I have news for you...you get paid minimum wage, have to work in cramped conditions and play the same game over and over again, many hours a day, many days a week. Sounds familiar? A few make it past QA, get into the game teams and start a career. The rest linger for a while and move on.

Regarding prices, I am in the UK right now (Guildford, just outside London) for work, last night we went to an upscale Italian restaurant. Thankfully the boss was paying since my little plate of raviolis stuffed with smoked haddock was 10 pounds, the main was 18 pounds and dessert 10 pounds. 38 pounds for food at 2.3 dollars per pound....87 bucks. Never mind the wine we had as well. The same food in Vancouver would cost the same but then in dollars. I doubt food cost or restaurant overhead here is much more than in Vancouver. So where does that money go? Do their cooks get paid more?

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Glamourous expectations aren't limited to the cook's line of work. I work in the games industry, I have spent most of my life in it. I work for a very large games company in Vancouver and most young kids I know aspire a job as a game tester. Play games all day and get paid to boot! yay! Well I have news for you...you get paid minimum wage, have to work in cramped conditions and play the same game over and over again, many hours a day, many days a week. Sounds familiar? A few make it past QA, get into the game teams and start a career. The rest linger for a while and move on.

Regarding prices, I am in the UK right now (Guildford, just outside London) for work, last night we went to an upscale Italian restaurant. Thankfully the boss was paying since my little plate of raviolis stuffed with smoked haddock was 10 pounds, the main was 18 pounds and dessert 10 pounds. 38 pounds for food at 2.3 dollars per pound....87 bucks. Never mind the wine we had as well. The same food in Vancouver would cost the same but then in dollars. I doubt food cost or restaurant overhead here is much more than in Vancouver. So where does that money go? Do their cooks get paid more?

good morning .

i think the cooks over there will be on a similar wage to here, but i`ll bet there is more cooks to pay.

i also think that the price structure and price points for dishes in vancouver is held at bargain levels because of the highly competitive market place here. it means in short term you ( and i sometimes ) as customers get some great deals , but this i believe is a short term gain for both restauratuer and the dinning public alike.

but on a tight staff budget how does this restaurant perform at peak times ?

is there long waits between courses , or does the food have a shovelled out demeanour ?.or are there inconsistancey issues ?

please. I dont have the answers for the above , i`m merely suggesting these as possible outcomes.

Also and this is not relevent in all cases , there is quite a few restaurants in vancouver that find it hard to opperate at a profit when they open for lunch, and subsquently only serve dinner. A plus side of this is the cooks only have one service to prepare for and keep slightly better ( if not more nocturnal ) hours, and none of the split shifts or AFD`s as they are so lovingly reffered to in the trade . the down side however is that there is only one revinue source for a restaurant.

hmmmmmm , interesting anyway .

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Great discussion. Let's be sure to keep this focussed on why it's difficult to find good cooks in Vancouver and not whether or not the chef's life is a glamorous one (which would make a good thread in General dontcha think Neil??)

A.

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Bottom line for potential chefs, prove your skills and the money will come. I guarantee that there is not a chef in this city that wants to lose a good person in the kitchen, butprove yourself first.

I have known many seriously passionate cooks who did NOT have ambitions to become chefs, or owners. Yet these are the gems that really keep a kitchen ticking. If there is one thing I have learned about being an owner it is that good staff are worth paying for. For one, they tend to stick around if you treat them right, even longer than the chef.

Oh, and about those chefs who's 'money has come', I haven't heard from many of them lately. They are probably back at the restaurant deep into a 60 hour week with the pain of having to cover for the lack of that extra line cook who hasn't yet applied for the job.

Now I ask you, how can a one off restaurant afford that, they can't, its unfortunate because the only places that can really afford that kind of money are hotels and large corporates.  The sad fact is that these people end up in a hotel kitchen getting less of an opportunity to develop their creative skills.

Restaurants could pay kitchen staff more, its just not normally a priority, often treating line cooks as disposable expenditures. Paying attention to the 'going rate' is a huge mistake, because a cook is such a huge asset for a restaurant. If paid more they would generally stay longer, work harder, and take more pride in what they do for you.

Gerald, as someone who has worked the line in a restaurant you previously owned, I can say that operation was a perfect example. This included the chef who was grossly overworked and underpaid! It was a kitchen that lost truly great people, and quality suffered because management would not pay to keep them, nor attract good talent. Yet the owners profited from it enough to move on to their own separate ventures. The priority there was not fair wages, it was about making money.

There are too many restaurants in this city working their kitchens hard and paying way too little for it. Servers, in comparison to line cooks, are filthy rich. That is something management could change without paying for - fairer distribution of gratuities - improving the lives and prides of cooks, your restaurants, and therefore our meals.

To quote Gerald once more, my message to restaurant owners who really need good cooks: "prove yourself first".

Hi Alistair

Yuo have just shown the number one misconceived notion, busy restaurant=profit for owners.

The restaurant that we opened (my partner and I) was very busy to start but we had 3 problems, partners that did not see eye to eye, rent that was too high and a menu that was not engineered very well. It was defintely not profitable, certainly not enough to warrant moves to other ventures, those came about with opm (loans).

Alistair, do you think its a reasonable assumption that owners WANT to overwork the cooks, do you think that owners do it to see if they can ruin the kitchen, do you think that owners get together and say, lets break them. I believe it was neil from hsg that spoke on another thread about 80-90 hour work weeks, do you think he wants to do that for fun.

Potential cooks should be aware that the business they are getting into is not particularily glamourous.

In terms of owners proving themselves, even the best owners have trouble attracting people. Which brings us back to the original way the thread started, at the end of the day there is a shortage of cooks, why, probably for alot of the reasons outlined in this thread.

Alistair, if you want to know the real deal of the restaurant in question get in touch with me.

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Oh Neil.....

....you KNOW some of the problems that I have been having hiring staff.

The problem with most Culinary school grads that are expecting the $$$....is that:

#1 most of them have no experience and don't have any realistic view of what line work is like.

#2 when they realize what it is about...they immediately give it up.

#3  A lot of them think that cooking is cool because they could be like Rob Feenie on T.V.!

#4 Culinary schools tell them what they want to hear, because they want the student's money in the first place.

/Rant

Gawd, that could not be truer. You just practically summed up my first year out of Culinary School!

If I'd had any idea what I was getting into the first day of culinary school... :rolleyes: Rob Feenie indeed!

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I feel there is a responsibility of the chefs to make potential cooks aware of the rigours of this industry. Before I hire a cook, I always insist they spend a few days in the kitchen doing the dirty work. I ask them why they want to be a cook. I mention the long hours, the lousy wage, the end of thier social lives, the tired smelly feet etc.. If they do the grunt work happily and are aware of the conditions, then they are ready for the kitchen. Unfortunately, these people are one in a hundred. I don't want to sound like one of those people who says "back when I was fresh out of school", but I'm going to anyways. Back when I was fresh out of school, you worked hard, for little pay, and with the best chef you could, so that you could learn. You new your time would come, but for the time being, you would be humble, hard working and in your minimal spare time you would read a cookbook.

Now I hope this isn't taken as ageist, but when you hear of all these great European chefs who started cooking at 13, it makes sense that there is a lot of unreal wage expectations. Starting out a career in a kitchen is very hard physically demanding work and the wage sucks. Period. If you have a mortgage on a house, don't become a cook!!!! If you are just out of high school, and are living with your parents, or in a shitty apartment, then 8-10 dollars an hour plus tips and dinner every night is not so bad.

But age does not matter if you are the right type of personallity. Humility, hard work, long hours, mental agility and being able to work for rewards other than financial. These are the qualities of a good cook.

Oh, and Neil, I had heard about the asshole thing as well.

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Hi Neil

The reason good cooks are hard to find is very simple.

Most restaurants pay absolutely shit money for the long hours and pressure filled environment. Never mind the fact that a lot don't pay overtime, screw up your paycheques, don't offer health benefits and will generally screw you over if they can save a buck or two.

A friend of mine recently moved to your fair city from Whistler and although he is without a doubt one of the best cooks I have ever worked with, he had extreme trouble finding a job. He finally got a job with a popular place (no name will be mentioned but everyone knows it). They started him at 12.00 ( a wage he got 7 years ago in Toronto) worked him for 12-14 hours a day (no overtime of course) and would constantly omit a day's pay off his cheques (if they arrived on time).

He finally got a job as sous chef at one of the major hotels where he now gets paid 45,000 a year to start and benefits as well as other perks.

It is no small wonder that there is a distinct shortage of good cooks.

Passion aside, it is not a job you take to get rich fast.

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.......

Don't get me started on fresh faced culinary students either. :biggrin:

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Gerald,

As i understand it Hopkin mentioned that he worked for you......wasn't his experience the real deal?? Or had you set him aside for extraordinary punishment. It seems as though many industry types understand the problems behind recruiting good staff, but do little about it, as the difficulty in recruiting would suggest! So what do you do? Perhaps harmonize the tip thing...i have failed to hear an effective rationalisation for the disparity, if you want team ethos then treat your team the same or is my logic screwed! Try to develop skill/understanding in the workplace, keep it interesting always a good motivator(in restaurants where menus go unchanged it must be difficult to sustain interest!). Oh but be careful owners because if they acquire too many skills then there is the possibility of increased wage demands :wink:

There are good employers out there, who pay OK, & ensure that some form of health coverage is included(Govt. could help small bizz more in this respect???) It's nuts that some package is not available....it is such a dangerous environment especially for poorly trained, demotivated kids.........accidents waiting to happen, how fair is that for a chef with any modicum of responsibility(stress junkies!)....thats enough from me.

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any way neil you hiring ?

Trans Fatty : I am always looking. I always find myselt either half a cook up or half a cook down when doing the schedule. I can never seem to find the happy medium. All hell breaks loose if someone wants a vacation !

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(why the hell didn't I get a degree in Engineering? :rolleyes:)

Because Deborah, then you’d have my life (which equals :wacko:, but thanks for the capital E)

* Alert - industry outsider POV *

The problems described in this thread translate into just about any trade - cooking, plumbing, whatever. If you’re good, you move up the ladder. If you’re really good, and you work hard, and you’re smart, you’ll go very high up indeed. If you’re not good, or if you’re really lazy, or if your boss is a yelling asshole who you think does not respect you, you will probably quit.

The search for talent in all sectors continues. Assuming that matching wages & benefits is out of the question, the only thing that independents can offer is opportunity - to work and learn, to maybe move up the ladder a little quicker than if you were a small cog in a big (in the line cook example) hotel-driven machine, possibly even future partnership opportunities...

In my profession, aside from recent grads, I see a lot of immigrants being hired into design engineering jobs, which is roughly the equivalent of a line cook. These folks have skills and are looking to use them. Bourdain’s books seem to indicate that his kitchens are filled with immigrants on the line. There are even “imports” posting in this thread. So maybe the question is, how does the independent restaurant get the word out to these people? (Aside from threads like this I guess.)

PS: Irishgirl, great success story. Has Food Network called yet? :wink:

PPS: TFA, another potential FN story in the works!

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Gerald,

          As i understand it Hopkin mentioned that he worked for you......wasn't his experience the real deal?? Or had you set him aside for extraordinary punishment. It seems as though many industry types understand the problems behind recruiting good staff, but do little about it, as the difficulty in recruiting would suggest! So what do you do? Perhaps harmonize the tip thing...i have failed to hear an effective rationalisation for the disparity, if you want team ethos then treat your team the same or is my logic screwed! Try to develop skill/understanding in the workplace, keep it interesting always a good motivator(in restaurants where menus go unchanged it must be difficult to sustain interest!). Oh but be careful owners because if they acquire too many skills then there is the possibility of increased wage demands :wink:

  There are good employers out there, who pay OK, & ensure that some form of health coverage is included(Govt. could help small bizz more in this respect???) It's nuts that some package is not available....it is such a dangerous environment especially for poorly trained, demotivated kids.........accidents waiting to happen, how fair is that for a chef with any modicum of responsibility(stress junkies!)....thats enough from me.

hi sean

his experience was sort of the real deal, the chef was overworked, however the wages for linecooks were pegged to industry average at the time, and the waiters made more money than the cooks (more money than the owners too for that matter). My point to alistair was that alot of times we view things in a myopic fashion. Its very easy to see busy and think wow these guys rolling in it, but the reality is generally much different.

As for the waiters income compared to the linecooks, I could give you a million and 1 reasons why they earn more further but it wold be crap. Here is the reality, if you said to the cooks around the city, we are going to pay you minimum wage and tip you out on performance how many would stay. Or if we said we will pair you up to a server and you will share his tips how many of you would accept it. You can say yes in this website, but the reality is that anytime I ever put it to cooks in a joint I ran, they responded with a diatribe of how stupid the foh people are.

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lets have waiters paid a higher minimum wage and split tips 50/50...

That could actually have many, many positive results... for everybody.

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lets have waiters paid a higher minimum wage and split tips 50/50...

That could actually have many, many positive results... for everybody.

If restaurants could survive and top servers in the city would go for it I agree it is a great Idea, however the reality is that the only place I've heard of that was at Trotters in Chicago where from what I understand he was going to or did put everyone on Salary collected all tips into the restaurant and used those tips to help pay the salary structure. Its actually a great Idea but the the amount of business has to make it work. The reality is that 5-10 restaurants in the city could afford to do that. Further with the transcient nature of the business I think that there would be severe growing pains to do it.

PS I don't know if trotter is still doing that or if he ever actually went through with it, I read about it 6-7 years ago, when he was at the height of his popularity.

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this is the west coast, no? What about the pioneer spirit?

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Eddy, nice to see you, I hope the planning is going well. . .

Regard this proposal for equalized tipping. . . I have some opinions.

I'm all for change. . . . . . . but

If that were the case I'd have to:

- drop all my cooks down to minimum wage to keep it equal with the servers.

- instigate an entirely new process of tip-pooling, and how do you stop the cooks from 'assuming' that the foh isn't skimming a little extra?

- myself 'assume' that everyone is being appropriately honest.

- somehow equalize the hours (4-9 hr shift foh, 7-12 hr shift boh)

- rehire an entrely new foh staff, who, based on what they would be getting paid, be horribly inexperienced and then quit after 3 months when they realize they can make more with a 4 table section at Earl's.

- Close my restaurant, default the mortgage and declare bankruptcy

- Shoot a reality TV show documenting the process, cash in and pay my debts

- Get a job as a cook and ridicule the foh staff on how little they work, stupid they are and how they don't deserve what they get.

All fun aside, though. . .

This is the beast, it's been this way for decades. If you don't like it, work the floor.

I don't hear cooks complaining about how much supermodels make, or doctor's, or lawyers or even artists.

The grass is always greener. If you spend time looking across the fence, your grass wil be discolored and neglected. Don't get me wrong, I've worked all aspects and felt the same feelings, from dishwashing (and getting abused by EVERY cook I worked with) to cooking (and resenting the foh) to floor (and bribing the kitchen so I could get my customers what they wanted) to management (80hr weeks, no tips and crappy pay, and the owner had a porsche) to ownership (i won't go there)

Every step of the way, if I wasn't happy with something, I did my best to change it. I tried twice to leave the business, once to get an MBA, and another to chase a jazz career. Either could have made me more money, or less, made me happier, or not, or given me more excuses as to why I was frustrated by the lot I was in.

The bottom line, enjoy what you do. Money is only a measure of cash, not self worth. I love what I do, and it makes the money irrelevant. I wish everyone the same, whatever they're doing.

Change the industry? Sure, put your house on the line, your family's security, your children's future. I'll keep my eyes wide open and accept all the changes that could be...

but you go first, I'm right behind you.


Edited by ssherwood (log)

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As this thread has drifted into more a general discussion as the shortage of chefs, I'm moving it over to the General Foods forum.

Let's let the rest of eGullet have their say!

A.

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back to the tip issue, as well as on the boh & foh misunderstandings. Check out this San Fransisco restaurant's website. Rules (or more so customs, "tradition" in our case) can be bent to the greater good of all.

http://www.incanto.biz/why.html

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