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nwyles

Calling all cooks ! ? !

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Lots of interesting debate going on in the local forum and it got me to thinking about our talent pool in the kitchen.

I am getting about ten resumes a day and about one third of them have kitchen experience, but have no desire to get back in there. One resume in 100 is a kitchen resume, and usually with very little experience, and / or English as a second language.

Half of my kitchen crew right now is culinary students. It makes things a little difficult at times because you have to watch absolutley everything that they do. I do not mean to say that you do watch all things that your staff do, but with the students, eveny minute detail has to be observed. I have always found kitchen positions difficult to fill becasue of the lack of people looking for work.

What has caused this ?

This city certainly has a glut of culinary schools and they are cranking out graduates at regular intervals.

Where are these people going ? Do we have too many establishments and too few hands ? Are the hotels filling their ranks with them and the lure of set hours and benefits weighing in over the attaction of an interesting career in an independent restaurant. Are they going offshore ? Is this yet another B.C. export ?

Am I the only one with this problem ? Is the word out that I am an asshole and no one "darkens" my door with kitchen resumes ?

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

Let's hear it.

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Well, when a sous-chef in a top restaurant in Van isnt making more than 2500$ a month for more than 50 hours a week, with a truckload of stress every day, and so on, he takes off to greener pastures or changes career altogether...

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Hi Guys;

Its been a while since I hired serious kitchen staff, but I can tell you this, my most vivid memories of hiring line cooks for the back of house was when I asked a potential victim(linecook) what their expected rate was. After they startled me with 14.00 per hour (6 years ago) I asked what made them feel that they were worth this. The response, to paraphrase went something like this, "I just finished my training at dubrulle and that is the going rate", when I asked who said that was going rate they said dubrulle. Further when I asked about the previous kitchen experience omitted on the resume the response "none".

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.

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The sad fact is that a lot of people today have inflated expectations of what they are worth. When I was a contractor I'd try to hire laborers with no skills and they would want $8-10 dollars an hour. Carpenters would want $15-20. No truck no or minimal tools, they would require constant supervision. I gave it up and went back to work for someone who paid me what I was worth. That was 18 years ago. I really feel for you kitchen guys cause I eat out a lot.

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It's unfortunate that this industry is skewed to ensure that line cooks, sous chefs and, often times, chefs will make less than their counterparts at the front of the house. There is very little money for back of the house staff unless you are at the top or have an ownership stake.

Like Neil, I recieve very few kitchen resumes and when I do they're almost always way under-qualified. Culinary students and ambitious dishwashers make up 80% of our kitchen staff. Knowing how hard it is to attract top talent, I consider myself lucky to have qualified staff now. The problem seems to be getting worse though. As I understand (This be heresay) less than half of the graduates of the local culinary schools are actually working in kitchens after their first year. I assume a mix of low pay, unmet expectations and daunting hours would be the reason.

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It's unfortunate that this industry is skewed to ensure that line cooks, sous chefs and, often times, chefs will make less than their counterparts at the front of the house.

Yeah. Whatever, man. :laugh:

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Hi Guys;

Its been a while since I hired serious kitchen staff, but I can tell you this, my most vivid memories of hiring line cooks for the back of house was when I asked a potential victim(linecook) what their expected rate was.  After they startled me with 14.00 per hour (6 years ago) I asked what made them feel that they were worth this.  The response, to paraphrase went something like this, "I just finished my training at dubrulle and that is the going rate", when I asked who said that was going rate they said dubrulle.  Further when I asked about the previous kitchen experience omitted on the resume the response "none".

What do they teach them at Dubrulle? It doesnt look like they take them to the farmers' markets or out to the fields, but it sure looks like they're stuffing them with an inadequate and unfounded sense of worthiness. If there's one profession that requires humility, it's ours.

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.

Well labour cost here is high, but hey!... not as high as in France for example. OK, every 3* kitchen's filled with stagiaires, but still... Many, many restaurants in Europe work with half the staff of any given place here, but they work their asses off, and the kitchens deliver. They just dont need these pretty red pepper brunoise and sharp vegetable chips to sex things up. The produce speaks for itself.

Also i want to point out that choice is an ABSOLUTELY over-rated idea. It's quality that prevails. Ever wondered how a 300sq ft kitchen offers a 3-page menu? Ask the freezer.


Edited by edm (log)

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Also i want to point out that choice is an ABSOLUTELY over-rated idea. It's quality that prevails. Ever wondered how a 300sq ft kitchen offers a 3-page menu? Ask the freezer.

I agree with this statement 100%!

I've never understood why so many restaurants feel the need to offer such a huge range of dishes on the menu. They can't possibly make them all as well as if they were to focus their efforts on just a few. Anything more than about three appies and three entrees is a waste, and anyone who can't pick from that is a wanker. I think a restaurant that purposely set a very small menu every night, and explained why, could get some real mileage out of it. People would go just to see what was on the menu!

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You know, after killing yourself for ten years and reaching a high level of technical proficency, it can be demoralising for a cook to take a $12.50/hour chef de partie job when the apprentices, dishwashers and coat check girls are hired at just a few dollars an hour less. Cooks look at their career as a profession, but are paid less than proletarian wages. This causes cooks to jump to higher paying positions before they are ready, leaving a gap in the experience pool available for mid-level positions.This leaves the diners in Canada to suffer the consequences(bad food).

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It's the money.

Name a job with worse working conditions and longer hours (and good luck getting paid for all of them - you'll start early and finish late every shift) and lower pay than a jr. line cook.

You have to love it to do it, but there simply aren't enough people like that any more. So a lot of the people that stay in the biz are those that can't make $2k a month doing anything else... often, not the cream of the crop.

At the start of my class at Northwest, only about half of the students had firm plans to work in a kitchen. Strangely, some of those that didn't plan on it are now on the line. Out of 19 culinary grads in my class, 4 are still at school (pastry), 9 are in kitchens somewhere, and most of the rest I've lost track of but many are probably not in the biz.

The average career in a kitchen lasts (according to a Vancouver-based industry headhunter) less than 3 years. I remember talking to a cook when I was on the line in a Vancouver restaurant, who had graduated the year ahead of me. He was smart, skilled and a very hard worker that had recently been promoted, and obviously loved what he was doing. But was going to go leave the biz and go back to university because he said that there was just no way he could make a decent living out of cooking. That's the reality. You aren't going to get the best of the best for $2500 a month.

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And I feel that these facts are stangely realted to the other two threads that are raging in the Vancouver Forum. ( Lumiere and are egulleters soft on restaurants )

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Am I the only one with this problem ?  Is the word out that I am an asshole and no one "darkens" my door with kitchen resumes ?

Yup, I heard that. :wink: Also heard, "the Wedgewood is the worst place to work" and "it's good to have the Wedgewood on your resume", also heard "VCC is churning out students faster than any assembly line", but is "probably the best school in Vancouver" and "West only pays $10, but you have to work 15 hours plus a day" but "the knowlege you will receive is worth it" etc. etc. The rumours abound.

Tell me, Chef Neil and other employers, how does one know who is hiring? I heard it's by word of mouth, but no one told me you were hiring. Sorry, although I'm the perfect candidate :biggrin: I have a job. But, maybe I need a second job like so many other cooks have so they can pay the bills. BTW, can you elaborate on:

"the attraction of an interesting career with an independant restaurant". I just need a reminder from time to time. Thanks.

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Hi. I can understand where Neil has his concerns. I don't think it's only just Vancouver, it's here in Saskatoon, where we only have a our version of VCC to rely on for cooks. The shortage of quality cooks is severe.

You should be lucky with any cook who comes out of the the apprentice program in BC, here in Saskatoon, the cooks here are no way; close in a foundation of culinary knowledge or skill.

I started in cooking about 7 years ago and I went to the Pacific Insitute in Vancouver. After I finished school, I looked around for work, about 40 phone calls and 2 days. I was able to find work at L'Hermitage. Being right out of school I was offered $10 an hour and I worked split shifts Tuesday to Saturday.

Not much of a life. I lasted with them for little over a year when I got a line on a job at the Delta Vancouver Suites, which, when I started at the bottom of the pile, I was making about $12 an hour and I had benefits. After I left, 2.5 years later, I was up to $18 an hour. I transferred to Chateau Whistler where I started at $13 and worked an average of 10 hour days. Not a big deal, came back to Vancouver and went to work at the Wedgewood, $8 an hour and a 12 hour day with them only paying for 8. It sucked. Soon there after I came back to Saskatoon.

With some connections through Delta, I was able to get on with the Bessbourgh here. They have the highest paying cooking jobs in the city. First cook, where I was at was $11.

I now am making a salrary of $2000 a month and I work about 50 hours a week.

I work at a local 65 seat restaurant with our small menu that changes every 30 days.

The other sous chef at our restaurant has a university degree and every other day wonders why he is not doing something else that makes him more money. He is always seeing former classmates who are working a "real" job. Making "real" money and so forth.

I think the only way for you to make any money in this business is to own your place. I realize the headaches and the longer hours that come with owning your business, but the chef who owns the restaurant I work in makes a pretty good living with his place. I hope to be able to do the same thing.

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And I feel that these facts are stangely realted to the other two threads that are raging in the Vancouver Forum. ( Lumiere and are egulleters soft on restaurants )

Neil

I was thinking the exact same thing. psych!

Actually - you guys are all doing something that I would cannot imagine doing - there are easier ways to make money. But as a customer - I am glad that your passion over rules your common sense and we are the glad recipients of your labours and generosity.


Edited by canucklehead (log)

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As someone who loves the industry and has worked both sides, as much as I love cooking (though I wouldn't really call it cooking where I was working :blink: ), I would never return to the dark side :raz: because there is very little reward, especially financially.

People have already touched on the unmet expectations of those coming out of culinary school, which I think is a big thing. One other thing I would add is that many restaurants treat their kitchen staff as if they were sub-human ( while expecting them to perform superhuman feats :blink: ). Why would I want to work horrible hours in a hot sweaty environment for little to no money with a chef breathing down my neck when he's not yelling at me. Ok, so not all chefs are like that, I'm sure some realize that there are better ways to motivate employees than fear and intimidation, (and maybe I've just had bad experiences, correct me if I'm wrong), but there are still way too many who believe that it is fine to be an asshole to your employees. Well maybe it works for them, but when you're working 12 hour days for $10/hr and the chef is constantly on your case, it certainly doesn't make people love cooking.

James

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After they startled me with 14.00 per hour (6 years ago) I asked what made them feel that they were worth this.  The response, to paraphrase went something like this, "I just finished my training at dubrulle and that is the going rate",

Okay, but can you actually live in this city for less than 14 per hour- and as other posters have said, the busser likely makes more with tips?

I know that I expected that my own education would add to my bottom line. Is it any wonder that they would feel the same?

I am not saying it is realistic, or that an independent restaurant can afford it, but that is not to say that these students are underestimating their worth. 14 dollars is barely a living wage in Vancouver.

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Others have said what I was going to say but they said it much more diplomatically.

The pay sucks.

I understand passion. Man do I ever. But, a person needs to earn a livin' and it is hard in this city to live a decent life at those wages.

I/we all state how cheap it is to medium-fine dine in this city whichis great for the customer.

So does that mean the alternative is 200-300 % markup on wines so the boss can afford to pay the back of the house more or do prices need to increase to justify the amount of work it takes to make good veal stock?

Personally I say increase prices, train front end staff so they understand wine therefore can sell a product better( I say this because I was in a restaurant not too long ago and the staff pronounced Vosne Romanee, Vosssnee Romaneeeeeee. That's just plain embaressing)

Vancouver needs a price increase.

That is my unpopular answer Neil.

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Could this have anything to do with how competetive the prices ar in restaurants in Vancouver?

I think we as diners have a pretty good deal in terms of what we expect to pay for high quality food. Could this be part of the problem? Or do kitchens in New York and London pay the same sort of wages and charge thrice to the diner?

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After they startled me with 14.00 per hour (6 years ago) I asked what made them feel that they were worth this.  The response, to paraphrase went something like this, "I just finished my training at dubrulle and that is the going rate",

Okay, but can you actually live in this city for less than 14 per hour- and as other posters have said, the busser likely makes more with tips?

I know that I expected that my own education would add to my bottom line. Is it any wonder that they would feel the same?

I am not saying it is realistic, or that an independent restaurant can afford it, but that is not to say that these students are underestimating their worth. 14 dollars is barely a living wage in Vancouver.

I agree you cannot live in this city for less than that, however first prove your worth, dish a little, show a passion beyond the bucks. Ask any great chef where they started and I bet is was somewhere between kitchen dog and kibble.

Further I think most people that have a love for cooking professionally are not in it initially for the money. Ask Feenie how many people want to work for him for free. Jeremiah Trotter once took a whole class from CIA (not the one in langley, and if that s the one you thought I meant then you are on the wrong site) for 2weeks for a catering he was doing he gave them a kissoff and the students thanked him for it.

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.

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Could this have anything to do with how competetive the prices ar in restaurants in Vancouver?

I think we as diners have a pretty good deal in terms of what we expect to pay for high quality food.  Could this be part of the problem? Or do kitchens in New York and London pay the same sort of wages and charge thrice to the diner?

Exactly! My last job before I moved to Vancouver was 200 miles north of Toronto (haha...near the tundra!) and the average menu price was $10 over Vancouver’s. Apps were $12 - $21 and entrees were $29 - $45 with desserts at over $10 a piece (cooks started at $12, ended at $21 with room and board!!! ~~~ Surprise CANADIANS, they were all European raised and trained…).

My best guess is...people in Vancouver are very well educated, travelled and fed. When they return to Vancouver they want to return to a simple 'lotus land' and are complacent and are unwilling to pay world prices. I agree. This is our backyard, enjoy the mountains, ocean, fresh air, etc....entrees cannot be over $30.

I am a Chef, how do I enjoy this mind set and support myself? You cannot, you have to make sacrifices and enjoy the free things in life, and the Vancouver scene is about karma for the BOH and becoming a movie star for the FOH. This will not change until the paying public is willing to allow Vancouver to be a world class city. Is it worth it to be a world class city?

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owwww this ones juice aint it !

what is it y`all missin` the hockey ?

right then .

i think the rate in which the industry is expanding has a lot to do with it . and i`ve seen this pattern develope before in Europe . loads of big $$ restaurants are set to open , and where are all the cooks , gonna come from ?

in Europe this was the catalist to a wages war between those employers who could compete. so the cooks were quids in.

now students are aplenty , head and sous cooks no problem , but that awkward line cook/ prep bitch / chef de partie postion is a different kettle of fish .

cooks of this level is where the shortage is i reckon.

anyway taking of Europe , i got paid loads more there than here , and we had twice the staff , and less of the labour intensive ( and quite frankly pointless ) garnishes to get en place .

now i`ve been cooking for a few years shy of two decades , and to be honest if some one waved a nice job in front of me outside the industry i`d be tempted. and i really love to cook. but this town, hmmmm its making my mind wonder.

any way neil you hiring ?

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owwww this ones juice aint it !

what is it y`all missin` the hockey  ?

right then .

i think the rate in which the industry is expanding has a lot to do with it . and i`ve seen this pattern develope before in Europe . loads of big $$ restaurants are set to open , and where are all the cooks , gonna come from ?

in Europe this was the catalist to a wages war between those employers who could compete. so the cooks were quids in.

now students are aplenty , head and sous cooks no problem , but that awkward line cook/ prep bitch / chef de partie  postion is a different kettle of fish .

cooks of this level is where the shortage is i reckon.

anyway taking of Europe , i got paid loads more there than here , and we had twice the staff , and less of the labour intensive ( and quite frankly pointless ) garnishes to get en place .

now i`ve been cooking for a few years shy of  two decades , and to be honest if some one waved a nice job in front of me outside the industry i`d be tempted. and i really love to cook. but this town, hmmmm its making my mind wonder.

any way neil you hiring ?

Interesting insight...please add

~Chefs who use proper punctuation

PS. nice dedication; shows nicely to the other 150 countries in the world who may read this post! I seriously hope you are the exception in Vancouver or Vancouver needs to switch from a hospitality based economy!!!

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A cook I know who is now in Vancouver has worked in three different kitchens in the past 2 - 3 months. Why three different kitchens ? All three places were not up to snuff and cut too many corners. For him the pay is not a concern but finding a place where he can learn new things and better himself as a cook is his main concern.

So here is someone who wants to cook, doesn't mind the pay but feels the quality of cooking is lacking ?! Any responce to that ?

He was telling me that he met a guy that is working for Feenie and the pay is not the greatest and he is working an average of 10 hours a day.

Now my friend who moved to Vancouver so he could work for Feenie is now considering going to Montreal to work because he doesn't want to work that much and have no life.

Missing hockey ? Heck, I've got basketball. Go Nucks !

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Purely from an enduser/eater point of view, how do you reconcile these: Vancouver restaurants charging $300 for the supposedly non-world-class (God I hate that term) or inferior to NY/LA/Las Vegas (??)/any small town in France meal, and Vancouver third from the top (if I understand line cook correctly), fresh-out-of-school cooks who want to make $35K a year?

I honestly don't have a feel for what a fair wage is for someone who has taken a year of culinary school, and I don't dispute at ALL that it is very hard work...but I do know that with a Bachelor's degree from a good university, it took me a good 5 years of working life to get to $35K (why the hell didn't I get a degree in Engineering? :rolleyes:) and I didn't get dinner with that.

Anyways, I don't want to sound as though I think cooks should work for nothing, because I don't; and I certainly agree that experience and ability should be rewarded with higher wages, I'm just thinking of the starting wages. Maybe some more of the management types can comment on how that works, because my knowledge of restaurant cash flow is between slim and none.


Edited by *Deborah* (log)

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