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Pay me, baby!


Christopher Haatuft
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If a little bit of creativity is compromised so that cooks can call in sick without loosing pay or make enough money to be able to raise a family with benefits then I am all for it. Personally, I think we can have our cake and eat it, too. I do not believe compromise. I think creativity can just be as strong in a unionized kitchen as it is in our current kitchens.

I could not agree more and I don't think there is another industry in the US that needs union support and protection more than this one. Owners in NYC for example are cleaning up in the millions and do it in part to their underpaying illegals two to an ID and culinary grads alike in the BOH.

Oh and Ducasse in NY is a union shop, I don't think its hindered their approach to fine dining at all.

-Mike & Andrea

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Actualy from other posts here (and from a few friends), it seems that the "real money" in chefdom is the world of the private chef. There is infinitely more freedom and flexibility with schedules plus the salaries I have heard from are in the $50k to $75k realm.

Now the problem is finding those jobs...

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--Oh and Ducasse in NY is a union shop, I don't think its hindered their approach to fine dining at all. --

Read the book. I'm telling you, if you've never worked in a Union Kitchen, you have no idea how pervasive the bad attitudes are. I'm not anti-union by any means, I have also belonged to the United Transportation Union (Railroad end) and believe me they are a complete necessity. You need to live it to fully understand how much integrity gets compromised by having an affiliation. I could write pages and pages of the shit I've seen that wouldn't fly in a regular joint. You absolutely get great pay and benefits. However, the "protection" that you supposedly get through a Union isn't always there. Also, because the relationship with management is so antagonized by all the ridiculous rules, they will work twice as hard to exploit every loophole they can against you. Believe it, I've seen it a hundred times, from both sides of the coin. The whole atmosphere is not conducive to a great final product and a good working environment.

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When I was working as a deckhand on the Upper Mississippi River, our shop went through the unionization process; in the end, the vote failed and we remained an open, unrepresented shop. I learned two things from this:

1) The threat of unionization makes management very, very, very nervous and kind of cranky. However, seeing the deckhands and boat pilots band together like that did make them realize that even though they had decent boats with lots of power, absolutely no cargo would move without deckhands to lash the barges together. Just the threat of unionization brought about an almost 50% raise in base pay.

2) What most people don't realize is that the union is not the organizers and the negotiators and the representation; the union is the people in it. After the votes were cast, I spent some time bullshittin' with other deckhands about it--and the ones who voted against it, most of them did so because they'd never worked in a union shop before, and really didn't see any benefits to "taking orders from somebody in Seattle." No no no no no no no. THEY work for us, I'd say. WE tell THEM what we want, and then they represent us and bargain for us.

"Oh. Well, I didn't know that." Damn, ya goober, I sure wish you'd have asked me about it two weeks ago.

Line Pigs of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your blisters!

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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Every area is different in some respects, I guess, but there is one bottom-line reality that I think most kitchens face. Unless you are a world-famous star chef, there is only so much you can charge for a plate. Here in Canada, for example, the glass ceiling for entrees seems to run about $30CDN. There are exceptions, like Susur Lee, who can charge more, but for "ordinary" fine dining outside the core of Toronto/Montreal/Vancouver that's it.

So, in an industry where margins are already tight, where does the extra money come from for labour cost? Don't get me wrong - as a "grunt" chef I get paid dirt, I'd love to see wages higher - but I also know how much work it takes to get and keep labour costs in line. If I don't make a profit, in short, I don't get to come back and do it again tomorrow...and I really want to.

If anyone's got a good answer to this, I'd dearly love to hear it.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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So, in an industry where margins are already tight, where does the extra money come from for labour cost?  Don't get me wrong - as a "grunt" chef I get paid dirt, I'd love to see wages higher - but I also know how much work it takes to get and keep labour costs in line.  If I don't make a profit, in short, I don't get to come back and do it again tomorrow...and I really want to.

If anyone's got a good answer to this, I'd dearly love to hear it.

You have any idea how much the bar makes? There are--what, 32 shots in a 5th of Jack Daniels. At $3 per, that's almost a hundred bucks a bottle. What's markup on wine-150% over wholesale? Some of these stingy f***ing owners could come up off those profits and reward the people who cook the food that keeps people returning. It'd be a good outlay, in the end, with higher wages and decent benefits leading to decreased turnover and greater job satisfaction giveing better results on the plate.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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