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« heat wave. | Main | lest you should think it's all doom & gloom »

16 May 2008


Whew. I'm almost out of breath just reading that. I can't say I'm wiser than you - surely I am not. But I am older, and there's one little secret I can let you in on. If you're a "worker," you're a worker, and you will approach every activity - be it job or hobby, occupation or pastime, whatever it is all through your life - with the same level of commitment and care. It's who you are. The rest of the stuff - who you want to work with, who you want to work for, who you want to work for you, who you want to hang out with, dine with, cook with, play with, etc. - is what you have to figure out. But don't think that ever - even one time - you will do something in a half-hearted way. If you find yourself doing that, I bet you shouldn't be doing it at all.

P.S. There's no question in my mind that yes, you can help save the day.

My two cents: it's always hard to work for someone. And to work with someone, too. Your industry seems particularly hard; what with the physical stamina needed and then, with the total lack of chivalry and even, it sounds like, common courtesy. It must be impossible to keep your confidence up.

Remember who you are; a maverick. Remember what Whitman said: we contain multitudes. And remember that greatness--and often goodness, too--comes from not fitting in.

yes, I completely agree what victoria said. I think that it doesn't matter whether you are a mere line cook or second in charge, or a chef instructor or anything else shuna, I think that the ability to work "like it's your own" is a gift and a curse at the same time. these are tough times for many and I hope you find the strength to hang on.

Painful stuff. Sounds like your co-workers are threatened by the very skills and attitudes that they hired you for. My heart goes out to you now.

Wise words from Lisa.

Shuna this is an excellent site, your insights and experiences are very thought provoking and interesting.

The food industry is really different from a lot of other businesses. Sometimes owners and businesses recognize the wisdom, experience, consistency of an employee who has been in for awhile and really treats it as a profession. Other times the industry wants newcomers who are less expensive to maintain and train to an acceptable level of competency.

I think this post of yours echoes what many people who work in the industry with experience and competency are thinking and feeling. At the same time I know from working in the industry for over 20 years that we have had to dumb down some of the explanations, techniques and expectations of the newcomers because of who is entering the food industry and what they expect.

The old industry expected a lot and sometimes crossed the line, but now we have gone the other extreme- make it cheap, easy to train. Good training used to equate with how rigid and mean the trainer was- now it's how easy.

But can the new person do the job? Does he know what to do and when to do it? Is the product consistent? Taste good? What the chef intended?

There are so many people entering this field who think they like to cook or bake. You have to love it and want to do what it takes and demands to be good- treat it as a profession and not just an okay job to get by with.

At the same time we as consumers have to willing to pay a fair wage to people who care to do a great job.

What a wonderful post Shuna. I don't know anything else other than "keep going" and when I was asked to go back to hostile territory last weekend to help out, well I did because this is what I know and I did because of the food and the fact that I'd rather set aside old grudges and bad feelings to put out great food but also because I respect pastry too much to let them produce half assed desserts just because they could. My husband thinks I am masochistic until I point out to him that he does the same thing with his band and their music.
Another one of Eggbeater's posts going into the favorites list!

Part of the problem, I think, is that workers have no stake in the financial success of a restaurant, other than negatively, such losing their job if it closes, or being asked to go home early if business is slow.

When it's busy you work more but you don't necessarily earn more- the profits go the boss, not you. If you don't have definite, personal goals in a restaurant, apart from what your boss wants from you, then it can cause friction and resentment to realize your work is enriching them, while you get by on hourly wages.

The best way to motivate employees might be to give them a stake in the business, cooperative-style. Employees do a good job because they not only care "abstractly" about their craftsmanship but also because the health of the business directly benefits them.

Not everyone wants to share money or power in a restaurant, but giving cooks a chance to become worker-owners rather than just wage-slaves could do something for attitude, optimism, and meaningful cooperation-- i.e. seeing the Big Picture. Just an observation after several years in restaurant kitchens.

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