A Tribute to Dish Monkeys

Joined Jan 5, 2001
That was very good French!

Managers in the kitchen often don't realize that they set the tone for everyone else. If they cleaned up their act, and were clear about what is unacceptable behaviour, that would be a start.
Joined Sep 21, 2001
Like any abusive relationship it takes both parties to keep it going. The fact that they hire illegals is one thing, the fact they abuse them is another and the fact they keep getting people to work while that information seems to be well known is another thing all together. I have little or no sympathy for willing participants in that scenerio. As long as there are people who are willing to put up with the foodservice industry as a feudal system where hiring cheaper and cheaper labor is the key to success and as long as the unchecked egotism and misogyny is allowed to fester in the workplace I don't see any end in sight. Sorry.
Joined Jan 5, 2001
Peach, you're right in that this is a system problem. However, I see this sort of thing happen all the time, including with legal workers.

What I find disheartening is this idea of a hierarchy of BS and verbal abuse. The pot washers get treated like dogs, the prep guys marginally better, the cooks finally gain enough status to dish out some abuse but still receive it from the other end, and souschefs and chefs have full license to treat everyone like barnyard animals. Ok, so I exaggerate a bit, and thankfully there are exceptions. But this culture is endemic to the industry.

I've worked for a couple of chefs who treated their pot washers like kings. They are the smart ones. An unhappy potwasher has far-reaching unfortunate repercussions in all aspects of a restaurant! :eek:
Joined Mar 21, 2004
I can only address what happens in my restaurant. The owner will not tolerate any forms of abuse. All workers are fed hearty meals and given breaks on a regular basis. Clean uniforms are provided for everyone and the place is kept spotless, including the kitchen. We are a family and look out for each other in or out of work. Financial support is there for those who need it. I have a great staff that has been with me for nearly five years and the owner and I have split the purchase of two automobiles for a couple of our skullery staff. The above is why we are successful with little if any turnover and a waiting list of those wanting to work here.
Joined Jan 5, 2001
There should be newspaper articles about you Wyoming! It's a nice example to set...
Joined Oct 13, 2001
Ditto Anneke , well done Wyoming.When you work in a family type enviroment
where people care about each other as much as the customer well then my friends you have a circle of care and all benefit from the interactions.
Its much better to come home from work and say" man we had a realy busy shift but we pulled together and did it" verses "those lazy immagrants , if I had not been there to crack the whip nothing would have got done".
I feel like peachcreek does as these people are contributing to there own problem by not standing up to it but peach remember that most of them are illegal and scared. They are in the confines of a wheel of industry which has been using this behavior for hundreds if not thousands of years.
I feel the best thing we can do as chefs,managers and owners is to change this attitude one kitchen at a time my friends.
The Buddah awnsered this question to his disciples before he died , the disciples asked " master what shall we do " and the Buddah replied,
" Just do the best you can " Realy , what else is there? Peace , Doug.......................
Joined Feb 16, 2004
Here in holland we have a saying : if there is nothing else you can do, you can still try working in a kitchen. A lot of people working in the food industrie see it as a last resort. This, in my opinion, is the beginning of the problem. Mostly, kitchen staff is not given the chance to develop him or herself. I come along quite some students who have given up cooking because they have been treated like dirt. It takes a lot of time to convince them that there are also decent chefs. It really saddens me because people like this chef kill chefs in the bud !!
Joined Jan 24, 2003
How sad that nothing has changed from Orwells description of kitchen life in London & Paris to todays kitchens. Its odd that because kitchen hierachy is arranged on military lines that this spills over into power trips & aggression.
Working in a high end kitchen is demanding & excellence is a prequisite BUT abuse is just not on. Sure I hear the odd shouting match in the heat of the moment but overall my experience is that the brigade I work with are pros.There is plenty of good natured abuse but absolutely no violence.
My advise to anyone suffering this abuse illegal or legit workers both is to sock em in the jaw & move on...It always pays to punch a bully.
Joined Sep 27, 2003
I have to agree. I currently work with a Chef here in South Carolina who is awful to his staff and the FOH staff as well. He does nothing to encourage or promote anyone's ability. When he corrects he is demeaning and abusive, although to his credit he won't cuss at you when he is in full swing. I am sure that is because he knows he will be immediately terminated if he does. But he does treat you like a jerk. We don't have family meals, and he gets a serious attitude when someone orders and pays for something from the very limited (3 item) employee menu. Especially the Hispanic ladies from housekeeping.
We have decided collectively that he is insecure and unhappy himself and this comes thru in his behavior with all of us. I want to transfer to the BOH as I am a student in culinary arts, but I fear my job will be lost if I do because inevitably there will be a day when I can no longer hold my tongue.
Here here Wyoming! You are the type of Chef I aspire to be.
I have as well worked for some who have treated dish guys like kings, and it does make things run much much better. I had a dish washer friend who would actually come out of dish and take stacks of plates out of my hands as soon as I came into the kitchen when I was serving if I was busy. If I was really backed-up in the weeds he would even help me with my side work. I always tipped him out in those instances and the extra 10-20 bucks for the night was always welcome and helpful to him and his help was indispensable to me. He was truly the first proactive dishwasher I ever knew. The dish pit can make or break a busy night quickly, and I do what I can as a server to help them out. Usually when I do they freak b/c most people don’t even think about them.
Wyoming I would be interested in hearing other philosophies you have followed in your kitchen, like I said you seem to be doing it right and I like to interact with those whom I admire, and from your post I admire the way you manage and lead.
Joined Jul 11, 2004
certainly many chefs have acted improperly and abusively, and many people have the right to feel abused. I do think that there are many instances where staff deserve some kind of reprimand, not a coach and concill, or repeated handholding instruction/direction, feel good human resource type of action. When these usually junior staff feel the heat or can't keep up they begin to cry "chef is mean and abusive" if a runner is working 12's then fair bet the chef's pulling down 15's and he/she's got everyone staff, ownership,clients, critics,and thier peers judging and waiting for a mistake to put under the microscope. It takes a lot of work to get to that spot and then several more years to learn to do the job properly which includes treating people with dignity and respect.
Obviously if people are breaking laws or being physically abusive it is wrong on many levels,however, don't play the victim and then place blame on a "POSITION". It only creates stereotypes and predjutices that make an incredibly difficult position harder.
Maybe I'm a little off topic, but, bashing chefs, and managers seems to easy and convinient theese days, remember this can be an incredibly grey area, I've seen staff truely be disrespectlful and difficult only because they can if it's done in a underhanded manner :confused:
In closing, cooks in my brigade, are always expected to scrape, stack, and otherwise help the "dish monkeys" any possible way that they can, either by
getting a round of cold drinks, hauling some garbage or getting in and scrubbing the nastys! myself included
Joined Jun 29, 2004
In defence of chefs/kitchen managers, there are ALOT of workers out there who are simply USELESS @#$%s who don't care about their job. There are lots of cooks out there who drag their feet all shift long, don't care about their job or the food they're preparing, work at a snails pace, etc... Most chefs pull 8-16 hour days, 5-7 days per week - whereas some junior line cook will work 3 hours, moan about it being hard work and take off for a long 'break'.

Of course, some chefs/managers can get abusive (sometimes it's just stress - some are just @ssholes though) - just confront them - either they'll fire you (usually a good thing - do you really want to work for someone like that?), or they'll have more respect for you if you're a good worker (I've stood up to many managers, never been fired or even reprimanded - just make sure you can back up your claims with good work and food quality). Hiring illegals and forcing them to work in near-slave labour circumstances is wrong too...(thankfully I have yet to see it)
Joined Jul 28, 2001
The fight begins with you. Change your way of thinking. I feel no sympothy for the folks, sorry, as peech says.
I feel great about our staff and I know the feeling is mutual. We shut down July 31 for two weeks. I annually rent a house in Galveston beach TX with 5 bedrooms and lofts right on the water. I trailer my boat. We provide the house,boat,fishing etc.
The calendar went up in March and as usual it was full immediately. Every will join. My pastry chef was an illegal and has been with me for 19 yrs. Every one of the crew has a percentage of the business(including those who do pots) depending on how long they've been on board. Each member, no matter of ethnic, background who has a family/children ,has a forced deduction for 529 which I match.
You get out of people what you put in. It;s very simple. The vacation house is no big deal, I just feel that 50. buck is nothing any more(a movie and candy) 400. bucks would probably go towards bills. We're small and it's tough to keep up with the big boys, but we are a happy crew.
Just a few comments from the other side. ;)
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