Chef shortages ???

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Im currently finishing my honors degree in culinary arts and as part of that degree am doing a research paper on the chef shortage affecting the industry as a whole.

I was just wondering if any chefs out there would like to give any of their opinions on what they believe are contributing factors within the industry.
 
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Most places today don't want to hire a Chef they feel they can do it by producing food in a factory setting and assembling it at the specific location.
 
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I don't know if this is much of  a problem in England. Personally if it is though I think it may due to TV making working in a kitchen look like horrible job where you are surrounded by egotistical nutters.
 
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Crap conditions, crap pay, long hours, not-fun schedules(early mornings, nights, weekends, holidays), cheap, REALLY cheap owners, heat, cuts, burns, stress(someone told me kitchen work is in the top five professions for PTSD; don't know if that's true), and the fact that the person working next to you might be awesome & might be a borderline unemployable. The question we should be asking is why would people WANT to do this? Four years ago I was paying a baker the same wage he was making as a line cook when he moved to Seattle..
In 1992.
 
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Food is in the spotlight quite a bit now. People are more and more concerned and intrigued by food these days. Because of this more and more restaurants are opening. There is an interest in food and fine dining more so than ever. The demand for cooks is at an all time high. Especially skilled cooks. Then you get these green culinary grads who have no experience and think they should be on food network. When they get into a real kitchen and see what is really expected of them they cry in the corner and never come back. A culinary degree does not make you a chef. It doesnt even make you a cook. It makes you in debt. Experience and skill makes you a chef. So my opinion is a high demand for cooks but a lack of skilled people. It has to do with time demands, physical stress of the kitchen and mental stress of the kitchen. These soft newbies from the everybody gets a trophy generation are not prepared or tough enough and dont last. Just my opinion. The only thing i really have to back it up is the obscene number of culinary grads tell me that helping bust dishes or mopping floors is not their job they are a chef. Really what they are is unemployed and unemployable until they fix their attitude and toughen up.
 
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For anybody in San Francisco right now they would tell you that right now it is a shortage of cooks and not chefs. There are sooo many restaurants opening and the cost of living is so high that there are more chefs than cooks. it amazes me how many restaurants are opening right now with this being such a major problem.

A little story of a stage we had last week at my restaurant. This guy came in with really just pantry experience and he came in saying he didn't want to work in a busy environment, wanted input on the menu, and didn't want to work the hot line only pantry. Told all of this casually to the executive chef while in the walk in.

he didn't get the job :p

also a lot of people who come in and say they are want and can do the job but either never show up or prove that they cant keep up/do the job.
 
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I paid around $800 a month in 1980 for a one bedroom shit hole in the mission @ 24th behind the Bart station, can't imagine how anyone making line cook wages can afford to live on their own in the city these days.
 
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I paid around $800 a month in 1980 for a one bedroom shit hole in the mission @ 24th behind the Bart station, can't imagine how anyone making line cook wages can afford to live on their own in the city these days.
It would be interesting to see what that spot costs now. My friend in the last year moved in to a studio apartment that is on the very edge of the city bordering Daly city and she pays just over two thousand for it and she is in a place with terrible transportation options. I feel very fortunate to have moved in with a friend who has had his place on lock down for the last six or seven years now. As much as I love the food scene in this city I could not stay here long term due to the issue of well not being able to live on my own lol.

Chefs are desperate to keep good people in their kitchen; though it doesn't seem to translate into offering a higher wage in the more respectable kitchens granted since I am not looking for a job I don't feel the need to make myself feel bad by proving to myself that less skilled people are getting paid more for doing less.
 
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People are in a rush. They hardly go out to a restaurant for an experience. They go out to eat a meal. Really doesn't matter what is is. There are no more family meals. It's grab and go.

The large vendors have ruined the industry by monopolizing the purchasing power of restaurants. Which in turn developed this trend to acclimate diners to a mediocre product.

At one time there used to be a Pastry kitchen in every hotel in this city. Then companies like shitsco comes in and requires 90-95% of the chefs purchases or else they won't fund the bonus program.

So goodbye to Pastry Chefs, Garde Manger, Saucier, purchasers, and Sales Representative, and hello prepackaged mediocre food, order takers with computers. Requirements to work in a pastry shop now, a big box knife. 

Don't even talk Chefs. Glorified bean counters. In a matter of 15 yrs. we have somehow let the industry take over the food and completely cut the customer out of the equation.

Yea, Yea, Yea, I know, there are a lot of great restaurants!!! I will bet a weeks pay if I climb up the ladder to the wallet, they are bleeding money like a stuck pig.

Oh, I'm done.

and Vann, these are just my worthless opinions of the contributing factors./img/vbsmilies/smilies/talker.gif
 
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I am sure there are a lot of areas in this country where that is a very true statement. Makes me very glad to be in a major food city where restaurants can find success doing it right.
 
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I can't fathom how line cooks survive in NYC, San Fran, etc.  Cooks want to work in those places for the experience but even rock star line cooks don't earn shit.  I think you have to get the experience you're after and move up quickly or move on quickly.
 
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chrisbristol chrisbristol i do actually. Maybe the reason its frustrating is that I like what I do & would like to see more people find a reason to do it. As a manager, I can't afford to be a romantic
 
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I can't fathom how line cooks survive in NYC, San Fran, etc.  Cooks want to work in those places for the experience but even rock star line cooks don't earn shit.  I think you have to get the experience you're after and move up quickly or move on quickly.

NYC honestly isn't bad as a line cook, at least so far. With the hours I'm making about 43k a year. And realistically living with a roommate that's plenty of money, and living without a roommate would be possible if I looked hard enough.
 
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It would be interesting to see what that spot costs now. My friend in the last year moved in to a studio apartment that is on the very edge of the city bordering Daly city and she pays just over two thousand for it and she is in a place with terrible transportation options. I feel very fortunate to have moved in with a friend who has had his place on lock down for the last six or seven years now. As much as I love the food scene in this city I could not stay here long term due to the issue of well not being able to live on my own lol.

Chefs are desperate to keep good people in their kitchen; though it doesn't seem to translate into offering a higher wage in the more respectable kitchens granted since I am not looking for a job I don't feel the need to make myself feel bad by proving to myself that less skilled people are getting paid more for doing less.
Work in the city as well but commute from San Jose.  Worst idea ever but living in SF doesn't appeal to me 
 
For anybody in San Francisco right now they would tell you that right now it is a shortage of cooks and not chefs. There are sooo many restaurants opening and the cost of living is so high that there are more chefs than cooks. it amazes me how many restaurants are opening right now with this being such a major problem.

A little story of a stage we had last week at my restaurant. This guy came in with really just pantry experience and he came in saying he didn't want to work in a busy environment, wanted input on the menu, and didn't want to work the hot line only pantry. Told all of this casually to the executive chef while in the walk in.

he didn't get the job :p

also a lot of people who come in and say they are want and can do the job but either never show up or prove that they cant keep up/do the job.
My chef mentions the influx of new restaurants in SF but the decline of cooks all the time.  I can't wrap my head around it either.  More than likely these new spots may or may not be around much more longer since so many spots shutter within there first year. At this point, I have no desire to live in the city and rather take my 600 dollar room in Santa Clara and take the long commute everyday to work in SOMA. 

I doubt it'll get better.
 
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NYC honestly isn't bad as a line cook, at least so far. With the hours I'm making about 43k a year. And realistically living with a roommate that's plenty of money, and living without a roommate would be possible if I looked hard enough.
Sounds like you may be one of the lucky ones.

Interesting topic and timely too. Just read a Nations Restaurant News article about this very topic.

Basically people can't make a living on the line cooks job.

Cooks who work in NYC have to find a place to live else where and commute because the rents are so high in the city and burbs.

Kinda ironic in that it is the cooks that create the Chef's visions but are paid so little by the owners.
 
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Ah, I just feel like an old fart this week.

Line cooks and servers. New name for peons. I can remember when restaurants were a place to go to forget and have a nice experience. Like an old movie.

I remember getting in early  and standing out back putting that last little spit shine on our shoes before entering." The so called called Servers and line cooks"

were The Maitre D,, waiters (front and back), bus persons and the kitchen cooks. and that smiling support staff ( the plongeurs )who would do anything for you and go where no man has gone before and got some compensation from all the staff.

It might not have been the posh place with the Brigade de cuisine, but we sure acted and respected each other like it was. You could get a halfway decent place to crash. Just grease the landlady with some food and some scraps for the dog.

Then somehow this profession went backwards and became more primitive then before. There is nobody to blame but ourselves for letting it happen. We got so wrapped up in titles,

quasi fame, notoriety, and yearning for the least little bit of respect from anybody, we let it all slip away. Hell. most of us can't even afford to eat in the places we work.
 
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Pan,

I agree that there is a certain "toxic" quality  within the workforce itself but I think management culture is equally (if not more so to blame for many of the staffing quality issues.  There certainly are driven, talented, and serious cooks out there.  These are the folks who really want this to be their career.  And you also get a bunch of the workforce who think that they want it but learn after a time it is not the life for them.  Can't blame a person for changing course in life (heck I did that to get into this industry).  

But, at least from what I have seen, there are many folks in the industry who are only here out of desperation or happenstance.  Not to say that means they are bad workers necessarily but they are motivated to get a cheque and would just as soon work as a telemarketer or parking lot attendant to do so.  They might be in the industry, but they are not of the industry.   They do not see it as a long term vocation so they are not motivated to make the vocation better.  "Its just till I get my Sh** sorted out," sort of thing.  

The hospitality industry gets a rep for using "unskilled labour" but truth be told the industry itself has bent over backwards to make sure it doesn't need a skilled work force.  Reliance on preportioned convenience products, "idiot proof" spec manuals, the way many kitchens are structured are based around interchangeable minimum waged nameless staff that are treated as a necessary evil.  

If there is a skills shortage I suspect its largely has been because the business has tried at every turn to make real skill surplus to the business of running a restaurant.  Well, it worked!  Congrats!

The catch is, of course, the artificially low prices we are accustomed to for food are starting to catch up with us.  Fair value for food has been so long kept at arms length that with increased global demand, the calamities in the beef and poultry sectors, etc we know need skilled, experienced, and creative people who can make the food cost stretch a little farther.  
 
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ya i see your point,

There is a skill shortage happening all over really ,but do you reckon the low wages and overall working conditions could be playing a part in the issue?
 
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Vann,

I think the low wages and working conditions are a result of the over reliance on temporary/transitory workers with no intention of making hospitality their career.  If even 80% of these guys and gals were committed to making this field their career priority things would change.  But if you are working a line to get you through college, nothing more, then you aren't really going to be concerned about the over all state of working life.  

Skill, experience, these things cost money.  Margins are so tight that the industry writ large has done an end run around this expense with the self-fulfilled prophecy of unskilled labour.

Mind you, I do feel all most all of these issues eventually wind their way back to the public's addiction for unnaturally cheap food. 
 
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