Musings from a now former chef

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Joined May 30, 2015
Years ago, before I became a chef, I was a butcher. It was the second job I ever had. The demand for butchers at the time was pretty low, and I mostly did grunt work for the experienced guys, but I tried my best to learn what I could from them. I transfered to another department at the wholesale club a few months later in order to get a pay raise, and soon found a career I loved as a baker. I baked breads, pastries, etc for almost 5 years, and even went to pastry school free of charge from my employer's education program. Then, like meat-cutting, the bottom fell out of retail baking. All of the mega-marts and wholesale clubs began transitioning to either 100% pre-baked or very limited fresh products. I then transitioned into working in the restaurant industry, first as a prep cook before mastering station after station. It's been nearly 5 years since then, and tonight is the first Friday night that I'm not manning the grill and working kitchen-side expo in a long time.

I never thought I would go back to retail food service. No one wanted to hire butchers. No one wanted fresh baked bread. Retail ready-meals were considered a joke, for the laziest of the lazy or those who could afford to spend $20 for $3 worth of ingredients. Even when the jobs were there, they didn't pay nearly what they did 10 years ago, and certainly not what I made as a chef.

Now, nearly a decade later, I started working as a butcher again. Not only is there an extremely high demand for meat, a lot of the meat plants are sending grocery stores less-processed cuts of meat that need to be broken down further at the store level than in years past.

The upside: I'm making good money under any circumstances, and certainly more than I've made as a chef for the past 6 months or so. The downside: I'm still getting used to going to work at 6 AM. I'm used to going to bed at 6 AM, not clocking in.

I'm thankful to be working and making money, but a part of me still wishes I was standing in front of an 800 degree char-broiler with a togo cup filled with Bud Lite (wrapped in a paper towel for plausible deniability) counting down the minutes until I can go smoke.

If I have any advice to other chefs: try to find a way to convert your culinary experience into a retail career - even if it's just for a year or so. In my case, I'm lucky because I started out in retail food service, but it's possible even without a background in retail food service.

Anyways, I'm 4 beers in and going to get some more. Just some random musings and getting shit off of my chest, not that anyone probably cares what I think.
 
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Joined Dec 23, 2004
I've been standing over that broiler for most of the last 25 years! Now I'm the chef of a nonprofit working out of a kitchen that's kind of like a very nice home kitchen, doing much smaller groups. It's kind of an adjustment not getting crushed with tickets at 6:00 pm. I do one or two meals depending on what's going on, usually for 12 to 20 people, then my helpers clean up while I go home. When we're not in program mode I work 9-5 M-F, with vacation, health insurance, etc. The gig is really good, kind of like the country club gigs I used to make fun of. What can I say? I'm 50 years old now, not sure how many more years of 16 hour days I have left in me. While I miss the intensity of the fine dining side I like the intimacy of the small group setting, the benefits and having a lot of control over all aspects of the food.
 
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Joined May 5, 2010
Now, nearly a decade later, I started working as a butcher again. Not only is there an extremely high demand for meat, a lot of the meat plants are sending grocery stores less-processed cuts of meat that need to be broken down further at the store level than in years past.
Don't know where you are, but there is a meat shortage going on while farmers are killing their stock cause there's no one to process the meat.
Also your store orders the less processed meats from a list of what's available cause the meat processors have no labor to do it for you
 
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
Still don’t know what to make of the original post.

In a way it reminds me a lot of my 22 yr old son, has no real desire to do anything. The kid is smart, coordinated, athletic,. He changes jobs about every two years for better pay, but has no real game plan for life. He says just go with the flow, and I tell him if you go with the flow you eventually end up in the toilet.

The best parts of my life where when I had a goal to reach and was focused on that goal: completing a 3 yr apprenticeship, learning a language, trying to leave a hotel where the scheduling was so erratic I never knew if I was working the next day or not.

Oh, and beer? Maybe I’m spoiled here in Vancouver, we have over 35 micro and midi-breweries in the area, but I’m sure most American cities have real beer as well, you just have to look for it.
 
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Joined Sep 17, 2018
Still don’t know what to make of the original post.

In a way it reminds me a lot of my 22 yr old son, has no real desire to do anything. The kid is smart, coordinated, athletic,. He changes jobs about every two years for better pay, but has no real game plan for life. He says just go with the flow, and I tell him if you go with the flow you eventually end up in the toilet.

The best parts of my life where when I had a goal to reach and was focused on that goal: completing a 3 yr apprenticeship, learning a language, trying to leave a hotel where the scheduling was so erratic I never knew if I was working the next day or not.

Oh, and beer? Maybe I’m spoiled here in Vancouver, we have over 35 micro and midi-breweries in the area, but I’m sure most American cities have real beer as well, you just have to look for it.
It's nostalgia, which always seems better than it actually was. A lot of people, myself included think about the good old days of the grind in restaurants but in reality would never go back to that dumpster fire. The crap we used to get away with is a thing of the past and my patience and body can no longer deal with the demands.

On the other note, we have a ton of micro breweries here, just not a lot of good ones.
 
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
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My spring/summer 2010 collection. ( in winter the labels freeze and fall off...)
Not saying they’re all good, but different. The mega:- breweries are like Mickey d’s or Starbucks—all about consistency and blandness that doesn’t offend anyone.

IMHO there never really were any good old days. The days we could drink on the line were the same days the employers would fire you because they didn’t like the way you combed your hair, or that you “bugged” them when you complained that pay checks were a week late.
 
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Joined Sep 17, 2018
View attachment 68480
My spring/summer 2010 collection. ( in winter the labels freeze and fall off...)
Not saying they’re all good, but different. The mega:- breweries are like Mickey d’s or Starbucks—all about consistency and blandness that doesn’t offend anyone.

IMHO there never really were any good old days. The days we could drink on the line were the same days the employers would fire you because they didn’t like the way you combed your hair, or that you “bugged” them when you complained that pay checks were a week late.
We have an over abundance of IPA style breweries here, and for some people I'm sure that's great but I hate IPAs, so I'm a little biased.
 
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Well I can respect that, I hate sours—sour beer, seems the biggest seller here is passion fruit sour, which I personally think is on the same level as vapid bat vomit.

On another note, did we just hijack this thread?
 
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Joined Oct 22, 2010
I'm thankful to be working and making money, but a part of me still wishes I was standing in front of an 800 degree char-broiler with a togo cup filled with Bud Lite (wrapped in a paper towel for plausible deniability) counting down the minutes until I can go smoke.
It's a matter of location and culture.

Bakeries do very well here in Montreal and Quebec as a whole.

However the competition is stiff as there is a high bar of excellence that has to be met.
 
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