Ok so here's a question

Joined Sep 27, 2003
I have heard from many chef's and cooks over the years, that part of the animosity in the whole work environment is the fact that servers generally make more then the cooks do. Obviously as a server I know this is generally true. As a culinary arts student I guess on some level I figured with the right education, good networking into the right establishment that as a cook and further on chef, I would see that balance out.

My questions for discussion are these:
1) As a culinary professional, how do you not let this eat away at you? We do 5 times the work, for less money.
2) Will it always be that way financially until I get to the exec chef level and beyond? As an aside, do restaurant mgrs (FOH) make more the chef’s typically?

In answer to my own question,
With extensive experience as a server, although I genuinely enjoy the rapport I have with my guests, and I absolutely have a vested interest (outside of the money) in seeing them have an Umami experience, I have known servers that hated service and were just in it for the money. I accept as a culinarian I am not in it for the money per se. I am in it for the creative outlet, paling around with the most colorful and crazy people I have ever met and for the fast pace high stress environment on the line I crave and thrive in. I almost don't sweat the money believing that doing what I am passionate about is more valuable then a 300 dollar night in tips.
Call me crazy but it’s what I feel.
How do you feel about it?
Joined Jan 5, 2001
A sales job always has to have performance related financial incentive. Otherwise, not too many people would want the job. This goes for servers too. I do believe there are a handful of really professional servers out there who get satisfaction from a job well done and who recognise their contribution to a diner's experience. But they are a rare breed, and without the financial perks, they might also think about a different career path.

Cooks are a bit different in that they get rewarded from the immediate nature of their hands-on work. They create, they turn something basic into a piece of gastronomic art. The job satisfaction comes from the the passion that goes into the product. Any cook/chef that doesn't feel that way should consider joining the ranks of the wait staff.

Is that fair? yes. You couldn't pay me enough to be a server. I will forego the $ for job satisfaction as a cook. Servers surely think the kitchen staff has it easier than they do because they can curse all they want when the sh-- hits the fan and they don't have to deal with the customers' shenannigans. And they are right: they have a mentally and emotionally draining job. We cooks already know why we feel we have it tougher, so I won't expand on those reasons here. We're right too! ;)

I think if we all traded places once in a while we'd all recognise these difference and appreciate them for what they are. I don't think it's a conflict that will ever go away however. The age old tug-of-war between FOH and BOH is to a large degree nothing more than an outlet for venting our frustrations of many sources.

I hope that answers question 1 - as I see it anyway.

2) Will it always be that way financially until I get to the exec chef level and beyond? As an aside, do restaurant mgrs (FOH) make more the chef’s typically?

Yes, in my experience. There are of course exceptions to the rule. My friend is a pastry sous-chef at the restaurant where I used to work. He makes more $ than the highest paid server by far. And certainly more than I ever made in this business. As for the question of FOH managers salary vs. chefs, it really depends on the ownership structure, respective experience, pay structure and a flurry of other factors.
Joined Sep 21, 2001
I never have bought into the myth that servers should make more money because they have to deal with the public. That is why we tip share. My experience is that most customers think that some of the tips make it back to the kitchen since they are tipping on the whole experience, food, service and ambience. We have been a tip sharing establishment since the beginning, I DO have a negative reputation among "professional" servers in my area since they are not allowed to keep the majority of the tip. But also the base wage for servers in my restaurant is significantly more. The whole idea that I should make less money because I choose to prepare food as opposed to selling food is just another left-over, out-of-date, screw-and-be-screwed aspect of foodservice that should be abolished along with the rest of the medieval mindset that pollutes our industry!!
BTW- since we do tip share, our employee turnover is tiny! Our kitchen crew is stable and happy since they can actually live on what they make, and I hire young, energetic, inexperienced servers who still think they are doing OK making 20% of the total tips. And since tips are pooled and shared, EVERYBODY is in the same boat if the food or service suffers so it helps build TEAMWORK!
Joined Sep 27, 2003
How do you weed out those that do not pull thier weight? That was always what steered me away, because i make my money on my high energy personality that few can keep up with. also, i am passionate about my service style, and few match my sincerity in that way.
just curious...
Joined Jan 5, 2001
Peach, that's a good response. It differs from mine for one simple reason: you are part of the minority which can make a difference as an owner. Frizbee and I are still lowly employees who can only accept or reject the system, and have a very limited ability to change it.

If that sounds like a defeatist attitude, well, yes it probably is. I recently got burned trying to be heard and encourage positive change, and now I'm sitting on the computer at service time, typing this instead of working. (please send your charity donation at my personal address thank you... ;))

I'm glad there are bosses like you out there. I wish others would clue in that this is a mutually beneficial approach to running a business.


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Never assume pay=worth or that pay correlates to amount of work. Most managers in my experience are low work, high pay and not very good at it. The Peter Principle applies. One rises to the level of their incompetence. Really most of these people who top out in a position would be more effective one position down the rung and being paid well for what they do well rather than rewarded for doing an average or poor job.

I agree with the tip sharing principle Peachcreek discusses. My tip is for the total experience, not just one person.

As to the server cook discrepancy? I think supply and demand enter into the equation. There seems to be more people who can follow instructions and cook accurately than there are people who can wait tables to that same level of competency of diner experience.

I can think of a decent number of local restaurants with good food. I can only think of four of those that have really good service. Of those four, only two of them are still in business.

Joined Sep 21, 2001
I believe that many people in the cooking profession fall into the catergory of "starving artist"(at least we get to eat!), i.e. insecure on our ability to be really creative and special. Deep down, or maybe even near the surface, every cook isn't satisfied with what they produce, no matter how good. So we hide in the kitchen and rely on others to give us the word as to whether we are good enough or not. With a blurry line between amateur and professional cooks, no real definative description of what is good and what is not our fears have been played on for years by the greedy middlemen, the servers, the managers and the owners. Most people who have only cooked aren't even aware how much money is made by the FOH. Most places I worked DID NOT WANT THE KITCHEN TO KNOW REALIZING THAT THE KITCHEN STAFF WOULD PROBABLY WALK OUT BECAUSE OF THE GROTESQUE DIFFERENCE OF PAY VS. WORK!!! The whole thing stinks. I have been an advocate for "kitchen rights" for the past 20 years and in that time it has gotten me into plenty of trouble. That is what I get for being a cook with too much information! Everybody keep the faith as nothing happens quickly but change is inevitable. Now repeat after me:
"I'm good enough"
"My food is good enough"
"I'm worth more than this"
"And by golly, people like me"
(thank you, Al Franken!)
Joined Sep 27, 2003
This whole topic came up because of a fellow server who somehow mentioned to me he doesn’t talk about the money he made in the kitchen. I asked why and he said because he didn't want to offend our cooks. I said why would they be offended?
Like I said I guess for me personally it's just been different. I know following my passion and making it my career I will probably never make as much (until I hit mgr positions) as the servers I cook for, but that's the trade to do what I love. I guess I just figured we all knew that going in. But you bring up a good point, many who cook don't have the server exp I have and may have no idea how much is actually being made. I never considered that a possibility
I do know some cooks, and I am sure one day I will be in this position as well, who do both serve and cook. Unfortunately they can’t get on the service floor during peek money nights because they are fabulous cooks, who are always scheduled during peek times. I am sure I will continue to serve as well through out my career, just to keep myself informed and pick up extra cash.
Joined Apr 28, 2003
ok ok I can do this...
I'm not good enough
My food isn't good enough
I'm not worth more than this
And by golly, people hate me

:confused: aww crap
Joined Feb 19, 2004
To answer question 1.

Sometimes I try to imagine what my life would be like if I didn't cook. Life without being surrounded by good food seems rather hollow. The cold reality of the world that surrounds us, the culture that invades our souls, the depravity of man against man, would be rushing relentlessly forward were it not for the living protection we buffer ourselves with, as cooks.

By surrounding ourselves with things of movement, decay, death, birth, and beauty pervade in kitchens. They are the accoutrements of life with which we have professionally surrounded ourselves. The glorious intensity of cooking, and the spiritual reward contained therein, cannot be compared to any other art or science.

The inception and execution based on understanding of many asynchronous systems and correct estimations of times for error and windows of correction brings a depth of reward that can only be found within.

I know that's a little long winded, but that's the most accurate way I can describe it. The pure joy of cooking in inside every person who wishes to have it, but to study the process can bring a much deeper breadth and depth of understanding.

It is your life in the kitchen, how shall you live it? Are you to be a person who recognizes quality and strives towards ideals, or one who permits life to walk by, unmoved by your presence? Churning out mediocrity without a thought as to our purpose in living here on earth? Or will you see every detail, and learn everything you can from the environment around you?

I can’t say I’ve ever done this for money; it’s always been a spiritual quest.

However, to answer question 2.

Once you climb high enough you’ll make more than the hourly employees, but you have to prove you’re worth it, everyday, without complaining ever, to anyone, in order to earn the respect of your future peers. And part of that is pretending you make more than $8.50 an hour, which is what it works out to sometimes. The discipline to do that it what creates internal and external growth.
Joined Oct 13, 2001
Peach you hit the nail square my friend . Tip sharing is where its at .
I have worked as a second job off and on for six years at a upscale little bar and grill which seats about 50 and we cut the tips at the end of the shift flat out. This makes for such a fun place to work as we all work as a team.
If the server is busy then I carry the plates to the table , and if im in the weeds well the server acts as my runner or prep and we all do the dishes .
As a side note the customers love this kind of interaction between the staff because they know we are all doing the best we can to take care of them!
The way tips are handled in most establishments is as outdated as most of the other old school restaurant concepts . Most owners should embrace this concept as it gives there establishment a caring envirement and the customer can see this.Think about it if you are an owner because this is one thing you can realy do to change customer service and improve the quality of your employees lives .My rant, Doug.....................


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
Though I love the whole tip sharing idea, and would love to see it implented in many places, isn't forced tip sharing illegal in many states? I thought that management does not have the right to force servers to share their tips, or are those laws no longer in existence?
Joined Sep 21, 2001
If our accountant had her way, we would go to "allocated tipping"- all the tips get split out and taxed before the server gets them. Perfectly legal, and the IRS likes it because they get more accurate numbers on what the tipped employees make.
Joined Apr 13, 2004
I also used to be a server before a cook. I make less money but I love cooking, I love learning and I'm way happier in the kitchen than I ever was in the front. I don't think servers have an easier job at all. I know I worked as hard in foh as in the kitchen but got a lot less enjoyment from it. I think if cooks and servers had to trade jobs for a few shifts there would be a lot more appreciation for what the other does.
Joined Nov 29, 2001
That formula is actually up to the owner of a given restaurant. If that person has spent any time behind a stove, the distribution of loot will be more equitable.

Some restaurants have mandatory tip-sharing. The kitchen does the work and the waitstaff is a delivery system, nothing more. The only restaurant where the waitstaff makes a marked difference is Hooters.
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