So sad....

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I live in a very small town (college town, tourist trap) where a dumpy (and i mean DUMPY) one bedroom apartment is going to start around 800, and if you grab a line cook job here, it's very unlikely you'll make more than 10/hr. And the utility rates for downtown living are also MEGA inflated. It's a really insular environment where a lot of cooks got a job in a kitchen through a friend and have never worked anywhere else or with an experienced or educated chef, and genuinely don't realize how lacking their fundamental knowledge in the trade really is.

Contemporary dining in the immediate area generally flounders and dies pretty quickly. The restaurateurs expect thirsty, resilient, prodigy cooks to sacrifice all of their time for little pay, zero benefits, and no personal life because (i suspect) of the way this industry has become so romanticized through reality television, celebrity chefs, and movies. I was a lunatic about working multiple jobs, going outside my comfort zone, and finding kitchens outside of my small town where i could learn, when i was in my early 20s; as i got older, the kids i worked with in their early 20s were mostly just late to work, eager to leave, uninterested in learning, mad they couldn't take off to go to music festivals during busy seasons, and obsessed with getting culinary-inspired tattoos and "title" positions.

I own a tiny bakery where everything is made according to the standards and practices i learned in fine dining; everything is scratch and high quality; everything is made fresh and not frozen. Folks ask me all the time why i don't expand and simply hire people to teach so i didn't have to work so much and the answer is a combination of: rent is too high, the talent pool is too shallow, and we lack an audience who would consistently pay more money for better food. I've literally been name-called by customers for having the audacity to charge 50$ for a cake. If i invested in the overhead to expand the way folks think i ought to, in this particular area, i would run myself into the ground instantaneously, or at best: after the initial excitement died down.

Young people don't want to work in kitchens anymore the way they used to. It's incredibly difficult to make enough money to live, you'll NEVER escape the cycle of renting shared apartments, and the "fun" things your friends are doing with their spare time are generally inaccessible. There are days I just can't imagine what the future of dining will become. I don't know what the solutions are, because people so often demand large portions and low prices, and feel inspired to slam you on social media platforms if you fail to provide. If you want to make great food, it requires a certain minimum in labor, which requires bodies, which requires money (either for skill or in sheer volume of hours). I don't know how this industry will survive in the long run in terms of quality, independent establishments. Folks love to brag about their favorite scratch establishments, and then complain about the prices on their way out the door.
I get your points, as they are valid ones we all have to deal is. My question is how do you think mandated certifications would improve these situations? Don't take this as criticism I have genuine curiosity as I have no answers myself.
 
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The certification in Canada is called the “red seal”, and applies not only to cooks, but to most other trades. Yes it is federally governed, but for us Canucks, has never been in the news or discussed much.

Most of the hotels, fine dining places,and even some of chains require red seal cooks, and pay a bit more than the going rate, as well as having some kind of tip sharing deal as well. These places in turn have “bragging rights” to having “red seal chefs” (not! They are cooks, dammit) and tend to advertise this fact.

While there is an apprenticeship program for red seal, an easier and popular route is to go to a community college, take a short block of schooling, write the test for cook 1, work the required hours to take the cook 2 block of schooling, write that test, then work the required hours to write and cook the red seal test..

A lot of the employers like this system as it A) pretty much guarantees an interested and motivated worker, B) pay scales only jump after the tests have been passed, and C) pretty much guarantees a stable length of employment.

Of course, the pay still sucks pond water, but the employer who requests and pays for a red seal cook tends to treat them with respect, and the cook tends to take their job seriously and professionally.

Hope this provides some insight. My own experiences were with the apprenticeship system in Switzerland, where I signed a 3-way contract with my employer, the Fed gov’t, and myself for a three year apprenticeship. The pay was below living wages, however the employer, in order to train apprentices, had to have over 50% of the work force apprenticed. The cook’s guild which provided the certification set country wide pay scales for the apprentices, and minimums for apprenticed cooks. An employer who did hire a non-apprenticed cook was not obliged to follow this rate.
 
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its tough out here, right??
Indeed it is. But, its nothing like it was back in the day when I started. We had to walk uphill both ways in snow all year round just to get tot work. We had to fetch water from a pump in the town square. We had to salt out meat and fish because ice hadn't been invented yet. And worst of all, our phones had cords and stayed in one place! So, if we wanted to talk to someone, we had to go to their house, go find a phone and hope no one was using it or find these things called pay phones! Can you believe that?? How did we ever manage to emerge from the dark ages? If that wasn't bad enough, social networking was usually that person we worked with who gossipped and knew everyone's business. :lol::rofl:

Cheers!
 
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The toughest part of my last business was when this woman came in and demanded to “talk to the owner”. We had only been open for a month or so. I’ll never forget what she said:

“I’m Mrs. X, head of fundraising for Z Elementary school,(3 blocks down the road)The reason I tell all the parents not to shop here is because you don’t support our sports programs, gr.6 girls volleyball really need new uniforms, and we also need a sponsor for out-of-city tournaments...”

Sure as ( deleted) don’t miss those days....
 
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Hope this provides some insight. My own experiences were with the apprenticeship system in Switzerland, where I signed a 3-way contract with my employer, the Fed gov’t, and myself for a three year apprenticeship. The pay was below living wages, however the employer, in order to train apprentices, had to have over 50% of the work force apprenticed. The cook’s guild which provided the certification set country wide pay scales for the apprentices, and minimums for apprenticed cooks. An employer who did hire a non-apprenticed cook was not obliged to follow this rate.
So in that scenario who decides what and when gets taught to you? Does the employer have to go by a strict curriculum based training program or is it more about skills while doing process that are specific needs of that particular business? Also what role did the government play? Did they actively participate on a regular basis or was it more of a rubber stamp at the end of the contract term situation?

The toughest part of my last business was when this woman came in and demanded to “talk to the owner”. We had only been open for a month or so. I’ll never forget what she said:

“I’m Mrs. X, head of fundraising for Z Elementary school,(3 blocks down the road)The reason I tell all the parents not to shop here is because you don’t support our sports programs, gr.6 girls volleyball really need new uniforms, and we also need a sponsor for out-of-city tournaments...”

Sure as ( deleted) don’t miss those days....
This is another reason I never jumped into the fray of business ownership. While that was my original goal life situations change and it just didn't seem appealing anymore. Not to mention all the media platforms that have transformed everyone into a NY times food critic. I have nothing but respect for people who want to deal with the craziness of owning their own business.
 
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This is another reason I never jumped into the fray of business ownership. While that was my original goal life situations change and it just didn't seem appealing anymore. Not to mention all the media platforms that have transformed everyone into a NY times food critic. I have nothing but respect for people who want to deal with the craziness of owning their own business.
I've been in this business for over 30 years and worked in every kind of food service imaginable. I would recommend to anyone with aspirations in becoming a Chef to make the end game owning their own business. There is more upside to owning your own business than downside. You'll always have the public element to deal with. Whats good is you have full control of your food vision and answer to no one. You're also in a position to make a Hell of a lot more money than if you were working for someone. To me it's the only end game in town. If it isn't then change professions because longevity in this business isn't in your best interest.
I know some of you are chomping at the bit to say the customer is my boss. My answer is, If I exceed my customers exceptions I'll be the one making the rules.
 
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I've been in this business for over 30 years and worked in every kind of food service imaginable. I would recommend to anyone with aspirations in becoming a Chef to make the end game owning their own business. There is more upside to owning your own business than downside. You'll always have the public element to deal with. Whats good is you have full control of your food vision and answer to no one. You're also in a position to make a Hell of a lot more money than if you were working for someone. To me it's the only end game in town. If it isn't then change professions because longevity in this business isn't in your best interest.
I know some of you are chomping at the bit to say the customer is my boss. My answer is, If I exceed my customers exceptions I'll be the one making the rules.

I too have worked in many food services everything from college to hospital, to airline, hotels, restaurants, and so forth. To me, with all of your experience and knowledge, the daily running of a place becomes almost automatic, if you have the right team members on your side.
The one point you made about ownership and not having to report to anyone but yourself is a misnomer. We all have to report to someone, even if we are the owner. The customer decides whether we win or lose. There is no getting around that.
 
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Hi Seoulfood,

In many parts of Europe, students are streamlined into 2 groups at age 15. The first group are those who will take apprenticeships, and the second group goes on to higher education. Those seeking an apprenticeship must find an employer willing to take them on. Most apprenticeships are 3 years with some at two and some at four. You go to school one day a week, and this day is split into one part dealing with everything relevant to your trade, and one part dealing with accounting, German, civics, etc.. The fed govt considers apprenticeships part of the education curriculum, and provides the school, the teachers for the civics part, and the testing and certification. The trade unions-or guilds, if you like, provide the trade curriculum and the teacher for this.

The first year apprentices get paid virtually nothing, but then again they are 15, have never worked before, and need to be shown everything. Second year pays about 10% more, and third year again another 10%, but still waaay lower than what an apprenticed cook would earn.

The bonuses of this system are: A nationally recognized trade qualification at age 18, no debt occurred, and the apprentice is still employed, choosing to leave the employers if they want to. Th only real downside to this is that many 15 yr olds are not ready to choose a career at this age.

The possibility of private N.American culinary schools teaching in 2-3 week blocks is very high, it’s just not that profitable, and then there’s some effort required in logistics, so for the most part the schools figure “p*ss on that idea, it’s too much work”, and of course there’s no one to hold them accountable for anything. The unions in our industry have done nothing, and refuse to even provide members with an audited statement of what’s happening with their dues—let alone a friggin card that identifies them as union members—pretty much as useless as an ashtray on a Harley, but then again, no one’s holding the unions accountable for anything either.

Hope this provides some insight on how this situation has been handled in other countries.
 
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Joined Sep 17, 2018
Hi Seoulfood,

In many parts of Europe, students are streamlined into 2 groups at age 15. The first group are those who will take apprenticeships, and the second group goes on to higher education. Those seeking an apprenticeship must find an employer willing to take them on. Most apprenticeships are 3 years with some at two and some at four. You go to school one day a week, and this day is split into one part dealing with everything relevant to your trade, and one part dealing with accounting, German, civics, etc.. The fed govt considers apprenticeships part of the education curriculum, and provides the school, the teachers for the civics part, and the testing and certification. The trade unions-or guilds, if you like, provide the trade curriculum and the teacher for this.

The first year apprentices get paid virtually nothing, but then again they are 15, have never worked before, and need to be shown everything. Second year pays about 10% more, and third year again another 10%, but still waaay lower than what an apprenticed cook would earn.

The bonuses of this system are: A nationally recognized trade qualification at age 18, no debt occurred, and the apprentice is still employed, choosing to leave the employers if they want to. Th only real downside to this is that many 15 yr olds are not ready to choose a career at this age.

The possibility of private N.American culinary schools teaching in 2-3 week blocks is very high, it’s just not that profitable, and then there’s some effort required in logistics, so for the most part the schools figure “p*ss on that idea, it’s too much work”, and of course there’s no one to hold them accountable for anything. The unions in our industry have done nothing, and refuse to even provide members with an audited statement of what’s happening with their dues—let alone a friggin card that identifies them as union members—pretty much as useless as an ashtray on a Harley, but then again, no one’s holding the unions accountable for anything either.

Hope this provides some insight on how this situation has been handled in other countries.
Sounds interesting. I do agree 15 seems rather young as here we are asking people that are almost 18 the same thing, only their decisions ultimately can lead to years of massive student loan debt. I wish they promoted this type of schooling option more here, with the ability of students to try trade schools without the financial commitment.

The only counter point I want to add that is in my experience the two or three week block cycle style can be profitable. I know my school was making money hand over fist, and they streamlined everything so all your prep was never wasted, and the end of your schooling you essentially became even worse than free labor for them as you were basically paying them money to be allowed to work in their restaurants. The school had multiple affiliations with various culinary federations but nothing on a state or federal level I don't believe.
 
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