Joined Dec 9, 2006
I am a 22 year old male culinary student, in California. enrolled in a Le Cordon Bleu program in Pasadena! I have just started culinary school, and currently just finished my first term! My school offers 1-time events, ( which is local places in the industry, that need help for one night or certain events ) ….. I pulled a full day of school today ( up since 3am ) and was scheduled to be a prep cook at a local high end country club right after school. I arrived about 45 minutes early (as always) and made my way through the kitchen to meet the chef and the staff, ect: I found the executive chef, as soon as he seen me, ( I was full dressed in clean school uniform ) he looked at me and told me that he did not want me, he was not going to have me working in his kitchen, he said my tattoos were the reason why I was not permitted to work for him, ever! I handled it very professional, and told him, sorry- I will call the school and see if they could send another student down asap. And said thank you, and byebye. ?????????? now when I sat back and thought about it, he expressed major discrimination against me. Which here in the states is very illegal! I told the person in-charge of arranging this event at my school, she said ooooh that kinda thing happens sometimes. “I am prepared to face all the hurdles that this industry can through at me” I am not mad, but kind of am wondering what I should –if anything- about this. I though of going to the president of the school about it, but, ya, I don’t know. See my tattoos are on my face, I have flames tattooed on in the form of a mustache!! I understand that it is quite the first impression, but I have a 4.0 in school, work hard, and earn my keep! I know in the end it his loss, but I am kind of pisst for the fact that he thinks he is better than me because he wares a Rolex, and drives a BMW. So I know I just press on from here, and take this a great lesson in self control and patience. But it really bites when these things happen.
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Joined Sep 5, 2006
Unfortunately, I'm pretty certain this will not be the only chef that will not care for your tatoos- there are many traditionals in the culinary world. Luckily, there are a lot of open-minded chefs currently and up- and- coming in the industry also. I'm a student in Sacramento, CA. Personally, I will work once with anyone, and let their talents speak for them- not their appearance. I have another student that I work with that is young, rough, and inked- and once you get to know him, he is great! I'd say just hang in there and keep up the good work! (but if you want to work in traditional settings, you might want to one day concider removing the tats) As a student, you can't do much about it.... but if it was a hiring situation- you might have a discrimination suit. Keep Cooking and Good Luck!
:chef: :chef:


Joined Jul 28, 2006
You may very well find that more traditional establishments have more stringent requirements on appearance.
It's like a dress code.
Where there is a chance that the customers (especially "high end" types) may catch a glimpse of the kitchen staff, these requirements become gospel.
Perception out weighs truth every time...
Your tats sound interesting, but they also sound somewhat radical, as in not something seen everyday, and as such, are initially "shocking".
Probaly shocked the exec immediately, and he reacted...
It is *not* discrimination, nor is it illegal to refuse employment based upon appearance that is elective (your choice to adorn yourself with body art).
Your offer to call the school and arrange for a replacement was a class move, but from my perspective that's pretty much the end of your options or recourse.
What if you grew a moustache of hair?? I imagine no one would be the wiser about what was underneath...
But then again, that's sort of dismissing the whole reason for the tats in the first place, isn't it??
Joined Nov 8, 2001
Someone correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Disney will not hire you if you have visible tattoos, facial hair, or a male with piercings or long hair.

While that may be one extreme, I don't believe that it is discrimination. I personally have not had to address this problem, but I work at a conservative high end country club, and I do not think I could put someone with facial tattoos on the omelet station. I personally do not have a problem with it, but my clientele would and they are the ones that are paying the bills. I think the chef at that country club was thinking the same thing.
Joined Jun 29, 2004
Many restaurants won't hire you if you have any visible tattoos... If they're covered up then most people are OK with them. Then again, this goes for most professional-type jobs in general. Many restaurants also won't allow facial hair (I keep my beard well trimmed though, no one's ever complained about it).

Also, welcome to the world of high end dining. When I first started in fine dining restaurants, I was broke as @#$%, living in a housing project. I'd be serving foie gras, caviar at work, then go home and eat boiled pasta with hot sauce... The other apprentices would go home to their families, or go out to nightclubs, I'd go home and find the police at my door...(btw, keep in mind I've never been arrested or charged with any crime - however I've been hassled or threatened by the police on many occasions, I've even had them break into my house before...)

Anyhow, good luck finding a restaurant. You will find that in this industry discrimination runs rampant, alot of chefs are seemingly stuck in another century... And when you get into high end restaurants, nearly everyone has money, and don't be surprised if they look down on you. Thankfully I've built myself a reputation, people know that I'm knowledgeable about food, wine, and a skilled cook, so I get along better with industry people these days. I've also got out of the 'hood', and am getting along better with society in general. It'll get better...
Joined Nov 29, 2006
Lol I go there too and i've seen you around! You had chef harrison for intro 1, right? If so, then it must be you! My first one time event wasn't as smooth as I wanted it to be too. my friends and i decided to help out the boston culinary group and it was a real backbreaker. the executive chef was short fat and mean. we plated up 2100 plates and cleaned them all at the was really hard but really fun and a great experience.

Anyways, I don't think tattoos are a big saw chef cone's tattoos on his neck and maybe you've seen chef pergl (full body tatoo, mustache, pluggs in his ears) smoking in the smoaking area. There was another chef too who has two full sleeves. so anyways, I wouldn't think too much of it...
Joined Apr 12, 2005
Oh it is definately discrimination, it's just not illegal.

Fortunately the industry is rife with other like-minded and tattooed souls, so you shouldn't have too much trouble finding a home once you are looking for one. You definately handled it the right way, now he doesn't have ANOTHER reason to not want tattooed kids in the kitchen...

Joined Sep 28, 2006
I think you might be being a touch hard on him; I'd be surprised if it was about being "better than you"; more likely he's concerned about being chewed out by one of his customers or his manager. The club is likely to have a personal appearance code for employees, and it might well include a ban on facial tattoos.

It's probably not exaggerating to say that facial tattoos in the United Kingdom would bar you from working in 98% of kitchens. Many head chefs probably wouldn't even bother interviewing you - walk through the door with a tattoo on your face and you might as well walk straight out again; and no catering agency would touch you. Many employers' appearance guidelines include concealing visible tattoos and removing facial piercings at work.

Rightly or wrongly, facial tattoos (in British society, at least) send very aggressive and confrontational signals to potential employers. As a manager they say to me "f- you; I'm unmanageable; I'm going to do my own thing and I don't care what anyone else thinks of me". In a profession that relies on teamwork, processes and procedures, that's not the sort of employee that most kitchens will turn double somersaults to employ.

Please don't be offended by this, it's not a comment on you personally, and I know that you will have carefully considered all these consequences when you decided to have the tattoo done. I agree with Erik that it sounds as though you handled it with absolute professionalism.
Joined Jan 9, 2007
Hmm... I'm heavily tattooed myself, but I've never had any problems. Nothing personal, but facial tattoos scream "MENTAL ILLNESS!!!". I know more than a handful of people that have extensive facial tattooing and not a single one of them would do it again. My boyfriend is a tattoo artist and he is heavily tattooed also. He refuses to do any work on the face. I've worked in several fine dining restaurants where a great deal of the staff, if not the majority, is heavily tattooed (even in open kitchens). I would really consider having them lasered off of your face. Some of the laser clinics will give you a break on the fees if they are gang related or on your face. It's sad but true, your decision will stigmatize and limit you for the rest of your life.
Joined Oct 3, 2006
Professionalism gets you the job, your boss could care less about your "individualism" or your "self-expression".

Nothing is illegal about creating a professional, relaxing atmosphere for the guest to enjoy.
Joined Nov 29, 2006
If he doesn't want to work with you, then you surely don't want to work with them. There's nothing worse than working next to someone you're uncomfortable with, or don't like. Some chefs I talked to told me that if you're not happy, then the kitchen isn't happy and an unhappy kitchen pumps out unhappy food :mad:.

In the end, it should come down to your abilities as a chef, rather than your appearance as a chef. One chef at a one-time event I went to told me "your customers can care less how you look, as long as their food looks good."

Good luck in Intro 2.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Sorry dude, in the fine dining and chain worlds it ain' t so.
In this case perception is reality, and a customer who sees facial tatoos will want to know WHY this person preparing his/her food will want to make this particular kind of statement, and may or may not want to have his food prepared by such a person. It has nothing to do with the tatoo-ee, but rather the customer's perception of the tatoo-ee. The higher up you go in fine dining, the greater the reaction the customer will have to facial tattoos and piercings. The customer will take his money somewhere else, and the business will feel this. Let's face it, a restaurant is a profit making venture. If a faulty piece of equipment is losing you money, you either fix it or replace it, if an employee is having anything but a postive impact on the customer, you either shape up the employee or toss him out. If you feel that profit is a dirty word, please bear in mind that it's the restaurant's profit that pays your salary.

In the chain restaurants there are very set HR guidelines to follow, the holy commandments from head office, and virtually every corporate HR program views facial tatoos and facial piercings in the same manner as described above.
Joined Oct 11, 2006
Sorry fella, but discrimination entails rendering judgement against someone based on an involuntary characteristic, such as race or physical handicap. I'd assume you considered the consequences of facial ink before you got it. I doubt this is the last you'll hear of it in the job market. If he wants to not hire you because he doesn't like your sneakers, that's legally legit. Pigheaded and shortsighted, but legit.

My $0.02: grow a real mustache for a while. Get a job. Shave. In that order.:smokin
Joined Jan 26, 2007
Disney does have this policy, as do many other organizations...
Unfortunately, if the policy is written/documented and applies to ALL INDIVIDUALS, it is not discrimination...
Doesnt matter if you are white, african american, polish, german, italian, or a little green monster from spiderman's neighborhood...
If the policy says "professional appearance with no visible body piercings, tattoos, or blue hair"...(just kidding about the blue hair)...then the company has every right not to offer employment...
Perfectly legal if the written/documented policy applies to ALL INDIVIDUALS...
Now, if that chef vetoed your look based on HIS first impression, then you have a case...In either situation, might not be worth the expense...
Best of luck...
Joined Jul 28, 2001
I don't want to muddy the waters, but as an employer, I have the right to hire or not hire anyone, period.
As an applicant, you have the same rights, to work there or not.
Joined Jan 26, 2007
I agree with your freedom to hire/not hire an employee...
Heck, I'm all for it!!!
If the reason for the "not hire" is based SOLELY on someone's appearance, then the legality of the not hire comes into question...
If the company has a policy in place, then there is a built in C.Y.A., so to speak...
Of course this discussion has a multitude of "what if's", "circumstances" and personal biases which will always cloud the situation...
All things being equal, (sounds like an economics class), appearance, race, and religion should NEVER factor into the hiring process...
Joined Jul 28, 2001
I understand.
I agree with everything you state, BUT, it is also my job to protect the business in making sure this hire will not effect co workers, customers, etc.
I think the CYA language in large business brings more problems then they resolve. My CYA involves not disclosing my reasons for the not hire. Ultimately it's my descisions that make the business a success or not. If my descisions involve race, color, appearance etc. eventually this will catch up with you.
unfortunately appearance is a factor in employment. Otherwise I would be a great model:smokin
Joined Jan 26, 2007
I agree with your sentiment entirely...Especially if you are the owner/proprietor...Having not had the luxury of being my own boss, I must defer to my experience with corporate operations...
Joined Dec 22, 2006
I disagree with the teacher's decision to force the student out of the class. Really, the student is just there to learn, has paid their tuition, and unless they are a disruption or a poor student, should have equal right to class time even if their hair is purple.

But, that's in the education system where you are paying to be there. In the real world, it ain't going to cut it. The chef should have allowed the student in the class but pulled him aside for his own benefit and told him that unless he gets rid of the tattoo, he'll be unemployed (and professors won't be recommending him to any potential employers).

As students, especially in elementary and high school, kids are taught to express themselves, be happy with themselves, and to shrug off the negative opinions of others. The real world doesn't work that way. When looking for a job you have to conform to what is professional and expected in your industry. No one cares about your individual expression.

Would you hire someone if they came to an interview or to work wearing dirty old pants or a shirt with Calvin peeing on a Ford sign?

Welcome to the real world! Get rid of the tattoo or get a job where tattoos are expected (like a tattoo shop). The tattoo was a huge mistake, and I just hope you don't have a scar after you fix it.
Joined Dec 8, 1999
This particular incident wasn't in the classroom, it was at a country club that was using some temp workers from a culinary school.
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