Why are cooks paid so little when they have to work so much?

Cdp

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ok,
big topic,
maybe i am partial retard or have no economic sense,

but why is it....
that our trade is exploited,
help me understand why is it that our trade is pushed for longer hours shittier pay and worse conditions,
don't get me wrong i love my job and i like to think i am not to bad at it.
got chef of the year through Mecure Accor hotels so i can hold my own.

but why are we worth less
i know the hours you guys put in i see the work on here that shows the craft of years of pain but yet your worth less than a kid at bunnings (or costco) yet more more people leave the industry each year and are replaced with less qualified people who will produce a semi sorted product that looks like a meth lab in a bikies yard.


this is all come about ... i had a family night went out for dinner
my old commis chef was running now a sous and my 2nd year apprentice now qualified next month was doing the service,

they came out and said hi etc,
hows thigns i ask...
he said he's resigning once he has his ticket ...the other is going to go into another field.

once again more more are leaving the industry and we are having to fly chefs in on a 457 visa to fill spots,

so people why how can we fix this,

is it training? is it best conditions

what is it???
 
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Why?

Easy!

We are our worst enemies.

By "we", I mean the hospitality industry. Short answer, there's too much competition for the dining dollar.

Look, you're standing on a busy street of any major city in the world, and you're hungry
What influences your decision to eat at x or y restaurant?

Its the price point. Not the enthnicity, the style or reputation if the place, its the price point. Within 5 walking minutes you can eat, say, Thai, or Italian at three different price ranges.

If that isn't competition, then I don't know what is.
That translates into squeezing every penny available in order not to go bankrupt for every restaurant in the immediate area. The owners almost always work harder and longer than the employees, work harder to get business to keep the good employees.

I know this well, I was an owner for more than 20 years. People think I made money when I sold my business last year. Truth is, the sales price wouldn't even cover my my pay at 20 cents on the dollar that I gave up in my first two years of running the place, and my initial investment that I put into the place.

Short answer, there's too much competition in this industry to pay any one decently.
 
1,770
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Joined Dec 23, 2004
Over the years I've come to see several different tracks that cooks take. Some that are smart, talented and hard working will rise through the ranks and work into Sous or Exec spots fairly quickly. That takes some luck to be sure, not just talent. The next group I see are smart and hardworking- they quickly see a dead end job and jump to another field, usually building upon skills they honed in the kitchen in some way. Maybe that's becoming a food rep or maybe just a completely different field.

There are also people I've worked with that are conscientious, pretty reliable and pretty hard working- your drone/worker-bees. They don't necessarily have the drive or ambition to work their up through the ranks, being pretty content to take life as it comes. I've actually known a lot guys and gals that fall into this category, often working the same job at the same restaurant for many years. Occasionally they'll make a lateral move for a little more money or when the place they work closes. I can respect those people since they're kind of one of the major legs holding up the table.

The next category I work with is the kids who's first job is cooking or dish pit. They tend to do it for a while til they outgrow it or decide to move on to something else. Often they finish college or otherwise find a "real job". They're often good workers- the fact that they're not in it for the long haul isn't a big deal.

Of course, there are the ones that work in the kitchen because they can't do anything else. They have too many facial tattoos, long criminal records or drug/alcohol habits that make holding a more respectable job impossible. A sub-category are the burn-outs that have some talent but have burned out from years of living the life. It's risky to rely on this group of cooks. They miss a lot of work either hung over or in jail, and since they never rise too far up the ladder they tend to not value their job much; if anything at all comes up they're likely to bail on you.

I realize this is a long non-answer sounding answer, but I'm coming to a point! As foodpump points out there's a lot of competition for the dining dollar. In my hometown of 175k there are now 700 restaurants- this counts fast food, food trucks, mall food courts, etc. A few of those places have great reputations and can command high prices while filling virtually every table every night. Most aren't so lucky. With at least half of them, price and location are the main draw. People will go to the Taco John's location that's the most convenient and hammer it on Taco Tuesday when hardshells are $.99. McD's, BK, Wendy's, Taco Bell, etc have thin margins and high volume. Their simple menu and high degree of automation reduces the skill level needed to work there to point where a monkey could probably do some of the jobs. No one pays those people a lot of money because you don't need to. At the higher end some cooks make fair money but competition for the good spots in the good kitchens is fierce; some will take less money to work in a great kitchen for a well regarded chef.

Lastly regulation is a big part of it. The primary religion in the US isn't Christianity- it's Capitalism. The game is mostly rigged in favor of Capital and Labor has been almost completely vanquished. Union membership is at all-time low levels. Min wages are well below subsistence/poverty levels and the Plutocrats and Oligarchs in the majority of statehouses won't allow that to change. We subsidize billion dollar corporations by supplying food stamps and welfare to their workers so that corporations can get away with paying them almost nothing. At-will employment gives workers virtually no rights and no bargaining power. Increasing automation allows jobs to be cut and profits paid out to shareholders instead.

The long and the short is that while restaurant work has always been lower paid, it's now the tip of the spear, the leading edge of the new trend towards increasingly poor pay with ever less security. As time goes on more and more people will rely on the 'gig economy' with little chance of meaningful work or job security.
 

Cdp

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Joined Aug 31, 2017
first off kudos for a stella read,

alot different here to what it is in the states but from what you said it is bang on correct from what i know.

there is a 60% drop in attendance at tafe ( trade school) first year and 80 in the 2nd year

This is just showing that our craft is dying yet the writting is on the wall

and your right there are several different players in kitchens
the alco/drug dependant

the one who does not want to go home
the one who thinks they can change the world and the small percentage that feels they can make it through and are quickly fooled but it is too late they have been in far to long and don't know how to get out.

you see the 2 chefs my commis and apprentice
these guys were good i mean they good of gone somewhere but i didn't help them by saying if your not happy get out now or you will enter the culinary black hole..you go in and never come out.
 

pete

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I'm not one to spend time bashing the fast food, chain restaurants, but in this case, I have to lay a lot of the blame on them. They sell food for so cheap that it makes it hard for the rest of the industry to compete, and this reverberates all the way through the industry, up to even the fine dining realm, to some extent. I agree with foodpump, to an extent. People make decisions based on their "checkbook" often. I'm not saying that this is the only thing they base their decisions on, but it does, often, play a role for the majority of us.
 
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My opinion is that this industry is changing. The human resource, like all the others, is still one of the many resources in this business, one of the least valuated, although being the most important. As this important resource becomes ever more scarce, many establishments will eventually fail to operate. The change is happening; this industry will not die, but surely it will be different than what we know today.
 
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It's hard to even 'blame' the fast food industry alone. They can sell a burger for less than it costs to produce one as result of a lot of subsidies and decision made by the government over the years since WWII. Productivity has exploded- today a single farmer can feed 150 people vs something like 20 back in WWII. The US is a huge producer of food which is good as the world needs food. But we have done it with tons of pesticides and fertilizers which are creating massive pollution and tons of prophylactic antibiotic use in animals which is fueling resistant organisms.

Co-mingled with this abundance is an addiction to cheap food. With govt subsidies companies buy wheat and corn for less than it costs to grow with the public making up the difference. On the one hand it's good to keep the cost of food as a percentage of income low- that's good for the public. But making things like meat artificially cheap is creating an ecological nightmare for the planet. The high cost is being masked by low prices. The same impact is seen with fast food. While fast food probably isn't the public health hazard some make it out to be we do have an unhealthy fixation with it; it's harming our health and making it hard for other restaurants to compete.
 

phatch

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Is there any other industry where the consumer is as informed as they are about food? Not that customers are deeply informed and knowledgeable or talented. But More specifically the customers also shop at grocery stores and cook their own meals at least occasionally. They see the prices for onions and celery and chicken and beef and they have an inkling of how fast something can come together and what it would cost them to do it. So if you're trying to get their casual dining dollar rather than an event meal dollar, the margins clearly have to be more limited. As a restaurant you're not just competing with other restaurants, you are also competing with what the customers are willing to do for themselves for a particular price.
 
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Mayonnaise.
How many people on this forum make their own?
How many people on this forum buy it at the store instead?
Is mayo from the store cheaper to buy than it is to make?
Does mayo bought from the store taste better than mayo made by hand?

I think this mayo scenario is a microcosm of our culture. People no longer cook. It is a dying facet of our day to day lives. Many don't even know how to cook. A lot of their food decisions are based on ease and convenience, not just the wallet.

People's palates have suffered and degenerated as a result. They can't discern or appreciate the differences between Chili's and a small independent chef driven restaurant.
 

Cdp

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Joined Aug 31, 2017
ok wow alot of topics going on here,

greay reads from all.

so.. first off
your right we can't blame customers and fastfood industry alone,
however
you are right about how it is changing as some of you know the current tough love in a kitchen is a cotton wool compared to what we went through.
all i got was RYAN!!!! ( in German Accent) foundations foundations as I told you build skyscrapers poor work make shacks.
DO IT AGAIN...NOW!
Yes Chef,



today you nearly on the verge of holding hands can we do it like this
we are today pulling sugo sauce out of a can rather than make it.

a 2l tin of sugo (nap sauce) product by nestle profesional series is an excellent product but you pay $14 a can for it

i can't make it for that,
time labour food gas etc
and have it going for 4 hrs
it can't be done.
so less and less chefs are chefs most are good cooks.

yet the coin to paya chef a decent wage is not an option

this industry is changing at a rapid rate,
my chef used to work for a massive events team for stadium Australia
all the music gigs top gear stuff like that ok,
now i heard about bulk product being made and sent out to the client in the uk 10 years ago saying chefs are dying in the uk they are just not there.
and the ones they have the squeeze harder and harder to get through each qtr.

i never knew you could make madras from powder - i hate powder pre made anything..
guess what... this was all spices cloves garlic all dehydrated,
boil water cream and stock.
you have an excellent dish that seriously made me consider where the industry is heading.



But 25 years ago a chef was on the same money as a builder and a sparky ( in Aust)
but only in the last 8-10 years chefs have dropped badly in numbers.
something we can relate to...

this is a sheet from bunnings (costco)

Bunnings Warehouse Salaries
Job Title Bunnings Warehouse Salary
Bunnings Team Member $20.83/hr
Customer Service $22.10/hr
Customer Service Team Member $25.11/hr
Sales Assistant $19.66/hr

+penalty rates and p/h rates
+Break and meal allowances

coupe of thoughts here both very very good reads.

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/fo...e/news-story/8d53b7165500bdecdb48c3bc37f5948d

and

http://www.foodservicenews.com.au/latest/australia-you-re-running-out-of-chefs





so......am i crying like a school yard bitch with a scrapped knee or am i onto something??
 
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Joined Mar 3, 2016
Is there any other industry where the consumer is as informed as they are about food? Not that customers are deeply informed and knowledgeable or talented. But More specifically the customers also shop at grocery stores and cook their own meals at least occasionally. They see the prices for onions and celery and chicken and beef and they have an inkling of how fast something can come together and what it would cost them to do it. So if you're trying to get their casual dining dollar rather than an event meal dollar, the margins clearly have to be more limited. As a restaurant you're not just competing with other restaurants, you are also competing with what the customers are willing to do for themselves for a particular price.

Yes, there is quite a lot of substance to this.
Also with restaurant wine lists. The average markup is roughly three times cost, but the amount of times I've had guests complaining because they can buy the same bottle for x$$ at the local bottle shop...shheeesh!
It never helps to try to explain overheads, labour costs etc to these guys.
 
169
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Joined Mar 3, 2016
i never knew you could make madras from powder - i hate powder pre made anything..
guess what... this was all spices cloves garlic all dehydrated,
boil water cream and stock.
you have an excellent dish that seriously made me consider where the industry is heading.
We had an amazing Indian head chef in our banquet department and on occasion, he would make these wonderful curries- rich, beautiful depth of flavour and highly enjoyed by all our guests. I have spent a lot of time watching and learning from all the great chefs I've worked alongside in my career, even though I'm FOH.

So, with his traditional Indian background, I was very keen to learn how he mixed and ground his spices to make such wonderful curry pastes.
His answer? Mae Ploy. Big commercial quantity tubs of the stuff.
His reasoning?
"I can't make it better, quicker or cheaper, at the price point."
And I know for a fact that his was not the only kitchen that used this product. Seriously, if you can get your hands on it, give it a try, it's good.

Likewise, we had a banquet chef who honestly didn't know how to make mashed potatoes without adding powdered potatoes to the real ones.

High volume events always invite cost cutting and corner cutting in kitchens. Most banquet kitchens now buy their vegetables in bulk, already peeled, portioned and often par-cooked. It's the nature of the industry nowadays.
 
1,770
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Joined Dec 23, 2004
I think this mayo scenario is a microcosm of our culture. People no longer cook. It is a dying facet of our day to day lives. Many don't even know how to cook. A lot of their food decisions are based on ease and convenience, not just the wallet.

People's palates have suffered and degenerated as a result. They can't discern or appreciate the differences between Chili's and a small independent chef driven restaurant.

Yep, that's definitely been the trend for years now. It's remarkable, driving down the main drags in my hometown; even on a Monday night if you take a look at 6:00 pm you'd swear not one home in the entire town of 150k had a kitchen! I do think it's the norm for a high percentage of people to eat the majority of their meals away from home. I think there are reasons for this that are good and some bad. On the good I think people are a bit more culinarily aware nowadays and interested in exploring food- so that's a plus. On the other hand a lot of people are working at least two jobs, or a job and a "gig" like driving Uber, working 60+ hours trying to attain the quality of life our parents had working 40 hours. That leaves them little time or spirit left to slave away over a hot stove.



So, with his traditional Indian background, I was very keen to learn how he mixed and ground his spices to make such wonderful curry pastes.
His answer? Mae Ploy. Big commercial quantity tubs of the stuff.
His reasoning?
"I can't make it better, quicker or cheaper, at the price point."
And I know for a fact that his was not the only kitchen that used this product. Seriously, if you can get your hands on it, give it a try, it's good.

Mae Ploy does make some good stuff! Really that's a big difference between now and when I got into the restaurant world back in the early 80's. There really are a ton of convenience items and specialty products available today that either didn't exist back then or that weren't carried by the big vendors. Again, I suppose one could view that as a positive or a negative. On the plus side they make it easier to achieve the finished result you want quickly and easily, but I suppose the snob in me is dismayed by the fact that even a lot of professionals are losing the ability to cook from scratch.
 
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Ah, the convienience products...

I love those! Its true, the quality is usually there, and usually the price point can't be beat.

But I love them becsuse every one and their dog uses them.
I don't . Therefore, I have a unique product that I can sell at a fair price, rather then base my pricing on what the guy across the street is selling it for.

About chains and franchises.....
The goal with a franchise is not about the customer, or the restaurant even. The goal is to sell custom food products and other items to your franchisee for whatever price you feel like charging, the franchisee HAS to buy from you. The only way out is for the franchisee to sell and fob off the mess to another schmuck.

Oh, the times, they are a'changing. And in the future the only restaurants that survive, thrive, retain and pay staff a decent wage are the ones who put out a unique product. In other words, put out good food that people are willing to pay for....

As Robin Williams would say ...." what a concept".....
 
1,770
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Joined Dec 23, 2004
Oh, the times, they are a'changing. And in the future the only restaurants that survive, thrive, retain and pay staff a decent wage are the ones who put out a unique product. In other words, put out good food that people are willing to pay for....

As Robin Williams would say ...." what a concept".....

I would say that remains to be seen.
 
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^ I agree wholeheartedly.

I took my dogs for a walk just now, and spent my thinking time on this subject.
In my town, at least, the divide between lower end cheaper dining and higher end quality dining has narrowed considerably since I started in the game.
Nowadays, you can get fairly good food, cooked professionally and by very talented chefs without having to go to a white linen venue.
The availability of fresh produce and good quality proteins, coupled with a greater access to good information and resources for cooking means that everyone is able to raise the bar for good food.
In my town, the big trend now is for small bars with funky drinks list and tapas style dining.
It's a fad, yes, but some of the food these young hipsters are putting out is really good.
It's kitchen evolution. Some of these chefs would have a puzzled look on their face were I to show them dishes from classic French.

When I started, no one had paint brushes, teat pipettes or offcut tree trunks as plating devices.
I started at an international high end chain hotel. We were five star luxury at the time.
As an example of what I'm trying to say, allow me to explain our breakfast buffet.

Cereal: individual little boxes of corn flakes, All-Bran and Rice Bubbles
Milk: be wowed by the fact we have low fat as well as full cream.
Juice: freshly squeezed from the bottle
Fresh Fruit: oranges, apples, pineapples, some grapes, canned manadarin and because we were luxury, kiwi fruit.
Toast: yes, white or brown
Butter: yes, and margarine if you can overlook the little catering packets
Eggs: scrambled, fried or poached. In the Bain Marie
Bacon: in a big chafing dish, cooked at about 5am
Coffee: drip filtered, at about 5am and whenever needed after that.
Tea: bags

Keep in mind, this was the very top end hotel in its day.
Even typing this makes me laugh now - ("what? No gluten free sourdough? No almond milk? NO KALE?!?!?)
 

pete

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I do think it's the norm for a high percentage of people to eat the majority of their meals away from home. I think there are reasons for this that are good and some bad. On the good I think people are a bit more culinarily aware nowadays and interested in exploring food- so that's a plus. On the other hand a lot of people are working at least two jobs, or a job and a "gig" like driving Uber, working 60+ hours trying to attain the quality of life our parents had working 40 hours. That leaves them little time or spirit left to slave away over a hot stove.
This is so true! If both parents are working 9-5 jobs, they don't even get home until almost 6pm, then to get dinner ready and on the table, now you are looking at probably close to 7pm-and the kids have homework, reading, practicing piano or whatever. Sure you can prep stuff in the morning and throw it in the slow cooker, but who wants to do this all the time? In the morning you also have to get yourself ready, the kids ready and off to school. That 9-5 job may actually require getting into work early, or at the very least you have to leave before 9 to get there on time. You bet we eat out a lot! Not because we don't know how to cook (I'm a trained chef, who's basically now an administrator in foodservice). It's because, after a long day at work, there's very little energy to cook a full meal that we won't sit down to eat until 7pm or later. But, we can't afford to go out to decent places a few times a week so it's often, pizza, cheap chains, or crappy buffets-not for enjoyment, but merely for sustenance..
 
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I had a job interview where the chef I was being interviewed by was going on and on about how it was getting easier and easier to buy RTU and convenience products because of the lack of qualified help to keep his kitchen staffed. His point was that there were people who were culinary school grads. Getting them to want to stay and be committed for a few years to where they were worth training? That was an issue. He could only pay so much. Finding line cooks was easy he told me. He went on to tell me they are a mixed bag when it comes to actual cooking skills, whether they understand his version of French cooking and so on. Then he was into the conversation about how much things are changing and its not like it used to be and everything is going downhill. H*ll in a handbasket.
Cdp, you'd have plenty to talk about with this guy. Too bad he's probably dead by now.
I had that conversation in 1985.

And to finish the story? I didn't get the job.
 

Cdp

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Joined Aug 31, 2017
Have to say woke up at 530 this morning little ones want bottles sat down and actually thought about what would of come of this topic,
it is a volatile discussion but one with substance, i truly look forward to having to read what has transcribed,




ok...
Spoke to my headchef while we were prepping this massive f-off function for a large European Car Group
about this whole thread and the views of others...

As I explained to him he stopped me and said this topic comes around very 10 years or so and gets more involved each time,
but still can't quite work out that the skill quality is dropping at a rapid rate the demand for better is at an very rising high,

and if it means polishing a turd to get by...well so be it.


the bit that shits me is he says is how the fruit bats on tv with no desire to do the hard yards ina kitchen but expect to be given 250k when they win with plate of kale done 3 ways, you know they won't last a big service with a customer asking for sauce on the side.
 
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