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How bad is it being a line cook?? - Page 2

post #31 of 43
Originally Posted by FoodIsLife1 View Post

I have been in the food industry for 27 yrs, I have worked in everything from fast food, 4 star, and family owned restaurants/bars. I have waited tables, bar backed, bounced, worked on every station in the kitchen including expediting. I started as a dishwasher/bus boy at age 19 in a Greek family restaurant/bar and worked for them for 4 years. It took me a yr and ½ to become a cook. Since then I have managed 4 kitchens and worked under 3 chefs. I am currently working at a retirement home. If you love a fast pace job with a lot of stress and can’t see yourself sitting at a computer all day, love food, team work,(if you have a good working team), and long hrs, than this is a job for you. I no longer look at it as a job but a career.

Now or the complaints.

#1 Pay sucks. I make just enough to get by and I don’t own a car or cell phone to make payments on. I live alone and have no children to take care of. I have maxed out at $10 an hour and this is what I was making 15 yrs ago.

#2 The industry has been flooded with low wage none English speaking people that take away the possibility to get a raise, (in America). I actually worked at a BW3’s that the head cook told me.” You work here now, you need to learn Spanish.” I told him that he lives here and he needed to learn English. I lasted 8 months.

#3 I’m going catch heck for this but when I started cooking, the kitchen was all men. Since the incorporation of women I have seen the stress of what has to be said around fellow co-workers and have lost a head chef due to rumors of relations between he and a cook. This was not true. I have also come to see that = pay does not = work. Most from what I have seen is the male does all the heavy lifting, (garbage, fryer oil, stock), and the female does not. I know this is not everywhere but I have seen a lot of it.

#4 Most places are under staffed and work with a skeleton crew. Time requested for being off work are hard to come by.



Welcome to ChefTalk.


It would seem that your 27 years were filled with lots of experiences, which unfortunately left you with some pretty bad scars.

Many of you complaint points seem based on a circumstances with regard to locations, as not all places are flooded with immigrants.

As for the women thing....again it looks as though you had some experiences that were, not always the norm.

A lot of what you point out is true but again, it has a lot to do with the quality of professionalism in the kitchen.


Even in retirement home cooking you still have to deal with people.

Is there an answer?

post #32 of 43
I honestly hate and love being a line cook, your the cooking bitch so at some restaurants we all prep but if a ticket comes I would have to go and that's the last place I wanted to be at when the kitchen is at 100f some times. Yet especially at one place I worked at in particular when we got really busy like balls to the wall busy I would be in charge something g about the stress and everyone even your boss is listening to you feels almost blissful, as for corporate places I was talking g to a guy who used to work at Applebees and they have over 6 microwaves! Still cooking and frying but slot of nuking, slot of corporate restaurants that cook stake actually will precook stakes to get marks then have special setting for how done you want it
post #33 of 43

I saw one post about one person complaining about non-English speaking people and needing to learn Spanish

AS I AM TYPING, there is a "Spanish as first language" chef cooking at Beard House.
You don't get to the premier showcase of American food without talent. PERIOD.

Mexican culture is very pro-hospitality and very pro food.
Many Mexicans have also gravitated to our industry because you can advance without having a college degree. Economic disparity has prevented many from going to college, but they are sending their kids through college at a rate higher than the national average. In our industry you've just got to have a good palate, be willing to work long hard hours, and if anyone is willing to have that work ethic, and they are legal, I say more power to them.

If you want to work in a kitchen, we need to put aside prejudice and learn that our industry is one of the few meritocracies in the world. You get by on talent, attitude and work ethic. PERIOD
I would have to agree that the male does the heavy lifting in most kitchens, but not because of chivalry. It's because of sexual dimorphism. Women in general have less upper body strength. But in all the places, I've worked or visited or hung out in, women have the same opportunities as the guys (but they have to be able to handle the foul language, but most female cooks/chefs I know can out cuss me)

I'm semi retired right now, but if you are racist of misogynist, you never would have made it in any of the kitchens I've worked in and you probably need to look for a new line of work

post #34 of 43
@harrisonh I totally agree with you. A good cook is a good cook no matter what. I worked with a guy who spoke no English but he busted his ass at prep. Another cook translated for us but the reason the work ethic of these immigrants are so high is because for more of the poor families there parents will work hard day and night on the farms to try to push there kids through highschool and if they can't afford it then they to will work the farms and he said that's why he holds his two sons education so high because he can't go get a better job but he can make sure his kids get one. Honestly if everyone in the industry had half the work ethic of that man (Luis and Alvaro are there names) food industry would be a very beautiful place
post #35 of 43
Originally Posted by Rivitman View Post

Well, first, you must be able to distinguish between "bad" and "hard".

"hard" meaning the work can be physically demanding, sometimes painfull and a lot of stress.

"Bad" can mean you have lousy ingrediants tp work with, screwed up mise en place, broken equipment, a crummy waitstaff, a psycho chef, or worst of all, a machiavellian psychopath for an owner.

Funny.  Don't mean to laugh at you, if this is your place of business, but good God, your descriptions of this place is hysterical.

post #36 of 43

My earliest memory is of standing on a chair in the kitchen at home, using an electric mixer to make a cake, while my mom watched. I got my first job in a kitchen the summer before 8th grade, at a drive-in where i made burgers, fries, shakes and all the deep-fried things. Now I am 41, I have two university degrees and a culinary school diploma, and I work a very busy brunch line, and I fucking love it. I have always worked in kitchens to support myself, dishwasher, prep, fast food, baking, and line cooking put money in my pockets from 14 until I graduated from university. I was a teacher for 8 years, and started to feel the potential for burn out, so I quit, went to culinary school, and came back to cooking. I took a 2/3 pay cut going from teaching to cooking and I have no regrets.


I have worked in high-end catering, been a kitchen manager, been a dishwasher (again), been a prep cook, worked all the stations on the line for brunch, lunch, and dinner, worked exactly one large-scale corporate gig (for 6 weeks), and now I have my own catering business, run outdoor commissaries for a few festivals, operate as a hired gun for emergency situations (Your KM had a heart attack, 2 cooks went on tour with their band, and another decided to go full-time at their other job, and you need someone on the line for this weekend's brunch, and today is Friday? Okay!) and I work full-time in a kitchen I love.


If I don't like the vibe of a kitchen, I won't work in it. If it takes more than a couple of days for people to get over the fact that I'm a woman and I'm little, I won't stay. The work is hard, but it shouldn't be bad. I absolutely love the rush during Saturday brunch when I'm leading in the midst of a white-out; I've got 40 eggs cooking, some poaching, some easy, some omelettes, some scrambled, some sunny-up and I'm keeping tabs on all of them, on top of making hashes, french toast, rancheros, checking the levels in the steam table, making sure the poach water is okay, washing my hands every chance I get, pulling a pan of hash out of the oven, singing along to whatever is playing on the radio, shaking my booty and getting a little groove going on here and there, and keeping my bill times around 15-17 minutes.




The time flies, I gobble a piece of bacon or avocado here and there, I shoot shit with the servers, I guzzle watered-down root beer and watered-down juice, bitch about stupid bills, kick avocado pits under the line fridge so I don't step on them, pick stray bits of eggshell out of cooking eggs and cauterize the nerves in my fingertips just a little bit more, and add to the line of burn scars on my upper inner arm because I'm short and the convection oven is tall and I keep flash pans up there.


And then the last bill is sold and we high five and immediately step outside for 2-3 minutes of sitting in fresh air, smoking half a cigarette, checking text messages, and chatting with the kitchen crew from the burrito shop next door, before taking turns going to the bathroom, refilling our drinks and scoping out the front of house, sweeping the kitchen, restocking the line, wiping it down, and getting ready for the next rush.


Eight hours fly by like 1 or 2, and then a drink at the bar with a freshly washed face, adrenaline still pumping, but slower, and then the exhaustion sets in.


I dunno, that doesn't sound bad to me. It's exhilarating, it's skill-testing, it's physically and mentally draining. But it's not bad. Again, the key for me is to only work in kitchens where I feel good. If the pay is too low (of course it's low for the work we put in, but if it's not on par with what I'm usually paid), if attitudes are poor, if cleanliness isn't important, if egos get in the way of smooth flow, if there's bad blood between the servers and the kitchen, if the schedules are stupid, if dollars come before quality, then yes, it can be bad.


But usually it is very, very good.

post #37 of 43

@scamper you just described (the run on sentences kinda bring it all back lol) almost every job I have ever had.

Never worked a line (well not formally and not during a weedy situation) but always bartended high volume clubs, delivered babies at a busy charity hospital (yes the full moon is crazy as well as when hurricanes hit within 50 miles...something to do with the tides and barometric pressure?) , the same hospital but in a trauma ER that supported 4 lifeflight choppers (not babies but on a particular busy nite the organ donation "case manager") and loved every minute of it.


Those that work hard and fast (I saw you kick that pit under the reach in...suppose if you bent over your hair would go up in flames lol) and look up (sometimes 8 but more often longer as always understaffed) and see it is time to go are adrenalin junkies.

Destined to flame out at a young age (my first lumbar fusion was at 36) but what a beautiful flame it is!




I remember one weekend my father's VFW post needed a bartender for some reason or another.

Full on polka band and the hardest thing I did all nite was walk to the end of the bar for waitress orders.

Went nuts.


Donated my time and tips to their "old soldier home" kitty.



post #38 of 43

I am gunna post on this after time has passesd now but, I'm 33 years old' and I started washing dishes as most of us have to get a foot in the door if u wanna swing a blade and use fire to make beautiful food that also taste amazing. I was moved to prep after a few years and bouncing from kitchen to kitchen. I landed in a japanese kitchen and was moved into sushi ( lucky me! )after a few months on prep cuz i would run out of things to do. I like to move fast. I was moved to sushi bar and prep for sushi bar. Long story short, i was there for 8 years learned in stages from the roll cheff up to the sashimi cheff and it was an EXPERIENCE . Line werk is only chaos and a shit show when the line has no one who is in control of everyone. Always stressfull and what not. But I'm at a new place and it's super busy and all the chaos u can think of but it's because we don't have things dialed in correctly and u got one guy just not talking or callin out orders or things that take a second to cook so u can fire it and another guy is making shit too fast and then...then u can pretty mutch stop cuz NOTHING IS GUNNA COME OUT ON TIME!!!!!!. Line cooks get a foot in the ass every god damn day ( when it's busy, but if u werk in a super busy place it's every day ) So in short, PROPS TO ALL US LINE COOKS THAT ARE IN THE TRENCHES! It's a job only so few of us can handle day in day out. But god damn don't days off realy feel good right!

post #39 of 43

Painful!  i know what pain is all about!! After spending hours as a line cook my feet were just throbbing!!  Everyday is difficult as the hours are long and the pain increases but its the people you work with that make it worth while!!

post #40 of 43

I too have worked the line at a retirement home -- its all about the team... no room for slackers!  My back and feet are suffering though so have to make a decision about how to handle that going forward.

post #41 of 43

  Personally I like the line, need that adrenaline rush, but as a longer term goal I'd like to become a private chef rather than moving up the ladder in the restaurant scene. Maybe sous, at a small restaurant... Still going to work lines for the mean time, especially with moving across the country sometime later this year.

post #42 of 43

To be a good line cook you have to thrive under pressure. The pastry chef at my work picked up a 2nd job during the holiday season because it gets slow here during the winter, so she worked retail during the holiday season and she thought it was hilarious how poorly her coworkers were handling the stress of it. How it was nothing compared to a restaurant and she doesn't even work the line. If you like the pressure, its a fine job except the pay is shit, a lot of people you work with are unprofessional, you'll work with the worst people when working in the food industry, the hours are shit, you'll scar up your hands and arms with burns and cuts and you'll never have most holidays off, never see your mom or SO on mother's day, never have valentine's day off, ect.

post #43 of 43
Reading the post above regarding scaring up your hands and the "bumping" burns from the oven rack are badges and a signal to be more careful or at least try. It's cool when you're not trying to make ten different salads at once. IMHO, it's all about the team. Have fun while you can.
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