I laugh as I read this forum because in reality, no one is really complaining about not taking breaks. It is just sort of an accepted practice in this industry. However, most of us DO take breaks. Just not the traditional "one hour" lunch break that most other professions have. Now granted I do not work the line, but I know what its like standing on your feet for hours on a stretch without sitting down, but as many people in this profession already know, sometimes sitting down is actually the worst thing you can do. Why? Well, because if you have to work a long shift, your body becomes accustomed to standing on your feet. Once you sit down, your body thinks, "OK, its rest time." But what your body doesnt know is that in 10-15 minutes (or less) it's time to get back up again and start working. And once you stand back up again, you feel more pain than if you didnt sit down at all. If you take a look at people who work in professions where they are on their feet all day (nurses, doctors, assembly line workers), most of them do NOT sit down when they take a break. If they want to go out for a smoke or read the newspaper, they will do it standing up so as not to throw their body out of balance. Its the same thing in the kitchen. DON'T SIT DOWN!!
However, that said, if anyone who has to work a 16-hour shift is not allowed a break (and I don't care WHAT the circumstance is), then as someone has already suggested, find a different job. Not only is that illegal, but it is cruel. Since when has the food service industry turned into the modern-day slave trade? I understand the economy is bad and people need jobs, but if you are forced to work under these conditions, then this is a sad day for this profession. Even though I am a trained chef, the first job I had was working in a deli for Target Corporation in one of their SuperTargets. Like many on here, I had a dedication to getting the job done at all costs, even if it meant skipping breaks. Most of the time none of the managers noticed, until one day the deli manager said to me, "ok, you've been working for 7 hours now, and you have not taken your break yet." I replied, "sorry, I still have a lot of work to do". He informed me that what I was doing is illegal and against company policy, so he wrote me up. He told me the next time he caught me skipping breaks I would be fired. I was fired the following week. I thought by skipping breaks I was provong my dedication to the company and would get rewarded with a corporate chef job. Instead, I got fired.
For the individual who stated that "these chefs who skip breaks are the ones who go up the ranks in the kitchen", I have to respectfully disagree. These are the people who will be taken advantage of and be kept at the line cook level with perhaps if they are lucky, a $1 an hour raise.
Working hard does not pay off in this industry. ***-kissing does. It's sad but true. Which is why I pity the poor young Culinary students of today who have NO clue what they are getting themselves into: long hours, hard work, and crappy pay, with little or no benefits. Bottom Line: If you choose to work in this industry: either open up your own restaurant/food service operation or if you want to work for someone else, go corporate. No, you wont be able to showcase your culinary skills in a corporate environment, instead you will be following a strict business model with no room for creativity. But at least you'll earn a decent "livable" wage and have benefits to boot. Plus, you'll get to take breaks.