or Connect
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Professional Food Service › Professional Chefs › The business of being a chef
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

The business of being a chef

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a session at the CCFCC national conference in Vancouver, BC titled "The Business of being a Chef". The key-note speaker was Rob Feenie, famous Canadian chef and celeb. I've met chef Rob several times, and he's a nice guy, an awesome chef, and he has been very successful. Unfortunately, I think he missed the point of the session, which should have explored the challenges of being a professional chef, from a business / financial perspective. Not only the chef as an entrepreneur, but the career chef as well. Rob's career path, although enviable, is certainly not typical. That's like putting Mick Jagger on the podium to describe the life of a typical musician. We all know the celebs are few and far between. For most of us, it's quite a different story. I would have liked to hear someone speak of the future of the profession, of the fact that most of our young cooks have to work two jobs to make ends meet, because the median wage for cook is below the poverty line. I recently received the results of the Canadian Tourism Sector Compensation study, and the median wage for a cook is $13.44. Who can live, and support a family on that kind of wage?? No wonder most of them have to take on second jobs! An executive chef, on average makes about $58,000 a year. After taxes, you are left with about 40k. In this market, that's not enough to pay for a mortgage, or even rent a house, feed and clothe your family, and plan for retirement. That's the true future of the average chef. We, as the leaders of our industry, have the power to change how our trade is perceived, and how it is administered and executed. We have the power to demand that the industry as a whole - accommodation, food service, tourism, take the profession of cook seriously, and that it be treated like most other trades, with a mandatory set of occupational performance standards, and a mandatory evaluation and certification system. Only then will we cease to be underpaid and undervalued. The problem is that many of us just LOVE to be cooks to the point that we'd do it for FREE if we had to, and many a young cook gets into the business because they have stars in their eyes, only to realize a few years later that they can't AFFORD to be cooks. So many young aspiring cooks come to me and ask why they should even bother to invest in culinary school training, or an apprenticeship only to be working at near-minimum wage levels for the rest of their lives. I keep telling them that unless they do it for the love of it, they better not do it at all, because chances are, they won't get rich being a cook. Same goes for the chef as an entrepreneur. Many get into the restaurant or catering business for the sheer love of it, only to go broke because they can't afford to be in business. Many a great chef has gone belly-up in his business because some fly-by-night outfit down the road undercut him every step of the way by using cheap, unqualified labor, sub-standard ingredients, and questionable business practises. All you need is a food safety certificate (which you can get on-line) and a business license which you can buy at city hall, and you're off to the races...(The latest trend around here is the food trucks. "Street Meat" it's called. Some of these operators are truly scary: pumping out hot dogs, burgers, pizzas, samosas, whatever, from a camping cooler and a Coleman barbecue. They have no overhead, no rent, no washrooms, no tables to bus, yet they park themselves in front of downtown restaurants at lunch time and flog their wares at a fraction of the price...How do they pass health inspections??? I'm waiting for a food borne illness scandal to rock the industry.) I get into this argument a lot with my colleagues, and many are stout defenders of the status quo. Yes, being a chef is a great job, in every respect other than financial compensation, but as you grow older, finances become more and more important. My "test" of the agument is always the question: if your kid told you he or she wanted to be a chef like you, what would you tell them? Most have to admit they'd recommend against it...

That's my rant for the day. Dare to contradict me...

post #2 of 39

here's the issue as I see it.

 

The rules for restaurants need to change. Lose the "journeyman or equivalent" requirement, and change the laws so that ALL employees in kitchens must be either apprentices, or journeymen. If you dont; want to put in the time, take the exams... you can't work. Unskilled, uncertified cooks skew the market... if you don't like hearing that, too effin' bad. As an employer, I can hire anyone off the street, train him to cook MY dishes and say he's got equivalent training to a certified cook. He's never been to school, he's got no marketable skills... and he'll take what I pay him. I don't care if you say you've been at it for 30 years and you know your $hit... if you're so damn good, go challenge your exams and get your papers. It'll take 2 hours of your time. The "equivalent" crap exists so the fast food joints can continue to pay low wages. Economically, the bottom rung always sets the bar, always. 

 

McDicks... doesn't need capital "C" Cooks. They need cooks. Again.. hire kids,  pay them crap, make them hate the business, and kick 'em out. Keeps their costs low.

 

Hotels... live by unpaid OT. Usually with management. My unpaid OT as a Sous made me wanna cry when I actually thought about it. We could have hired two more cooks. Not paying me to do the work keeps costs down.

 

So John Q Public gets a perception about what his meal should cost.  Which sets the profit a restaurant can make, which sets the wage that can be paid. Too many damn restaurants competing for the same dollars. Not "too few" dollars... there's a ton of cash out there to be made in this business, but I can't compete with some guy who sells burgers out of a cart on a crappy barbecue half a block down the street. Make him get his training. Make him take local foodsafe courses. Why is it that my kitchen is held to a certain standard, but he can sell frozen smokies out of a cooler? He's got no rent. He's got no staff. No shrinkage in his dishware. No cleaning supplies. No training. But he sets the bar for what a burger should cost.

 

Force employers to hire only journeymen and apprentices. Reset the business. It needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.

 

Effin' hairdressers make more than a journeyman cook. Bakers. Welders. Drywall hangers.

We're a luxury business being paid indentured servant wages. People are willing to  pay more to have their suits pressed than they are for a homemade meal.

 

Anyone seen "A day without a Mexican"? or "The week the women went"?

 

How about a "week without a cook"? The suits would $hit themselves.

post #3 of 39

Every thing you two gentleman say is correct. The salaries paidid for the skill and time rendered is way out of kilter. It has always been like that. I was lucky I met the right guys ,at the right time at the right place. Yea you may call it lucky but I went in and opened at about 9 am and finished at about 7 on tues through thurs. Then fr and sat about 12noon till 2 am., sun. about 12 till 12.00

      Lucky ? Maybe. This was in season Sept 15  to July 4th.. Then rest time.  I used to joke that 9am through 7pm was a half day for me.
     Was it worth it ? 2 divorces and I don't blame them I was never home. Sure I semi retired when I was about 45, but then got bored and went back in it(sucker for punishment)

     Now really retired and Go on Cruises and pursue hobbies and foster kittens and study the behavior habits of cats,experiment with food and techniques home, and do some consulting now and then. Would I do it all again?  Not all but some of it.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #4 of 39

Yeah, shoulda been at the conference, but business--the running of MY business, got in the way.

 

If you look at the whole hospitality situation, you will see that there are no qualifications.  No standards for cooks, bakers, waiters, even restaurant owners.  This is the big problem.

 

But the times, they are a changing.  The "Red Seal", which I had long ridiculed and snorted at, has done about change.  Go2 and ITA have changed rules a bit, and it is a 3 stage program now, with standards for Cook1, then for Cook 2, and finally for Cook 3.  With each jump,. there is a salary increase, and of course, the criteria is harder.  The final includes a real, actual live cooking exam, with an emphasis on pastry as well.  NO more 200 multiple choice questions.  Prior to 2009, Alberta was the only province to have an actual cooking exam for red seal applicants.  Don't know now if any other provinces have acutally smartened up.   The big wind of change has been Dennis Green, (formerly of Bishops) who now heads Go2.  The trend now is to introduce the same sytem for bakers.  Nothing for waiters yet, but it should be noted that in Europe, waiters have a 2 year apprentieship.

 

There should be a standard for restaurant owners.  Currently the only qualification is money, and look at the mess we're in:  Restaurants underfinaced, under staffed, over staffed, improperly staffed, gross ignorence of health and municpal codes, payroll law, etc. etc.

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
post #5 of 39

While I understand and concur on most points, my take on this is that in order to have certified people in any food service venue, paying them a more realistic wage would then drive the price of the menu item through the roof.

Taking the side of the devil's advocate, then all Wendy's, McDonalds, and Burger King employees having to be documented that they are certified would be the end of the fast food culture.

The greasy spoon down the block would disappear.

Any small store that serves food would have to close because the employer would not be able to pay wages and make a profit. 

How about catering.....how about bakeries????

You are treading on very thin ice here.

I'm not sure I can think of a better system myself, but I do indeed agree that something must change.

post #6 of 39

Bakeries? Should be a journeyman anyways to work in a bakery,

Catering? Certification. Don't even see why this would be an issue. I'm sick of housewives becoming "caterers" because their friends say they make good cookies.

Small stores servig food? Either buy it from certfified suppliers, or become certified.

greasy spoon? Certified cooks, or shut your doors.

Trade certification boards should be spending money on public education.

 

Like I said... reset the business. Shut down the crap. Drive up prices. It's the way the economy works. The food indusry works on make-believe numbers. Find me another business that makes 5 million a year, and it's highest paid manager gets $60K??

post #7 of 39

Well, yeah trade cert boards should be educting the public, but there's an elephant in the room and we shoud be aware of it:
 

The hospitality Unions.

 

There are two ways to get more salary:  

Put a gun to the employer's head (strike)

or

To set a table of standards/qualifications and a pay scale to go with the standards.

Trade cert boards set the standards, but not salary.

 

Now guess which route the Hosptiality unions have taken?,

And which route other trades (plumbers, electricians, mechanics, HVAC, etc) have taken?

 

And which route is more intelligent and overall far better?

 

But, equal emphasis should be put on the owner/operator  of the food service establshment:  The good ones are fine, but the bad ones/inexperienced ones drag the reputation down, the quality down, the salaries down, and the prices down.  Every health inspector I've met emphatically agrees that there should be some kind of license for the operator--other than a simple $150.00  business license.

 

Mc D's?  It will always be around--they don't need cooks, but then you get what you pay for as well.

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
post #8 of 39

One thought to ponder: Employers do not pay employees, they only transfer a portion of the money paid by customers to the employees. Customers "pay" employees!

 

Certification, in whatever form, does only one thing, it restricts those who cannot, will not, meet specific standards established by someone, be it the government (licenses to practice), trade organizations/associations, or employers.

 

When thinking of "standards", remember, the "standard" is the MINIMUM for certification, licensing, permitting. With regards to the culinary world, there are definite minimum standards that the government should establish, i.e. food safety, fire safety, employee safety (workplace safety).

 

Even licenses for doctors, lawyers, accountants, electricians, plumbers, teachers and a host of others do not certify "skill", they only certify minimum standards to prevent those unwilling or unable to meet those standards from getting a license/permit. Allegedly, this is done to "protect the customer", but it certainly does not protect the customer from incompetence!

 

IMHO, when employers are mandated to hire ONLY certified workers, the only employer will be the government.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
post #9 of 39

Yes, all that is true, but  (the big butt)

 

We have a mess in the hospitality industry, wages are lousy and lousy wages don't attract choice employees.

 

I've been through this situation with a planning comittee that I volunteer with in regards to Gov't certifictions and schools.

 

Say you've got a 17 yr old kid fresh out of highschool who wats to be a Chef or a baker.  His/her big question is "How do I attain this goal?".  And this question has been posted here countless times.

 

What's happening now in B.C. is a three step type deal.  Cook 1 is all the basic stuff: Hygiene, basic cuts, basic cooking methods, critical temps, etc. No prvious experince needed, no qualifications other than gr. 10 and fluent Englisch or French, something like 3 mths of in-school instruction, no bank-breaking tuition costs. This is the kid you'd hire as a prep cook, has no previous working experience, but has basic formal training, and eager to put in some hours. Fast food places and corporate places only need this type of cook, nothing higher.    After a certain amount of hours (I think it's 800 or 1000) a cook 1 is eligable for apply for Cook 2.  Eligable.  Doesn't have to, if he/she is comfortable with a basic salary and prep cook duties, then it's fine.  Of couse, the employer is under no obligation to raise salary based solely on senority, so in this case, it cuts both ways too.  With  Cook 2 the course is more structured, more complicated cooking methods and techniques, etc.  With this certification the Cook 2 can get a higher salary, and there's only so many places that need this type of cook and will fork out the salary, so it's on to the better dining places and the institutions that actuall put out good food.  After that it's Cook 3.

 

So yes, there are restrictions, if the person doesn't want to make the jump from 1-2 or 2-3, they are being held back.  But why?  The schooling element is provided by C.C's (Comm. colleges) which are Gov't funded and are very cheap, curriculum is structured so that the student can still work, albeit a 5-6 hr shift, but then,it's only a 2-3 mth course as well, not a years. The finacial burden is still there, but greatly reduced, and the carrot is, that upon getting a cook 2 or 3 certification you can take your resume to the employer (or prospective one) and show him that you are worth the new salary increase.  It would be in the Union's interest to help their members achieve this, but this remains to be seen. 

 

I tend to think of the qualifications as a driver's license:
A driver's license is no guarantee that the driver will drive responsibility, but it is a guarantee that the driver knows the rules of the road and cannot claim ignorance or excuses for going through a 4- way stop 

 

So, no the customer doesn't pay directly teh employees slary 

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
post #10 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post

...So, no the customer doesn't pay directly teh employees slary 

Really? Then where does the employer get the money to pay employees?

 

Perhaps I'm not fully comprehending what you are saying. Let me propose a scenario and see if we are on the same page:

 

I own a restaurant and I need a "prep cook", I believe this is the "Cook 1" you describe, correct?

 

I hire a Cook 1 and, say three months (or whatever the certifying authority specifies) down the road, the Cook 1 decides to takes the classes and passes the certification as a Cook 2. Would I, as the owner, be forced to promote him/her to a higher pay grade, whether or not my establishment or I wanted to? If I did not need or want a Cook 2, would I be allowed to continue employment at the Cook 1 pay level?

 

Same scene, except the Cook 1 chooses NOT to go to school and I choose to train him/her to my specific requirements and promote him/her to a more responsible position. I would be allowed to do that, correct, even though s/he is is not certified as a Cook 2?

 

Same scene, except now I need a line cook (Cook 2 level). May I hire a Cook 1 or would I be required to hire a Cook 2?

 

I can understand establishing a set of certifications that provide me with information about skill levels of potential employees, that saves me time and effort.

 

I have reservations about the government specifying who I may hire and how much I have to pay them. To me, that smacks of a "Centrally Planned Economy", and is the antithesis of free enterprise.

 

Make no mistake, I DO understand food safety certification, but when it comes to specific skill levels mandating minimum pay levels, someone needs to so a lot of selling to convince me.

 

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
post #11 of 39

Oh yes, there will be alot of selling needed.

 

First question, No.  If you hired a cook  1, and all you needed was a cook 1, then you are under no obligation to keep him when he gets a Cook 2. Time to move on and work in other places.

 

Second question. Yes.  Your employee, you can train and pay what you like as long as it meets or exceeds the minimum for that qualification.  Problem is, if the employee goes to another employer, that employer may or may not recognize the training he recieved from you, and is under no obligation to pay a Cook 2 salary.

 

Third question.  Unsure.  No one yet has "drawn a line in the sand" as to what 1, 2 or 3 can, or can not do.  With other trades, it's pretty specific on who can install what, or who is qualified to hook up this or that.  But in other trades the Unions, schools, and employers have all bought in to the standards and work together.

 

But it's still dreaming. To make this thing really work, the hospt. unions have to buy in, and they don't have the slightest intention of doing so.  The private culinary schools see the writing on the wall and are running scared, and when they run scared  bad things happen. 

 

Then again, to offer a guy with 10 yrs experience in fine dining places  $20/hr isn't doing much for our trade, neither is a kid with no previous working experience forking out 60 grand for a private culinary school and after graduating finding out all he'll earn for next few years is buck minimum wage......

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
post #12 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by foodpump View Post
 neither is a kid with no previous working experience forking out 60 grand for a private culinary school and after graduating finding out all he'll earn for next few years is buck minimum wage.........

That's the "kids choice"! Nobody's forcing him/her to fork out that kind of money.

 

There is no possible way to "legislate" to prevent uninformed decisions. We all make choices in our lives and we all enjoy or suffer the consequences of those choices.

 

In any event, when "government" starts mandating minimum wages without a full and comprehensive understanding as to the consequences, the "government" is responsible for the consequences.

 

A simple example: If a fast food restaurant is surviving selling menu item A at $n.nn per serving and the "government" mandates that wages must increase by X, either the restaurant

  • raises prices by at least the same amount (including the associated increase in social security/medi-care, workman's comp, disability and unemployment insurance) or
  • they cut cost by a corresponding amount or
  • they accept the reduced profit or
  • they go out of business

 

Even if there is NO profit, the sales price MUST exceed the overhead plus labor plus supplies. Unless overhead or supplies go down, an increase in labor, for whatever reason,  MUST be offset with an increase in sales price. There is NO WAY AROUND THAT SIMPLE FACT!

 

And, unfortunately, an acceptable sales price is not under the control of "government" nor even the owner/chef/manager of the business, it is ONLY under the control of the customer and their willingness to pay.

 

Oh, wait, I forgot about "government subsidies", there is the solution!

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
post #13 of 39
Thread Starter 

Looks like I opened a can of worms. Good.

Today, I attended the same conference (no, I don't have ample time at my disposal, I consider this a part of maintaining my professional integrity - just as frequenting this forum is), and Robert Clark, another of our notable chefs in this city spoke about sustainability - not just about the food we cook, but about the sustainability of our industry, and our profession. He said, quite rightly, that we (chefs) are going to be obsolete like blacksmiths and candlemakers. Problem is, our young cooks don't learn how to cook properly anymore. Except for one or two blocks in school, they don't learn butchery skills anymore, nor do they know how to bake or do proper charcuterie. It's all about outsourcing and buying readymade products. It is already too expensive to do any of these things in-house, and the unqualified staff we tend to attract at $15/hr don't have the skills in the first place. That's why you get the same bread at the Chateau Whistler as you can buy at Safeway - it's all Canada Bread product. The purpose of mandatory occupational standards and trade certification is to rescue our profession. If we, the old farts, don't do this for the young cooks entering this profession, there will be nothing left for them but a big freezer and a bank of microwaves. The legislature has to come from government, but the pressure has to come from us. Robert said we need to educate our customers to demand quality product over cheap prices, and I agree, but as long as the food service industry is not held to a higher standard, it will not happen, because as you gentlemen stated so eloquently, in the end all businesses still have to turn a profit, and many will just choose the cheapest way possible, including underpaid, unqualified staff (and sub-standard, cheap ingredients sourced from questionable manufacturers). This merry-go-round has been going on in North America for decades, perhaps forever, as we still regard this as the land of opportunity where anyone can be anything he wants so long as he is tenaceous - or unscupulous. In Europe, the guilds of the middle ages have pretty well made sure the professional standards are protected for each trade, again, to protect the trade itself, not the individual.

Yes, if we were ever to be so lucky as to have a legislated certification system in place for cooks, some businesses would suffer, some go out of business, for sure. But, are not those the one's we should do without in the first place? The industry will right itself, and come out stronger, better, and with a better reputation and future for our young generation. I was  on the task force which instituted the three-tier professional cook certification pilot in BC, and other provinces are now looking at adapting our model. Yes, it has come a long way, and the fact that the candidates have to show real, practical skills on three levels is very exciting. Even the candidates like it! The fact that they can earn a professional credential as a PC1 or PC2, and work their way up to the red seal as (and if) they choose, is a big step forward - but, it is still voluntary. We won't see a wholesale change unless we push government to make it mandatory. It will help cooks become recognized as a respectable trade, it will help recruiters and HR people to evaluate prospective candidates better, and it will elevate the quality of our indusrty. How can you say that this is a bad thing???

post #14 of 39

Pete, I've never been to California, but here things are a bit different.  Mandatory minimum wage was stuck at $8.00 /hr for the last 8 or 9 years without a change.  New Provincial gov't now, and the min wage will go up to $10/hr in increments by next summer.  Mcikey D's will have to comply, as will the others, and Mickey D's will survive and flourish, as they always have.  The others will either have to put out a better product and charge accordingly for it, or give up--and many will.  It's just too much effort to put out a decent product these days. 

 

Steelbanger, a point to ponder:  We have mass produced goods becasue it is easier to mnfctr in large volume.  MonteCristo bakery has an automated Reon line that can pump out decent bread for the whole province, and they do.  The public doesn't know or care about indivuality when it comes to mass produced goods, they only want it cheap. 

 

If a restaurant wants to offer charcuterie, they have to sell "uniqueness". This is the route I have chosen to go with my business, and while I am small, I can survive and charge what I need to charge without looking over my shoulder to see what the others are selling similiar--but not the same--products for.

 

B.T.W.  The B.C. Chef's AGM is next week, I'm still a member, hope to see you there.

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
post #15 of 39

Steel

small bakeries

Here in the states it is basically to late. Occupational Standards will have no effect on the bean counters in larger operations and owners with no background in the industry.

We are already the biggest financial joke of most industries. If you understand business, hire and train the right people you might survive if you fund your own project.

In Texas the bean counters have eliminated almost all pastry positions. The only requirements are box cutters. You will always be a prisoner to some sort of food contract that might let you go outside the box maybe 3%. The small places are already done! Employees is not the solution. I think my payscales are above average but I cannot take the time to retrain culinary school kids.

I may have mis interpreted posts so I will reread again.

 

This needs to start at the top not bottom. The food cartels (sysco like) are one of the big points here, it's almost criminal.

 

You cannot educate your clientele to better food in this convience, fast paced, society.


Edited by panini - 6/15/11 at 4:07pm

Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
Paninicakes.com

Reply

Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
Paninicakes.com

Reply
post #16 of 39

well alrighty then, steelbanger,

quite the pandora's box you creaked open...right on! since i have time constraints right now to devote to this multi topic discussion, i will choose one at a time to comment on.

since i live and own a restaurant in a very farm to table community, i will start there...a subject near and dear to my heart.

i am totally committed to the whole sustainability scene...usda organic eggs, meats and cheese from local ranchers, fruits and vegetables from local farmers- cooking and serving alot of times what the farmer is growing(obviously winter is the challenge). seems though that this is not enough, that i am not enough. we all need to do more to broaden the palate and educate our diners while supporting local farmers in their need to make a profit and to avoid the waste that happens at peak harvest time when supply exceeds demand and farmers end up throwing out huge amounts of crops because of no buyers.to support local farmers we need to buy whatever the farmer is growing and to be able to prep, cook and store it for year round use. this will be the challenge here.

 we've been taught that food should be cheap so we don't value it. it is our mentality to devalue the product in its raw state which in turn devalues it in cooking. if we eat food that is real instead of just cheap, we feel better and know that it is worth the price. when you eat a freshly picked tomato or carrot or beet you know that it is nutritionally 'safe' and not grocery store 'stale'. this will take time, and it will never be for all, but i am hopeful that people will recognize the difference. there will be raised eyebrows at the cost that quality food will cost the diner, but small organic farms face higher labor costs than commercial farms. for every dollar americans make they spend 10 cents on food compared to 30 cents that europeans spend. we are afraid of losing diners to already high  food costs. we may lose a few, but in the end i wager we will gain more as more and more people realize they are healthier and their food more nutritious with farm driven menus.. it is not only our job but our responsibilty as restauranteurs to educate through our food for healthy people and a  healthier planet....

joey

p.s.  a comment on the subject of cooking as a career choice.....'it is a career that promises you everything in exchange for your soul!'...and i am an eternal optimist!

to be continued,for sure......gotta go..opening night tomorrow!!!


Edited by durangojo - 6/16/11 at 7:56pm

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

Reply

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

Reply
post #17 of 39

Here in Florida every year around June all the clubs and hotels post a help wanted in local papers, even though it is slow time of year. They advertise for every position one could think of offering .It is an October thru May Job..They only post this because it is MANDATED by Federal and State law.  Hardly any  Americans apply, so now they can import all their employees, from Croatia and Ireland and you name it. They pay for trip here and return trip if you stay the season. A lot of them hire from off shore agencies, that recruit like a cattle market.

     They pay very low wages, no holiday pay, no benefits, charge for room and board and then write it off as an expense.   Once they sponsor you here which they are doing, your stuck, if you quit,  you in essence get deported at your expense... Its a great way for employers to beat the system.

     Florida is also a right to work state, which means they can fire you today no questions asked and almost  no unions are recognized. The Breakers Hotel which charges about $289.00 per night off season is one  of these employers as  are almost all upscale private clubs. As long as this practice continues the industry will never get better. The owners and operators complain about the staff. Well what do they expect, they cause it,  and you know what, in my opinion they deserve what they get.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #18 of 39

Lemme  guess...

The Unions are garnisheeing those poor guy's (Croatians, Irish, etc.) paychecks as well?

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
post #19 of 39

ChefEdB... That is disgusting. 

 

I see the US economy in a downward spiral. WE have all done it to ourselves though. When we moved to 2 income households, we had more disposable income and demanded more and better/bigger things. It used to be that your average Joe could have a family, home and live comfortably. Now the average even 2 income household can not afford to own a home in many parts of the US. The US housing bubble was created partly because interest rates dropped so far and in return the prices shot up and the feeding frenzy started. This is the kind of thing that has happened over and over again in our history. The only way I have been able to see that we can get out of it is for the value of housing prices to drop so that your average family can afford a home again. Once people can buy homes we will be able to spend money to create jobs and increase incomes. This is the only time I can see that we could regulate our industry, when folks are able to have more dispensable income to be able to spend more on quality. 

 

I know this is very awkward coming from someone who has only been in this side of the industry for a few months, but I think there are to many restaurants out there competing for dinners. We need to reverse the supply and demand model. If we made were the ones regulating the supply, by reducing seating, improving food and service to the point that people cherished our abilities. They would pay more and actually make reservations. WE are the ones that should be calling the shots. It would mean MANY of us would not have jobs... only the people that deserved to be here would be. We need to be picker who we allow into our industry. I know that in other industries, C students are not good enough. We need to control our fate. But, I do not know how that can come without government regulation. There are to many folks out there with more money than brains.

post #20 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by RGM2 View Post
 ...C students are not good enough...

Especially when they get an A because of grade inflation crazy.gif

 

Trust me, government regulation is NOT the answer! In fact, if government stopped subsidizing substandard behavior we'd all be far better off.

 

For me, the answer is simple, owner/operator/chef must refuse to hire incompetent people, whether untrained, apprenticed, or schooled. And I personally do not feel that a diploma, certificate, or degree is anything more than evidence that the MINIMUM requirements were met, and in a majority of cases that does not include any level of common sense, responsibility, or willingness to work!
 

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
post #21 of 39

Pete, 

That's true, but there are not enough smart people that open restaurants. So many open them because they want to have something to do, or something to allow them to get more tail than they know what to do with. And if the better chefs turn down the the jobs, the dudes that have no business being chefs will be offered the job and take it, exasperating the problem. There is no influence that can create the change other than the government or some type of unionization. Unions are not my favorite idea, but it seems that they are the only group organized enough to make it happen. There are trade organizations for other groups, like massage therapists that have major sway over the direction that things are done in the field. But overall they do not have the "juice" that unions have. The better Chefs would need to put together an organization that would work in conjunction with the schools to create the desire for affiliation. The desire for restaurant owners to want to hire people of that caliber and where it as a badge of honor. If you are a chef or a sous chef that is a ranking member, it would be your responsibility to make sure that people are trained up properly. It would be something that you would want the best of the best as members. You would want to sponsor them and put your name on the line for them. It would be something that a prospective employer could use as a reference. There should be a ranking system[in my mind the more I think about it the more it seems like a union]. If you could get enough big shot chefs and the major influence drivers in the media, you would have the ability to do a ton for the industry. People love to be around VIP people. Look at what the Michelin Star rating does for restaurants in Europe. Maybe it is something that Zagat or some other organization would put together. Maybe something like a combination of Zagat and Angie's list.

 

We need to do something though. The more I look at it the more I see the hell you all have been living in for years, if not your whole lives. If you love your career you have to fight for change that works. 

post #22 of 39

RGM2  Not that I don't partially agree with you, but the housing and economic problems we face in particular in housing came from one major thing , and that is Bank Greed. When you can give a 250000. mortgage to a senile 68 year old  man for 25 years you are asking for a problem. Thats exactly what went on here in Florida . Back then anyone could get a mortgage but not anyone could afford it once reality moved in and the adjusted rates changed. Some mortgages were transferred  3 or 4 times and when they went to court no one could produce original documents, it is a fiasco.

    Schools are not the answer, I think a lot of it is caused by greed of many corps. and employers. The cheaper they can get anything, food or labor the better for them. That  thinking will never change. In a lot of cases employers turn to schools because student labor is cheaper.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #23 of 39

Very interesting thread. Some great contributions so far. I'm comming from this from a slightly different angle than a few people on here so it would be interesting to see what you guys think.

 

In my opinion qualifications are a pretty useless way of judging a chef's worth. Where they have worked and for whom is a far better barometer of what that chef is capable of. I would also seperate cooking qualifications from hygiene qualifications as the latter is a must when dealing with issues of public safety in todays climate. But like someone has previously stated qualifications and certificates are merely minimum standards. Are we to believe that a lazy, dirty chef who passed some course is going to miraculously change their ways now that they have some fancy certificate?

 

I was also interested in the few people talking about trying to compete with the big chains. Why on earth would you even bother doing this in the first place? This is a kamakaze business strategy if ever there was one. If you are a small restaurant, bakery, burger bar or whatever, surely the best thing to do is to create or occupy a niche that the big guys can't or wont enter. Also I have found that customers are becoming far more aware of local,seasonal produce and of what places are making everything from scratch and what places are buying it all in. My place isn't particular expensive, not compared to where I used to work anyway, but everything we do is far, far superior to anything some chain can produce and our customers once they try us are willing to pay a little extra for this. My advice would be to not even try to compete on price with the chains, differentiate yourself and your product in order for you to be able to charge a premium, otherwise you're fighting a battle you can never win.

 

In terms of salary. Without meaning to insult anyone, if you work in a position where you don't require many skills, why on earth should an employer be forced to pay you a certain wage? If I wanted to learn about pastry, I'd try and land a job working for the best pastry chef I could, likewise for any other particular skills I was looking to gain. My pay rose according to the skills I possesed and if I wanted a pay rise I knew the only way I was going to get it was to gain new skills that were valuable to my current or prospective employer. Instead of complaining that certain establishments aren't training the chefs of the future, may I suggest that any prospective chef with any sort of ambition would not be working in some s**thole where everything was bought in and chucked in the fryer or microwave. Making these "chefs" take some training course isn't going to change that.

 

In the UK the average wages for skilled chefs is increasing not decreassing as customers are becoming more aware of whether food is skillfully prepared or not and the demand for skilled chefs to work in these types of restaurants is growing . Let's not pretend that someone deepfrying and microwaving something all day is a chef, lets just call a spade a spade here and refer to them as unskilled labour. If you are unskilled and then do a certificate, if you come back to the same job and do the same thing, why would this merit a pay rise? How would this improve the industry?

 

The only way the skill levels of the industry will improve is if the consumers demand it. If all they are concerned with is paying the cheapest price possible then nothing will change. The best way to change the industry is to educate consumers, that way you will create a demand for the type of skills you would like our chefs to possess.

 

 

post #24 of 39

Some valid points, cosanostra.

 

Like I said in my above post, qualifications are kind of like a driver's license, there are no guarantees that you won't go through a red light, but guarantees that you know better and can't claim ignorance.

 

Let's say you were unskilled labour and naturally you want more pay.  Your employer can/only will pay so much for nuking stuff and slicing open pouches.  If and when you upgrade your qualifications, you will have to find a new employer who will pay for the skills you claim to have.  A dead-beat will stay at the same job and complain about wages, and someone with two brain cells to rub together will constantly upgrade themselves.  Everyone of us on this board has done this:  Move on to a new job for better pay and to learn more.

 

It's a very complicated sitution, as the majority of dining places in N. America are franchises/chains and are pouch-opening operations that rely on unskilled labour for the simple reason that it is cheap; that they offer a cheap product, and that they operate on volume--not quality.  And, naturally, market demand here is for cheap--not quality.

 

Pay peanuts-get monkees.  Public here wants peanuts and monkees, hence the mess we have in the hospitality scene. 

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
Reply
post #25 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefedb View Post

RGM2  Not that I don't partially agree with you, but the housing and economic problems we face in particular in housing came from one major thing , and that is Bank Greed...

Far be it for me to disagree with Chefedb, however, I feel that the federal government had a strong hand in this, maybe even leading the way.

 

IMHO, starting back around the late 70s and early 80s, someone discovered that homeowners were responsible people and leaped to the conclusion that if people became homeowners they would become responsible (a classic case of flawed logic crazy.gif and calculated if the down payment requirements were reduced from 20% to 10% and mortgage terms were extended to 30-40 years, more people could afford to purchase a home. Banks did not agree as that increased risks of default, so the federal government stepped in and passed regulations forcing the banks to reduce down payments, increase terms, and relax qualifications for borrowers. Result? Irresponsible people were now able to "buy a home", however, that did not magically convert them to responsible people.

 

In my eyes, we are facing a similar situation in the culinary world. Successful restaurant owners/chefs are responsible people, but owning or working in a restaurant does not make one responsible.

 

Are unions or government regulations the answer? IMHO probably not. Follow the money, unions survive on dues, which are based on pay rates, working conditions, and pensions, not performance. Government regulations specify what you cannot do, not what will improve performance (think about your local health inspector lol.gif ).

 

Do I have the answer? You are kidding, right? I've spent five years as a local City Council member and I can assure you that far too many people think the "government" is the solution, simply make everybody else act the way that benefits them!

 

Here in California we have to cope with up to 12 weeks of "family leave", albeit without pay so far, but you cannot terminate an employee for taking the time for medical/family reasons, mandated health insurance, standards as to what constitutes full and part-time employment, unjust discharge, protected actions by employees, non-discrimination regulations that are being stretched to cover nearly anything, and the list goes on.

 

So, I no longer hire ANYONE. If I cannot do it with the help of my wife, we don't do it.

 

BTA,WTHDIK
 

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
post #26 of 39

Very good points here guys. It is a tough choice. I am watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution right now and my wife said that Jamie was able to get flavored milk out of the schools. I think this is great. She was telling me that the article she read had people making point(excuses) that the sugar in milk did not out weigh the benefit of the kids getting the calcium from the milk. I think that if the kids did not have a choice that they will drink regular milk... they may boycott it for a small bit, but they will want something to drink with lunch. The problem is that the lobbying groups feed our desire for convenience and simplicity. It is the marketing that has pushed us to think that peanuts are better than pecans. They cover them with crap to make them taste like something other than what they are. Applebee's advertises great looking food on the commercials, but we all know it is chit food.

 

At work these last two Wednesdays have shown me something amazing. At work we were told we had to run a "special" of basically a McRib sandwich. People were sooo excited about these nasty little pork patties smothered in BBQ sauce. I actually had some slow smoked ribs I pulled the bones out of and chopped up, smothered them in BBQ sauce and I only sold 1/3 the amount. Because it looked like the McRib people were ordering 2 or 3 at a time. Just blew my mind. You would think that in a city of foodies, Microsoft would employ a few...

post #27 of 39

So from 2001-2006 I worked as an Account Executive for a mortgage bank. I can tell you first hand that I helped drive down bank standards, because they were able to be driven down based on the lack of regulation. When I am out working to bring in loans for my bank, and a broker says that he has borrowers that are solid[and they did seem solid on paper], but do not fit our underwriting standards but bank X that is our competitor is allowing this... and our bank is loosing 30-40 million a month over it from just 1 broker... it has a tendency to cause the bosses to rethink what we "can" do. Those brokers had SOLD those people that they deserved to be home owners. They SOLD those people into thinking that it was better to borrow against the equity in their homes to buy the toys they wanted rather than to save up or even get financing on those toys. Just as I SOLD my boss into SELLING her bosses so I/we could get the business and I could afford the lifestyle I lived. It is ridiculous how it all played out in retrospect. I left when I really saw how it was ruining everything. I sold my 2 homes in Cali and took a year or so off work to rethink how I was living my life and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

 

5 years later I am here and I think that we have to move our world(the culinary world) more in line with how it should be. There are to many people driving our industry that have no business at the wheel. I do not know the answer, but I can tell you that it needs to be discussed more in depth and not from an emotional standpoint. There is a very logical side to this that is just being touched on now. Emotions drive most decisions. The successful people in any industry are more productive when they take emotion out of the equation. You can't look at it with greed, joy, passion, sadness anything. You have to look at it from all points. What will it take for the industry to survive and prosper? What will it take for the people that are in the engine room of the business to survive and prosper? How would the whole show run ideally, and what would it take for that to happen. This is something that should be extrapolated out all the way to the farmers. Once you know what the ideal situation is for all involved, then we can start looking for ways to drive towards that. Problem being that to many are focused on their own link in the chain. That is where the disconnect comes with legislation and lobbying for it. When you only hear one or two sides of a story the decisions you make will generally cause harm somewhere else.\

 

I personally think that land/property value plays the biggest role in our economic problems. It is the thing that is driving the gap between the rich and the poor farther and farther apart. This isn't the only thing, but it is a HUGE determining factor for how much things cost to produce in every layer of our system. 

 

Edit:ChefEdB- I disagree that it is bank greed... it is a fact of supply and demand coupled with lack of proper regulation, and lack of accountability on all parties involved. Marketing/Lobbying are major players in all of this. I do not think it is bank greed... it is banks allowed to fight it out with each other over the resources that drive their business forward.

post #28 of 39

It seems that the ACF already has a certification program. It is weird that I spent 6 months looking for an entry level job here is Seattle on Craigslist and never once did I see anyone say anything about it. It seems they have very poor marketing or have very little credibility in our industry as a whole. 

 

The Certs. seem pretty solid though in the requirements.

post #29 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by RGM2 View Post

So from 2001-2006 I worked as an Account Executive for a mortgage bank. I can tell you first hand that I helped drive down bank standards, because they were able to be driven down based on the lack of regulation. When I am out working to bring in loans for my bank, and a broker says that he has borrowers that are solid[and they did seem solid on paper], but do not fit our underwriting standards but bank X that is our competitor is allowing this... and our bank is loosing 30-40 million a month over it from just 1 broker... it has a tendency to cause the bosses to rethink what we "can" do. Those brokers had SOLD those people that they deserved to be home owners. They SOLD those people into thinking that it was better to borrow against the equity in their homes to buy the toys they wanted rather than to save up or even get financing on those toys. Just as I SOLD my boss into SELLING her bosses so I/we could get the business and I could afford the lifestyle I lived. It is ridiculous how it all played out in retrospect. I left when I really saw how it was ruining everything. I sold my 2 homes in Cali and took a year or so off work to rethink how I was living my life and what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

 

The only reasons that banks "sold" people that they should be homeowners is because a bunch of rich people started investing in mortgages as a profit mechanism. Once the real estate bubble looked like it was about to pop, they sold out of their investments, but by that time there were plenty of stupid people buying into funds that were heavily leveraged with the same mortgage-based securities. That perpetuated the bubble far past the true breaking point, which cause the government to step in. And, as we all, know, that fixed the entire problem *sarcasm*

post #30 of 39

smile.gif They "sold" people because they could sell them. There was nothing to stop them from doing it. The rich people came after the programs we already started and the rich people bought into the bundles that were already sold to the people. That is why they were sold off 4-5 times as was already stated. It was an evolutionary process that lasted several years. But we are getting way off topic, even though it does pertain to the OP.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Professional Chefs
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Professional Food Service › Professional Chefs › The business of being a chef