Good cooks are getting harder to come by. Not the head kitchen honchos, depicted in Food Network reality shows, who fine-tune menus and orchestrate the dinner rush, but the men and women who are fresh out of culinary school and eager.
The shortage of able kitchen hands is affecting chefs in Chicago, where restaurateurs said they are receiving far fewer applications than in past years. “It’s gotten to the point where if good cooks come along, we’ll hire them even if we don’t have a position. Because we will have a position,” Paul Kahan, a local chef, told the Chicago Tribune last week.
The glitz and glamour of rising through the ranks in the restaurant industry isn’t what it used to be. Long hours, low pay and a series of other cultural and economic factors have made lower-tier restaurant work a much less desirable path than it once was, leaving many kitchens chronically understaffed.
One of the clearest obstacles to hiring a good cook, let alone someone willing to work the kitchen these days, is that living in this country’s biggest cities is increasingly unaffordable. In New York, for instance, where a cook can expect to make between $10 and $12 per hour, and the median rent runs upward of $1,200 a month, living in the city is a near impossibility. As a result, people end up living far from the restaurants where they work. Add to that how late dinner shifts can end, causing people to arrive home well into the night.
It’s not as if restaurants are cheating workers out of heaping piles of cash, either. There simply isn’t a whole lot of money circulating. The National Restaurant Association estimates that the median profit margin for mid-level establishments (those with average checks of $25 and higher) was 4.5 percent. Celebrity chefs and successful restaurateurs exist, but they are the exception. And a good deal of the money earned by the former comes in the form of television contracts, book deals, guest appearances and other tangential earnings.
“The pay just isn’t there,” said Kim McLynn, a representative for industry research firm NPD Group.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at The crippling problem restaurant-goers haven’t noticed but chefs are freaking out about – The Washington Post.