By Mark A BrethauerWorking in the culinary arts can be demanding and stressful at times. With a larger than normal turnover rate, there will be times you will work short-staffed. The hours you work can vary from a brief three-hour shift up to ten and twelve hours a day depending on your position and the company you work for. Some operations may require you to work a split shift, usually three hours at lunch and three hours at dinner. You may also be required to work weekends and holidays; this is especially true in hotels, resorts, private clubs, and healthcare.
Few companies spend the time or financial resources for proper training, especially smaller operations. Starting wages are usually just above minimum wage, and many companies lack a decent benefits program. Don't let any of this deter you; these are minor challenges that can be overcome in time.
There will always be detours and roadblocks in any career. Those who are passionate about the culinary arts embrace these issues; nothing deters them. If you want to make excellent money and work in a job you love, sacrifices will have to be made, this is a fact you must accept
The following is a list of what I experienced in my career as a Chef and hospitality manager. If you stay in food service for any length of time, you will experience similar situations
- Low wages with few benefits. If you're in it for the money, get out and become an attorney or physician.
- Long hours, stressful day, and sleepless nights.
- Working every weekend, every holiday, working seven days without a day off, and working open to close. It will happen at some point in your career. Accept it and embrace it.
- Getting called in on your day off. If you are contacted to come in on your day off and refuse, don't expect the best hours or good salary increases.
- I worked in kitchens without the proper equipment but I was expected to produce the menu anyway.
- I worked in bug and rodent infested kitchens. Some were so bad it looked as if the floor was moving when I turned the lights on in the morning.
- I worked for and with alcoholics, drug addicts, and individuals who made my job more difficult just to see me struggle.
- I've worked with and been threatened by employees and customers who were drunk and/or on drugs. I was threatened by a drunk attorney when I cut him off in the hotel bar
- I've been severely burned, cut myself, and cut by others. My hand became infected so bad it doubled in size overnight and almost had to have it cut off. My employer told me not to go to the doctor for my cut so I kept it wrapped up. He paid in the long run.
- As a Chef and Manager, I experienced theft of food, paper supplies, and alcohol. We had one employee steal empty beer cans for a few months before being caught and fired. They were worth $.10 each so he made about three hundred dollars.