Wednesday, November 12, 2014


I started out in food service and worked my way up. As I worked my way up, I worked with a lot of people that didn't want to be a chef, or a general manager. They just wanted to be a line cook, or a prep lady. They stayed very close to minimum wage; their increases came from doing a good job and longevity, not from following what some might call the "American Dream". Their American Dream was to come to work and do a good job and not be screwed. They wanted a clean place, out of the weather to work. They wanted to supplement the household income so their daughter could have a flute, or maybe got to college. They didn't want to get rich or be the boss, they just wanted to get a sqaure deal.
They were the salt of the earth and I admire them for it.

Back then my first job I made 1.65 an hour. No one was going to pretend I could have a place of my own, or that I earned a "living wage" @ 1.65. I think when I moved out of my parents house and in with a room mate I was making 2.25 an hour, and minimum wasnt 1.65, it was more like 1.95.
From what I understand, 1.65 is the equivalent of somewhere around 9.50 in today's money. All things being equal, that is where much of the inequality comes from.

I think I was making 2.50 an hour when I got my evaluation. I had worked there for a year, seen probably 25 cents in increases that year. They gave me a 15 cent raise. I told the manager that wasn’t going to keep me…that I thought I was worth more than that. He said “OK, fine, we will re-evaluate the next two weeks”.
The next day, the #1 cook in the kitchen quit. For the next two weeks I did my job and his. Worked a couple 80 hour weeks.
When I sat down with the manager after two weeks, I was grinning like a butchers dog.
"I think we were discussing how much I'm worth around here" I said
I’ll never forget the look on his face.
“Well, you have certainly done an outstanding job” he says.
When I left the table I was making 3.15 an hour.
Life was good.

Years later, during an interview for Chef’s position I was asked:
“What is more important? Your employee’s or the business?”
At the time it seemed a difficult question. I don’t exactly remember my answer, but I did get the job.
Over the years I have come to believe that there may have been several good answers but there was really only one wrong answer.
That the business is more important than my employees.
You might disagree.

Maybe if we had left minimum wage at 1.65 an hour, butter would still be $.55 a pound.

1 comment:

flask said...

the employees ARE the business. you need them to want to do a good job. you need them to be healthy.