“With a lot of love, there’s some darkness behind the dish”
The food industry is a magnificent place to work, grow and meet new people that are passionate and committed to what they’re doing. It is a place where people have dreams to open up restaurants, share stories and recipes, and create the future they dreamed of. However, like any other industry, there’s is a dark side to this, and boy it is brutal. And I have seen and heard it all. From people suffering from addiction to committing food-related war crimes, to sex and prostitution as their side job. It is a dark place behind those kitchen doors. I usually try to keep it as PG as possible. But this time, we’re not holding back. This is the real, un-filtered darkness behind the plate
In the kitchen or a team, there are people that are passionate, relentless, and driven to become the best that they can be. So that their future will be brighter not only for themselves but the business and the industry as a whole. There are also people that are not even close to being passionate, complaining all the time, calling in sick or never showing up, and just doing the bare minimum of work just to keep their job somewhat secure and not get fired. The people who do minimum work pissed me off the most because they always say this phrase “They don’t pay me enough to do this”. I always say this to the back. “If you come to this industry to get rich, then you’re in the wrong industry.” I always say that a kitchen is a bunch of pirates trying to run a ship. There are people that do their job properly while there are others that just want to do the basics and hang for the ride. And we all know what will happen if people do that kind of stuff. Walk the plank and never see them again (which means fired them). And I’ve done that where I have to fire them. I don’t like it (most of the time), but it’s the only way. If I would lose a shitty worker, a decent kitchen crew, or my sanity, I would not hesitate and sacrifice that dickhead over them.
When it comes to hard-working people, there will be times that they will be a bit rude and somewhat ruthless (I fall under this category). These passionate warriors in the food industry is a beauty because it shows the raw potential for the future of those individuals. The people who will do whatever it takes to succeed. Whatever if it’s working overtime, taking more jobs, and making difficult decisions. However, it can also be a bad thing because their attitude will be an obstacle to other workers. It is a double-edged sword. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but managing your emotions, staying calm, and being patient with orders is the key to success in the kitchen. What’s behind every good chef is a good team. Great. Now I sound like my teacher.
In the food industry, you will meet a ton of different people from different cultures, ethnicities, and lifestyles. You will meet people that are driven to make their mark in the industry and will do whatever it takes to reach that goal. You will meet people that are suffering from extreme physical, emotional, or financial loss and has to make ends meet in order to pay for their rent. You will encounter people that sometimes are suffering from addiction. Whether if it’s drugs, alcohol, or even sex like prostitution, it is common to see these kinds of people.
And last but certainly not least, mental health. Approximately 80% of all workers have or had suffered from some sort of mental health issue. From stress to anxiety, to burnout, you name them all. It is probably normal by now. People work long hours (8-12 hours or even more), have little to no days off, miss their loved ones, sacrifice so much to make ends meet. Oh! And do I have to mention that we’re still in a global pandemic? That just makes things 20 times harder to make money, find staff, reopen. The list goes on and on for any kind of food business. And if you own a business, that’s even harder. I only see my dad for 1 hour each day, almost every day, for 10 years until he decides to limit his work hours to spend time with the family. It is a brutal lifestyle that both I and my dad have to live with. He always feels sorry for not spending much time with me. His only wish for me is to not walk a mile in the same path as he was.
At the end of the day, I’m not to bash the food industry or draw anyone out of interest. Every industry has its ups and downs and this is no different. What I can say is that if you want to commit, then really commit. Realize that you will have to make sacrifices along the way like not taking days off, missing weddings, anniversaries, parties, and maybe losing a bit of your sanity and sleep. But in the end, it will all pay off. It is a hard industry to survive because of shitty workers and ruthless assholes but if you ever find or become that fierce, relentless, passionate cooking warrior, hold them for dear life because that will propel you further than you will ever expect.