October 31, 2010

From the back of the house

By Bryan Riek, cook and zinester.

Why are cooks such assholes?

It can sure seem that way a lot of the time in a lot of restaurants. I have witnessed it and perpetuated it myself numerous times. To answer that question, we have to look at the types of people this work environment attracts: drunks, drug addicts, students doing homework instead of work, artists, child support-dodging trash,
single moms/dads struggling to get through the day for their kids, immigrants with language barriers, entitled family members, the undereducated, overly educated but surprisingly bad culinary school graduates - everyone and anyone who just cant take the regular 9-5 routine.

I wound up in a kitchen due to flexible schedules and later hours. I was a huge drinker and loved to shovel anything that came my way into my system. I did finally kick my bad habits mostly and realized I was not skilled to do anything else besides write and paint things no one reads, so, over ten years later, I'm still shoveling food onto plates. Hey, these things happen.

So back to the why. Well, looking from the list I must say #1 and 2 dominate, so the well can be a bit tainted, so to speak.

Add to that the fast-paced, sometimes non-stop, environment with long odd hours and a design that is set to pit front of the house with back by exchanging pressure back and forth from one another. Pressure to get the order in the kitchen, and then the cook has pressure to cook it up to standard in a timely fashion, then get it out the door while its still hot, a minute behind on either end could have a waitress staring down a cook for an order she wants, or a cook yelling for a waitress to take the food out before they have to remake it! That's just one of many traps a restaurant worker has to avoid in a night - not to mention how it's also all set up in a big brother-like fashion with everyone making sure everyone else is working up to par. It can bring out the worst in ya sometimes and its not hard to see why a front vs. back mentality is established.

As I stated, I have been guilty of this, but have tried to actively combat this infection of a work place. When this aggression rears its ugly head I try to turn to the person and ask, "Why and where does this come from?" Sometimes a base question can knock someone into seeing what they might not even perceive as negative in such an environment, just part of the job right? Well, no, it's certainly not. Let's not sink the boat we are all in.

As workers, we can try not to let what are essentially minute mistakes and problems that seem worse get worse due to being amplified by pressure. As customers maybe we can give that waitress/waiter a break next time your steak is a bit underdone for your tastes or that side of ranch that was forgotten. They might already be getting it from their co-workers.

After all, it's only food.....right?

Email Bryan at: thinkcreep [at] yahoo [dot] com

I've recently been chatting with Bryan about the whole front vs. back of the house mentality and how detrimental it can be. In the SMBHBD zines, I do my fair share of complaining about back-of-the-house coworkers (namely, creepo dishwashers and unstable line cooks), but I think it's important that it be known that there are some great cooks and dishwashers out there...and that servers can be, and often are, the crazy ones. 

No comments:

Post a Comment