Monday, October 5, 2015

Rant: Restaurants, The Land of Opportunity

As I was drafting this post, I saw a Facebook post from Chef Charles Draghi of Erbaluce which directly dealt with the issue I wanted to address. Chef Draghi stated: "In over 30 years of running restaurants (I had my first managerial position at age 18,) I have never once had a U.S.-born person apply for a position as a dishwasher. Ditto for the positions of over-night cleaner, or early morning prep cook/receiver."

In 2014, there were approximately 15,251 eating and drinking places in Massachusetts, providing about 330,000 jobs (which is about 10% of all jobs in the state). The restaurant industry provides maybe the greatest opportunity for anyone to make a living, no matter their level of education, social class, place of origin, experience level, and much more. Your willingness to work hard is often the most important factor in obtaining a job in this industry.

Kitchens often owe a huge debt to immigrants who perform some of the most basic, and still very important, duties, from dish washing to prep work. Yet how often do they get credit for all of their hard labors? Not enough! If they so desire, they can eventually work their way to different positions. I don't think there is another industry which is so open to providing these immigrants jobs. Chef Draghi understands and it was great to see him acknowledging their role.

Non-immigrants too can find plenty of opportunity in the restaurant industry. For example, the position of server has helped many people make a living and provide for themselves and their families. It can be very hard work, but the barriers to entry are often low, giving opportunity to those with little experience. In time, those servers acquire experience which can be used to get better jobs in the industry.

Sometimes we think of the restaurant industry as a luxury, yet we must consider the vital role it plays in our community, in our economy. It provides numerous jobs which can help some of the neediest of our community. It is about more than famous chefs and mixologists. It is also about everyone from dishwashers to barbacks, servers and prep cooks. We need the opportunities that this industry provides. It makes us a better society.

Stop looking at a restaurant and seeing only their celebrity chef. Look deeper and note all of the people who contribute to the success of that restaurant. Give them kudos for all of their hard work, work that many others might not choose to do. Support restaurants as they support our community. With the holidays coming, they will be working harder than ever, and deserve respect and recognition for all that they do.

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