We’ve Heard From Screaming Chefs, but What About Their Workers?
“I was worked to the bone, stripped of my love of restaurants, convinced that I was bad at my job, that I wasn’t cool, that I wasn’t one of them, that I wasn’t a hard worker, that I wasn’t not worth it, ”she writes.
Until recently, when we heard stories like this, they were told by cooks. Shouting and throwing the pot were things they endured in their youth, part of the dues they paid. Some of them had also bullied their line chefs and dishwashers early on when they got their own kitchen for the first time and followed the bad examples of their own abusive mentors. Breaking the chain is both a personal achievement and a step towards modern and humane management practices.
Such stories rarely stay with the victims, who the cook left lying on the floor in a finely chopped chiffonade. Abuse may not be a stop on the path to fame in your life. It cannot be redeemed through subsequent success. It may not give them an opportunity to do better when it comes their turn. It’s just abuse.
However, we are hearing these stories now. First it came from female restaurant workers talking about sexual harassment. People listened. They were rightly outraged. Things have changed. This encouraged the restaurant staff to talk about other types of abuse. Many of these allegations, sometimes passed on to reporters but increasingly spread on Instagram posts and comments, range from burning tirades, as Ms. Selinger describes, to less nightmarish behavior by bad bosses, like playing favorites and the recognition of a work of the employee.
Some allegations seem to force bad actors to defend themselves, others have a much more basic message: hello. I’m there. And I’m sick of it.
If you have ever been mistreated by a boss or other figure in authority, some of these voices need to be identified with you. Restaurant workers traditionally worked in silence – the cook or owner was the only one who could talk. Now the microphone can be commanded by almost anyone for at least a few minutes, and it’s changing the way we look at restaurants.
We always knew that it was a group effort. Now we can see the people in the group. And when they suffer, we can feel their pain.