What can restaurants put in place to combat chefs hours?

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th November 2014
We’ve looked in depth over the past few weeks at chef’s hours, wages and the dreaded split shift. They remain widespread issues on our social media sites, with the majority agreeing that they do indeed work for far too long for far too little pay. Feedback from the chefs suggests that although they love their jobs, they feel their wages do not reflect an appreciation of all the hard work and hours they put into creating the dishes. stock-footage-time-lapse-clip-of-a-busy-team-of-chefs-working-hard-and-preparing-food-in-a-commercial-orSo what procedures can, or have, been put into place in order to satisfy chefs? Chefs would love some down time and an excellent work/life balance in order to feel that their wages were worth the time and effort they put into the kitchen. Andy Temple, formally of One Devonshire Gardens, contacted us on Facebook. He has worked both 90 hours and 45-hour weeks. According to Andy, a 90-hour week at a three rosette level restaurant can earn a chef worse wages than a 45-hour week at one of the lower level kitchens. Andy suggests that one procedure restaurants could do to achieve this ideal work/life balance is to make pay for a 90-hour week the minimum wage. The wages provided by this type of shift would still make the chef committed to the industry but done with fewer hours in order to create more spare time for family and friends. Chefs also want to be appreciated, and they feel they deserve to be paid better if they are going to continue the long hours. Luke Charles Gregory, who works at EAT UP in Shrewsbury, posted on our wall. He proposes writing into the contracts that the salary is for the times stated and anything over is being paid at their basic hourly rate. Luke also feels that their employers ignore the laws stating what the maximum working hours are and what the minimum wage should be in order to force them to work longer for basic pay. One hotel that has put into practice a procedure on hours and pay is Gleneagles in Scotland. Gleneagles have introduced annualised hours so if a chef works over their agreed shifts, they accrue it back either as a holiday, time in lieu or work four days and then have three days off.Gleneagles The restaurant in which Facebook user Samantha Rae Davis works as a line chef gives its chefs the opportunity to come in earlier in order to check that the kitchen is fully stocked, and everything is ready for the shift. Other suggestions from our Facebook fans included Ben Smith’s idea to delegate in order to let chefs own their roles within the kitchen, or adding educational motives such as knowledge and training to junior chefs’ wages. Dave Baxter, head chef at Chatty Monks in West Reading, United States, wonders why there isn’t a union for service industry workers. Eugene Ruschenberg on Facebook wrote that the procedure of scheduling double shifts does not work as the boss is paying 50% more for at best the same worker. On double shifts, Eugene has seen workers becoming drags on the entire team by losing focus or leading to short tempers. He suggested that by consistently over-scheduling workers, the kitchen naturally becomes short staffed because if one chef was to become injured or ill, there is no-one to fill in without serious juggling of all the employee’s lives. As a consequence of feeling overworked and underpaid, staff turnover in restaurants is often high. Eugene also suggested that a procedure hotels and restaurants could use in order to prevent this is by paying a living wage and maintaining a drama free kitchen as this would create cohesion and efficiency within the team. Chris Thornton, head chef at Restaurant Mason in Newcastle, New South Wales, suggested that the lack of young chefs is due to self-gratification as they do not want hard working conditions. Younger chefs do not want to have to progress up the career level: they believe they have the ‘x factor’ and do not want to be sent home being told that their skills are nothing exceptional. Three people on our Facebook thread stated that they had quit their jobs because the hours they worked for so little pay had got worse. They loved their jobs and still miss the thrill of working in the kitchens, but they decided it was not worth the stress associated with the hours and wages. The lack of pay has even caused one chef’s nervous breakdown after ten years of working, and another one to focus more on his expanding family after twelve years of cheffing. Overworked chef - credit to Getty Images However, Ed Steins, another of our Facebook followers, disagreed with the rest of the commenters on the thread, saying that he did not understand why the chefs were moaning about their hours and pay. Ed stated that when he worked under a chef, he felt that all the head chef was doing was giving orders to the other members of the kitchen, whilst not putting any effort into the job itself.  This comment, however was taken up by Elise Chef, head chef at Jude Kitchen and Bar, who says that the majority of chefs work very hard and that Ed had presumably worked as a kitchen hand. Elise suggests that if Ed wanted the head chef’s job then he could have put in the hard work, training and study to fulfil his dream. It is clear that hours and pay are always going to be significant issues for chefs around the world and one that is not going to disappear anytime soon. By Jenny Williams Let us know what you think! Comment below or join the debate on twitter

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th November 2014

What can restaurants put in place to combat chefs hours?