How Hard Is It to Hire and Keep Good Cooks?

Categories: Bites & Dishes

Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail laura.hahnefeld@newtimes.com.

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One of the most common titles -- and most crucial positions -- in a restaurant is that of a line cook, someone who is in charge of a particular station in the kitchen.

See also:
- 20 Things No One Told You About Being a Chef in Phoenix
- What Is the Role of the Food Critic?

How hard is it to hire and retain good cooks in today's Phoenix food scene? Here's what a few Valley chefs had to say:

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Bernie Kantak
Chef and Partner, Citizen Public House

These days, it's rare to run across an individual who has the chops to withstand the daily grind of working in a kitchen. The other day, I was with two other chefs, and one of them received a text from an employee giving notice -- or should I say giving notice that no notice is being given. Two days later, the other guy had two people cancel their stage 12 hours before for personal reasons. It's a tough industry and not for everyone.

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Chef Stephen "Chops" Smith,
Searsucker, Scottsdale

It's extremely hard. Labor being what it is, you only have a certain amount of dollars for your top slots -- and often someone else is looking for top-tier guys and is going to pay to take them away. Other times, you find individuals who are worthy of your dime, but you've got no room on the payroll.

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Silvana Salcido Esparza
Chef and owner, Barrio Cafe and Barrio Queen

My cooks have been with me for three to eight years. I have staff that dates back to the mid-1990s, from my ASU days. Treat people as family. Family stays together.

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Aaron May
Chef and Restaurateur

Retaining them is much easier than finding them. Too many cooks have a sense of entitlement today and finding hardworking cooks who want to be in this industry just isn't as easy as it was five years ago.



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2 comments
khaimera
khaimera

Great article, if only to learn that Anthony Spinato is a self-righteous ass. There is no denying how hard a cook works (note: Ive worked both front of the house and back of the house). But to say that there is more pressure is nonsense. Not having to deal with customers is a HUGE advantage of working as a cook. When a cook screws up, the server has to put out the fire at the table. When a server screws up, same deal. There is often little accountability for errors as a cook, which makes the pressure much less. Also, who do you think cleans the front of the house? Your comment makes it pretty clear what you think of servers. And I used to enjoy spinatos too, what a shame.  

AZnikkib
AZnikkib

@khaimera Spinato's is still good. Don't get  your panties in a wad over what you perceive to be some slight to servers.  The rest of us didn't read it that way.

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