Friday, January 24, 2014
Thoughts on Behind The Kitchen Door
I wish the author would have gone into the history of how this type of payment system developed. After reading the book, I came away with that this whole method needs to be changed. I remember when I was in Europe (a very long time ago, so maybe this has changed?), but in certain countries, it was considered an insult to tip. The waiter's salary was not artificial reduced to be supplemented by the generosity of diners. At the time, it felt very awkward to not tip. I felt like I was cheating them, even though I was assured that I was not. I don't know enough about the European restaurant industry to gage how successful/fair this method is, but on the surface, it seems like a great idea. Why aren't we doing this? I would much rather pay a flat amount and know that everyone is being paid a fair rate then knowing that I may tip 20% but a friend only tips 10%. Americans are so used to cheap food, that we all need to realize that it comes at significant human cost.
One other point I will touch on (and there are many more in the book), is the blatant racism. The author notes that in fine dining establishments, the farther back you go in a restaurant, the darker the workers. Basically, the servers tend to be white while the dishwasher are usually black. Head/Sous Chefs may be white, but line cooks are African American or darker skinned immigrants. Hostess are white American or white European. Frankly, I can count on one hand the amount of times I have been in a white table-cloth restaurant (the phrase the author uses). From what I remember, the wait staff was white. But, I live in a very diverse city and if I go to a casual dining restaurant, my server is almost always African American. I am not sure where I am going with this, except that I hadn't really thought about it because the restaurants I do go to, the staff is very diverse at all levels. Also, I feel that the racism experienced at fancier establishments comes from a much greater level of institutional racism that goes beyond the restaurant industry. It would be wonderful if the restaurant industry could take the lead in chipping away at those offensive, long-held systems of discrimination. Restaurant Opportunity Centers United is certainly trying, now it is up to us to help them.