Date of Degree

5-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor(s)

Barbara Katz-Rothman

Subject Categories

Adult and Continuing Education | Food Studies | Vocational Education

Abstract

There is a desperate shortage of line cooks and kitchen staff in restaurants all over the world. In New York City, kitchens are running with as little as 50% of staff capacity, due to a lack of people, qualified (defined as certified or skilled) or not, willing to work in restaurant kitchens, so chefs are forced to simplify their menus.[i] I design workforce development programs for homeless men in New York City, 70% of whom have an incarceration background. On paper, the culinary field seems like the perfect match for the population that I serve; there is a huge demand, restaurants do not generally conduct background checks, a living wage is obtainable, and the industry has already established career pathways.

Despite all of these factors, particularly the sheer number of available jobs in New York City, one of the food capitals of the world, the culinary field has not been able to move the needle on filling the bevy of open positions. There are a number of questions to explore here, and one of the most pressing is: why, in an economy as precarious as this one, are these particular jobs remaining empty when they pay a living wage? What is causing the disconnect between a population in need of jobs and jobs in need of a population?

In this thesis, I argue that the labor disconnect will directly impact both haute cuisine and middle class cuisine. Middle class cuisine is defined here as restaurants that incorporate some elements of haute cuisine, but whose menus are specifically priced for middle class consumption. For haute cuisine in particular, what does food as art look like when the artist has no apprentices?

Finally, how much is the source of the labor shortage due to what I call the Food Network fallout? Has the televising of kitchens, which are in no way representative of actual restaurant kitchens, so twisted the expectations of students graduating from both workforce development programs and from full-time from culinary schools that they are unwilling to do the backbreaking labor of kitchen restaurant work?

[i]Moskin, Julia. Not Enough Cooks in the Restaurant Kitchen, 2015

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