As a musician, before I got into radio, I was a line cook, then the chef. All the way up to owning two restaurants back in the day. In fact, there's even an old joke, when you meet someone that works in a kitchen, your immediate follow up question is, "What band are you in?"

My friends and I never really once considered a shortage of line cooks anywhere. We were young, all had steady jobs, and an aching liver that was proof of where we spent our off hours. We worked hard and we played hard. We knew that there was a seemingly never-ending supply of work. It was common to work some place for 12-18 months, and then just switch it up for a change of pace. What other career can you do that?!

But these days, it's getting harder and harder to fill these positions and keep them filled. A friend on Facebook has posted that his restaurant is looking for cooks so many times, that he should have name legally changed to "Nosh Is Hiring Line Cooks". There's a ton of factors, depending on who you ask, and where they're from.

When I first moved back to Bangor about 5 years ago, I was still actively in kitchen work. And I was surprised that it was tougher to find work than I thought it would be. In Portland, the need is so great, it's a seeker's market. Here in Bangor, it seems to be a bit more balanced, but there's still more work than cooks. In bigger cities it's a problem too. My friend Dave in Philadelphia had this to say via Facebook:

In Philly, they are opening more restaurants everyday it feels like.The only problem is there isn't the workforce to properly fill positions in them. You have to pay more money to employees than they deserve, just to keep positions filled and prevent them from leaving. My dishwasher makes $16/hr! The level of help has gone downhill, there is so much competition now, so we pay high wages. Not because of individuals talent, but just to keep positions filled and the restaurant running.

What Dave is experiencing in Philly is pretty much universal to the whole industry these days. Here in Maine, I'm seeing people struggling to find cooks, especially in southern Maine, and we're not even in the busy season yet.

It's tough for any business to keep it going under such spotty employee prospects. And with the migrant workforce under such scrutiny nationwide, towns like Old Orchard Beach and other tourist towns are going to have a rough go of it. My friend Jeremy from southern Maine chimed in Facebook as well:

Ha. Its crazy right now. Had a guy work for a week, then put in his notice. One place down here just changed ownership and now they cant staff it enough to open. Another local joint is closed 2 days a week due to short kitchen staff.

These days, people don't want to work for a Gordon Ramsay type of chef, but at the same time, don't want to pay their dues. A lot of young chefs come right out school, and have all the knowledge, but don't possess the practical skills to be a top-notch line cook. It's an art all by itself. Sure it's fun to come up with new recipes and blow folks minds with your gorgeous food. But can you prepare it quickly, yet still correctly?

There is one important take away here....If you're a good, hard working cook, you can pretty much do whatever you want with your career. run a kitchen, open a restaurant Unless it's being a celebrity chef. But who wants that? Besides, the likelihood is almost zero.

But, making a decent living is possible. It's hard, hard work. but also very rewarding. It's like my grandfather used to say, all we can do in life is to scratch out and honest day's work, for an honest day's pay.


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