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Daniel Fishel/Thrillist
Food & Drink

How a Dire Cook Shortage is Wrecking American Restaurants

Published On 12/15/2016
T here is a crisis in the kitchen of America’s restaurants. It is going to get worse before it gets... well, it may not actually get better.
For the past year, I’ve been traveling around the country eating and talking, and in every city I’ve been to, the chefs gripe about the same thing: It is impossible to find cooks anymore. You see it everywhere. Almost every local paper has a story that kicks off with a lede featuring a chef begging anyone who can hold a pan and pick a paring knife out of a lineup to come work for him or her.
Most stories out there talk about the more pedestrian, short-term problems that come with a cook shortage. Dumbing down menus, a boom in double shifts, not knowing who to go to for advice on tattoos featuring cleavers, etc. But what they don’t mention is that this shortage has the potential to fundamentally change restaurants in America -- from the way we eat out and what we pay to eat out, to what we pay the people who cook what we eat out, and how they’re treated in the kitchens.
There is good and middling and bad that could come of this, I’ve found through dozens of conversations. The good: Restaurant workers, long worked and whipped like redheaded mules, may suddenly find themselves treated like actual human people with feelings and souls and college debt. The middling: You might have to pay a little more for your burger to fund this humane treatment. The bad: The whole industry might collapse in a huge column of bacon-infused smoke and all your date nights henceforth will center around when to take your Trader Joe’s wood-fired Naples-style uncured pepperoni pizza out of your parents’ oven.
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Daniel Fishel/Thrillist
Here’s the reason the restaurant industry makes as much sense as a Harmony Korine film: Restaurants don’t make any money. Pretty much ever.
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist
If I gave out a superlative award for “most popularly maligned group of persons,” the millennials would win it in a landslide.
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist
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