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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Kitchen Horror Stories - Where's The Danger Pay?

The Hypothyroid Sourcebook[Warning: offensive, revolting material ahead]

In the three short calendar years that I cooked on the line at several restaurants, I lost track of the number of injuries I and workmates suffered. Most of them were "minor" burns or cuts, which for me usually healed anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Slipping on food that's fallen on the floor, banging your knee, hitting your head on workstations, minor burns, nicks and cuts - they're all a normal part of what is actual considered to be an extremely dangerous job: line cook. The glamour of cooking that you see on TV is nothing close to the truth: you need a rock-solid ability to handle pressure, to able time plates for the same table, and to take the screaming and yelling from the head chef or the owner. (Damn you meddling owners; can't you stay at home and let us do our jobs?). And, you have to remain calm all the while.

I guess I just didn't have it. My hypo-thyroid disorder caused me intermittent short-term memory loss. It's damn hard to be a line cook under fire when your memory isn't functioning. And I got sick of the back-stabbing politics and preciousness and head-chef arrogance that appears to be a part of the industry. But during my brief career as a cook, I only saw one very serious injury. Well, I saw the result of it, after the incident occurred. One line cook, who had regularly proven to be a non-team player, tossed a filet of salmon into a hot frying pan of oil. The sous chef was unfortunately beside the hot pan and was splashed with the oil onto his hands and face. You can just imagine how much that must have hurt.

The burns on his face and hands took a long time to heal, and he was lucky not to have had an eye damaged. Despite this unfortunate event, and despite that the same line cook regularly dumped food on the floor - which I always slipped on - and tossed sharp knives towards the vicinity of the dishwashing pit, he didn't get fired. We were already understaffed and the sous chef needed everyone. It seems kind of a bad decision considering the injuries. But then again, this is the same sous chef that I caught putting his muddy boots on the metal workstations, as well regularly mining for gold with his finger deep up his nostril. The time that I caught him, he just stared at me at left his finger buried. It was only after I witnessed all this stuff that I heard from a former line cook that the restaurant had been visited by the health board 7 times in the month previous to my start date.

(c) Copyright 2005-present, Raj Kumar Dash,

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  • I'm blogslinger
  • From Canada
  • Writer, author, former magazine editor and publisher, amateur photog, amateur composer, online writer/ blogger, online publisher, freelancer

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