That time I was a line cook for 2 days…

27 January 2014

I’m pretty sure I can completely blame this on TV, but the idea of working in a professional kitchen always seemed sort of exciting and fun. I mean, yes it’d be stressful, but adventure of cooking would outweigh that. And I’d never really work in a high-end restaurant’s kitchen, so how bad could it really be?

Well… I actually got to find out over the weekend.

A burger joint in my neighborhood was hiring, and really only had openings for line cooks. Now, this wasn’t like fast food… I mean, yes, it’s burgers, but somewhat fancy burgers. (As far as burgers can be from a walk-up counter.) So I got a tryout…

The first day I went in, well, I wasn’t prepared to actually start that day. I thought the owner was just calling me in to talk to the manager to work out some scheduling. Nope. I was starting that day.  4 ½ hours of making angus hamburger patties. You know, as boring as it sounds it really wasn’t bad. The worst part was that I was in my good clothes and didn’t have the proper shoes for it.

The next day they had me start at 10:30am. I did so much that day. I portioned chicken, washed a lot of dishes, made more angus patties, washed more dishes, learned how to cut bacon and lettuce, learned how to bread chicken, chopped a whole lot of onions, learned how to work the fryer, prep the rice dishes, and then got to top it off with a lot of cleaning. In there I got sort of a break, but not really a break, to eat some food they made for me… (Which was really good.) …  But the day wasn’t over until 11:30pm. 13 hours with barely a break.

By about 7 hours in, I was tired and beginning to get sore. 8 hours in, I was fighting off back spasms.  11 hours in, my legs were shaking and I had a hard time getting up and down to clean things. By the walk home, I was crying.

The thing is, the work wasn’t really that bad. But 13 hours of it without resting… well, not ok. (And possibly not legal.) The talk from the other working there was that an actual lunch break is odd, long hours are the norm, and “you’ll get used to it.” Not likely. Even if I was healthier and stronger, that’s a lot of abuse for a body. Six days a week even.

I like the owner — he’s nice and I enjoyed learning from him and talking food. And my coworkers weren’t bad, even if they were crude at times. And well, though I shouldn’t eat burgers all the time, I really did like the food. (Philly egg rolls!) But “part time” is still six days a week, and about six to eight hours a day. That’s… well… it’s still a lot for that type of work.

I’m glad I gave it a try. Part of me wishes it could work out somehow… But I’m too old to deal with that sort of physical abuse for barely more than minimum wage. I get that food jobs are hard, but nope. This isn’t for me. Not like this, anyway.

  • howie

    the fact that you tried it and got through two days is an accomplishment you should be proud of. i did the same work at a banquet hall on the weekends in high school and i couldn’t do it now either.

  • Mike

    Temp agencies. The pay per hour is better and it won’t be as physically demanding.

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