You don’t make much money in a kitchen, that's a fact. If you add the salaried hours to the equation, you make even less. Even if you grind your gears and rise through the ranks, you may still find that before you start making more, you start making less. Often the better the restaurant, the less they pay you.
For your dishwasher its twice as hard. He/she works the same hours, does the dirty work, is the last one to finish and often is paid the least. The financial imbalance between the front and the back is one of the legendary inequities of the industry, it fuels the daily feuds and adds heat to the kitchen and all while the band plays on.
One of the things we set out to do with Wilde Beest was to address this imbalance. In the spirit of friendship and parity, we have attempted to address our labor pool cooperatively to give every member of our staff a chance at a living wage, the freedom to afford a family, and enough time to use what they’ve earned. I don’t know if this social experiment of ours will fail or succeed. Maybe five years from now I’ll kick myself when my truck breaks down or I have to pass on that trip to Bermuda or worse maybe even our restaurant fails…
I can say though, that right now, I have used our money the best way I know how: purchasing the trust and good faith of our staff. Knowing they are behind me, and in front of Wilde Beest gives me faith and hope in the future. Its easy to forget, in the mix of things, in our hopes for success and our ambitions for the future, that success starts simply.
Before I sell a beer, a dish, or a crust of bread; first I need to sell the people who bring those things to life. I could be wrong, I have many times, but the best and most vital thing I believe right now is that making my staff my first customers is vital to the health of my business. How could I possibly sell anyone on what we do here if I can’t sell the people who are doing it everyday?
Obviously there are many things more significant than money, but is there anything that feels worse than being undervalued? I’m not an easy boss or even a kind chef, but the dedication and expectations I have for my team have a strong parallel with my commitment to serve them in all things daily. I hope this, the first of the notes from my kitchen, reminds me, more than anyone who shares this moment, that it started with people, it will be carried by people and in the end will be the story of the people, more than anything else.
Hug your dishwasher today, skip your vacation and give him a raise, cut your team in on the profits, tip your busser like he’s your little brother, in all likelihood for the time you work together he will be. Thanks to all the people who have shared my kitchen over the years, and to the lessons, both good and bad, that have taught my to appreciate what it means to be a part of a team. And most of all thank you Russ, Greg, Eric and Oshan… y’all may not always see the limelight but you do a damn fine job turning it on.