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Valar Qringaomis

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Convenience Food / Front of House

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, Is Convenience Killing Us?

"We often talk about how wonderful our indigenous cuisines are but those have also changed, because not only are we adding flavour to processed food, but we're losing flavour from whole food and this is something we tend not to talk about.

Things like chicken, tomatoes, strawberries: they don't taste as delicious today as they did 50, 80 years ago. You can find very good ones at farmers' markets and so forth but generally speaking it's a small slice of the population that has access to that.

On a very simple level, whole foods are getting blander and processed foods keep on getting engineered to be more and more delicious. We are increasingly being led to a very bad place in terms of our diet...

I always think there's a sort of hierarchy of bad eating with probably the USA at the top, the UK pretty close after it. Then you look in Europe, people are not by and large eating those hyper processed foods. There's still a feeling of 'we want real food...

Because of recent scares in food safety here in China: lack of regulation, lack of transparency in the food supply chain, unfortunately very processed and fatty food like McDonald's and KFC are perceived to be safer and thus they allow kids to eat it even more so. They now worried about food safety as opposed to the nutritional effect of food...

That food should be fresh and natural has become an article of faith. But for our ancestors, natural was usually nasty. Fresh meat was rank and tough. Fresh fruits inedibly sour and fresh vegetables bitter.

So our ancestors bred, ground, soaked, leached, curdled, fermented and cooked raw materials to turn them into safe, tasty, digestible and healthy food. They delighted in raised white bread, thick, nutritious heady beer, unctuous olive oil and tasty soy sauce.

For them, happiness was not a verdant Garden of Eden. It was a storehouse jammed with processed and preserved foods...

[On saving time] in short, modern processed foods offer formerly unimaginable choices. Not just of diet but what we can do with our lives. Were we able to turn back the clock, most of us would be toiling all day, most of us would be toiling all day in the fields or the kitchen. Many of us would be starving.

It's high time to move beyond nostalgia for a past that never existed"

*

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, Front of House

"A waiter or waitress works all week. And they get their tips. So long as their tips plus that $2.13/hour base pay adds up to the equivalent of at least the regular federal minimum wage, so $7.25/hour, then their pay cheque at the end of the week is probably void. It's probably just gone to taxes and the only income they receive is whatever they've collected over the week. If you tips for the week don't add up to the equivalent of the full minimum wage then the employer is supposed to give you more in base pay in order to make sure that you get up to that full minimum wager.

There's a lot of problems associated with that. It's very difficult to enforce and... there's a lot of abuse of that system. And I should specify that there are 8 states where tipped workers are given the full regular minimum wage before tips so in those cases the customer is just rewarding good service... with that inability to project your income, it's impossible to budget. As a consequence of that we know that tipped workers have much higher poverty rates than non-tipped workers.

The number one thing that correlates with tipping amounts is just the size of the cheque. We have to think about the worker in the lower-end restaurant or the middle-end restaurant. They're probably not making that much money...

There is a small but growing movement to eliminate tipping. It's interesting because I think the motivation for that has come out of a lot of high end restaurants. There's such a disparity between what waiters and waitresses are making in the front of the house where they're getting tipped on these very expensive cheques, versus what the restaurant is able to pay their back of the house workers that they're eliminating tipping to try and reduce those disparities. Among more middle cost restaurants and lower cost restaurants, there hasn't been that movement because chances are the people at the front of the house aren't making that much either... in a lot of countries, working in a restaurant is a middle class job and in some cases this is because the fact that they're unionised allows them to bargain for much higher wages than those folks are getting in the United States...

In the late 1890s in the US there were those who argued that [tipping] went against the country's ideals, creating a servile class financially dependent on a higher class...

At my original restaurant, I had one server and she was walking home with somewhere between $500 and $600 a night. My line cook were making maybe $120 a night...

You do have one side that's probably working 2-3 days a week - that would be the front of house and they're leaving with $300, $400 a night, and then you have the back of house. That's probably working 40-60 hours a week and their take home is probably a $100 a day... Even in my tiny restaurant I've seen fights before, between the front of house and back of house...

For everybody who says, oh why don't you just decide to pay your back of house more, there is no extra money in restaurants. Margins are really really slim... [mine are] 2%, 3%. I'm not a bad restaurant. I actually have a very well-known niche restaurant and usually vegetarian chefs want to come work for me.

And what happened was there were no vegetarian chefs left in the city, there were no cooks left in the city. Everybody's moved out because its so expensive and we're losing them because we can't pay them enough...

[Tipping] is an awful, awful system. It is sexist, it is racist. Pretty girls that are a little chesty tend to make more tips. I'm not quite sure why we think it's okay that my customers are basically my human resources department for my front of house labour. Why do they get to decide how much my front of house takes home on any given night?...

The servers who I hired were actually really excited because for them it meant they were guaranteed their salary. If I have a bad night they're not going to be punished for it...

I had a server say to me: you know, it's really nice when a table thinks that they've gotten really good service from me and I know and they know it's not because I'm trying to push them to buy something else. If I was gracious, it's because I'm actually gracious... we decided that our servers would make about $25 an hour, $200 a night... it's probably slightly less tips than they would make, but it is guaranteed"
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