what if....

-the minimum wage cooks and dishwashers made were $15/hour (only $31,200 a year before taxes, yet so much more than most cooks will ever make)?
-all restaurants made everything from scratch, had freezers only for ice cream, and the only cans opened had anchovies and tomatoes inside?
-what seemed ridiculous were the fact that people think it's okay to balk at a measly wellness surcharge instead of the fact that so many full-time restaurant employees (some of whom work two or three jobs) will never have health insurance?


what if people realized the true cost of making good, honest food?

what if restaurant prices really reflected that cost?

what if, when they sat down to eat, people thought about all of the lives, all of the work, that goes into making that one meal?

do you think people would still feel entitled to criticize left and right, all over the internet, about such silly things as the size of the silverware or write letters threatening blackmail and extortion (i remember one person who threatened to build a website called www.cpsucks.com) if they aren't "sufficiently compensated?"

i know people, both in restaurants and out, who think i get too wound up about this stuff. but are these issues you face in your line of work on a daily basis? i'm not even complaining about the typical challenges of working in a restaurant, like standing eight to ten hours a day, cutting, burning and otherwise injuring myself on a nearly daily basis, trying to use up food before it goes bad, and trying to make the best of a wholly-undereducated-overintoxicated work force. i totally accept those challenges.

i also totally accept responsibility for over and undercooked steaks, salty and bland food, burnt cookies, and over-garlicky aioli. it happens, and i'm sorry, and i'll do my best to make it up to you. i just wish that people had a little more compassion, and a lot more understanding about what really goes on in the back of a restaurant before they felt okay about talking smack about last night's dinner.


  1. I absolutely agree that restaurant workers deserve health care insurance and sick days... I also agree that people need to think more about what they buy, when they buy it and why they believe some items are worth more than others -- and then decide to buy what they like at an appropriate price!

    However, I think that some restaurants in SF are CHOOSING to pay for the insurance/sick days with the surcharge as a way to display their displeasure with the mandate. I feel like they want the populous to rise up in protest and then maybe not have to do it... it's a little like when the park service decides to close the Washington Memorial because they don't get the budget appropriation that they want.

    That said, it is completely unnecessary and wrong to take the surcharge out of a tip! People who do not know how to tip appropriately need to stay home and cook their own damn food.

  2. I think i am missing something. What is a wellness surcharge? Please explain...I'll google in the meantime.

    For me, eating in a restaurant is a luxury item and i am willing to pay more for good quality and a restaurant that runs its business ethically.

    However, it's a bit complicated if you look at it from purely a business perspective, because the customer is generally only interested in the end product and not the processes through which it gets there. Which means you get to bitch if your steak is overcooked...it sucks but it makes sense if you look at a restaurant like any other business providing a product and/or service.

    As for worker benefits- do you know what the wages are of the person making your iPod accessories or your Converse shoes, or whether they receive health benefits? I think there is are greater societal questions than just what a waiter or cook deserves. I have been uninsured while working for a multimillion dollar company and paid $10,000 out of pocket for my surgery. It's not just restaurants. Let's hope the next administration can move us in the right direction.

  3. article I thought you might find interesting:

  4. jen, i completely agree that you get to bitch if your steak isn't cooked properly--all i'm saying is, i wish people would say something while they were still at the table (go ahead and bitch at us while you're still here), when we can actually do something about it, instead of going home and writing about it on the internet, or by trying to blackmail us into giving you free stuff, or else.

    i want your food to be just right, probably more than you do.

    and thanks for the link, anna. my favorite canning book is _putting food by_. i'd like to write a long piece on the culture and history of preserving foods soon...

  5. Oh Samin, I know you want everyone's food to be just right. Don't waste your energy on the losers...I mean, who sets up a website because of overcooked steak? I'll tell you who- bitter, angry losers with way too much time on their hands.

    As for the health insurance, I feel more strongly now than I did when I wrote that comment that we need to find a solution for *everyone*. My work is laying off people in droves and I will likely soon find myself unemployed and paying the high COBRA fees again. Maybe we all need a wellness surcharge?

    p.s. I have been making tons of pickles from the cucumbers in my mama's garden- you should write about pickles someday.