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Nov 29, 2011 03:32 PM

Does the Chef or do the Kitchen Staff at Restaurants Drink "On Duty"?

Having just helped with the Thanksgiving holiday cooking I couldn't imagine having gotten through it all without some significant booze. Got me thinking, do the chefs or those who staff kitchens at restaurants take a sip (or hit) of anything to get through the night or do they wait 'til the end? Is it wrong?

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  1. As a general rule, no. Some people find a way to drink on the job no matter what their profession (even airline pilots etc) but its not generally accepted.

    1. A quote from Mario Batali (Heat, Bill Buford, p. 7): "I don't want to come off as a big druggy, but when a guy comes into the kitchen with a pizza pan turned upside down, covered with lines of coke, how can you say no?"

      There's probably something about drinking on the job, too, but I'm too lazy to turn more pages and the book doesn't have an index.

      1 Reply
      1. It depends on how management runs the kitchen and what is deemed acceptable. I only worked in my own joint and we'd try to keep the drinking down to the last hour or so of service. Unchecked, it would get out of hand, strictly forbidden, I'd lose good people.
        I would guess in the more corporate places things are tighter.
        Is it wrong? In what way, morally? legally?
        I bet you'll get plenty of bleeding hearts commenting on liabilities etc etc.

        2 Replies
        1. re: porker

          Drunk workers equates to more accidents.
          Accidents in the kitchen disfigure, disable or kill.

          Is that increased risk acceptable to you?

          1. re: jambolia

            A glass of wine or beer in the last hour of service doesn't make you drunk. In fact I have noticed when cooking or doing anything in fact a little wine increases my accuracy and flow. Partly because I am not so wound up.

        2. Kitchen Nightmares UK version featured a family restaurant where the chef was hitting the bottle pretty hard during service. Ramsay was pretty clear that this is absolutely not acceptable for any chef staff. Doesn't mean that it doesn't happen, just means IMHO that tightly run top restaurants won't tolerate this. In the episode, the chef wound up having a drinking blackout during service and an ambulance was called. Kind of catastrophic for that evening's service....

          1. During my twelve years in the restaurant biz, cocaine was common in both high end and lower end places, front and back of house. Lower end joints often meant the line cooks and servers sucking nitrous from the whip cream cans and smoking joints in the walk-in. Drinking was generally front of house (though illegal in our state). Cooks and chefs didn't usually drink until the end of the night when they were no longer using sharp objects. And it was not infrequent that the drinking continued until the sun came up.

            12 Replies
            1. re: mojoeater

              I just think of the pressure of delivering what could be someone's dream meal to them and doing it night after night at one of the higher end places. The pressure to not screw it up. I need a drink thinking about it.

              1. re: Chinon00

                Hardly the same stress as any number of other occupations or situations. Delivering a bad meal is hardly important in the scheme of things. LOL.

                1. re: tommy

                  It's like any endeavor where you are performing in front of a large audience and are up to public ridicule if you fail. And I don't think it's as urgent as the work of a cop or doctor but it is pressure none the less.

                  1. re: tommy

                    errrrm, restaurant jobs are among the most stressful jobs around. Other than air traffic controllers and surgeons I dont think many occupations offer the level of stress that a busy restaurant does.

                      1. re: tommy

                        Well, its a pretty commonly held opinion, and I can vouch for it as well. Im an architect now, and it's definitely less stressful than the restaurant work I did in college. Have you ever worked as a server?

                        Here is Health Magazines top 10 list of the most stressful jobs in the US, and being a restaurantserver made the list.

                        1. Inner City High School Teacher
                        2. Police Officer
                        3. Miner
                        4. Air Traffic Controller
                        5. Medical Intern
                        6. Stockbroker
                        7. Journalist
                        8. Administrative Assistant
                        9. Customer Service Worker
                        10. Restaurant Server

                        1. re: twyst

                          Good thing being an attorney, Judge, mental health professional, corrections officer, EMT, emergency room worker, etc. etc. etc. are such relaxing jobs in comparison to restaurant workers! LOL.

                          1. re: sedimental

                            Have you ever worked as a server in a busy restaurant? There is a reason why its always on the list of the most stressful jobs. Its not just one study that returned these results, its lots of them, and its for good reason. Hordes of demanding customers all wanting something different and wanting it NOW leads to an exceptionally high level of stress.


                            etc etc etc

                            1. re: twyst

                              I understand that restaurant service and line-cookdom is stressful. I won't argue that otherwise.

                              "Hordes of demanding customers all wanting something different and wanting it NOW leads to an exceptionally high level of stress."

                     an RN in a busy level 1 trauma unit who's sort of baffled that my job never gets a shout out on these lists, I'll point out that the demanding public doesn't get any milder mannered or more patient when they or their family members are injured, in pain, or dying. Quite the opposite. I've heard more than one nurse (and many nurse aides) state aloud they they were quitting and going back to waiting tables. That is all.

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                I believe, being a Pre-medical student, that training and intelligence is what makes the difference. Having worked in the business since I was young, I can say that even within fine dining, intelligence is not a common denominator amongst many. I don't mean it as an insult but I believe that many people who work as a server/waitress are more susceptible to the stress than others, be it their life's situation or financial woes.

                            2. re: sedimental

                              All these occupations surely have stress (I dunno about the judge thing - I've seen judges fall asleep in the courtroom {;-/) ) to varying degrees. In fact the very nature of the work obviously involves stress.

                              Thats the thing, the general public can associate high stress with jobs like that. Restaurant jobs, well, not so much.

                              Most people I know figure how stressful can it be, flip an egg? carry a plate of food? pour a draft? etc.

                              I'm not saying the EMT worker has more or less stress. I'm saying in general, unless you've actually worked in one, people don't associate restaurant work with stress.

                              I'm currently working as a field engineer. Very often it involves coordinating multiple subcontractors, machinery, lab work, foremen, and several work crews. Plus its usually 100 feet up and lifting devices are in use, so I'm always concerned about the safety aspect. Awhile back, the project manager asked if I was doing OK, how was I handling the pressure, etc. I simply said I ran a kitchen for 15 years (he knew this) and this was a snap. Its true, but like many people, he cannot fathom it, nor actually believes it.

                            3. re: twyst

                              After college I taught school for a year in the inner city. Unable to handle the stress, I became an air traffic controller for 26 years so, at least those two rankings make sense to me. I think my son who has done most BOH restaurant jobs has a lot of stress. When the restaurant is packed on a Saturday night it actually has the feel - barely controlled chaos - of an air traffic control room during a rush. We always said, "give me a good short order cook and we can make a controller out of him". Of course I didn't drink on the job, though we could party with the best of them when not on duty. Chefs are known for hard drinking but if on the job while it's busy? If it's a quality restaurant, it won't be for long. Drinking and working just doesn't work in the long run. Maybe one at the end of the night is OK otherwise clean up and head over to the bar down the street.