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Jan 17, 2013 01:07 PM

Have any busboys/line cooks ever opened a restaurant?

Here in Los Angeles, and probably in most of the U.S., essentially all meals, from fast food to top-rated restaurants, across all ethnicities, are prepared by non-English-speaking, largely Hispanic immigrant staff. I wonder if anyone knows:

1. Have anyone from these ranks (or dishwashers, busboys) - specifically *non-English-speaking* individuals - ever taken those skills to open their own restaurant?

2. Would this even be possible, and if not, why not?

3. Does anyone know anyone in this position to say whether they even use these (often amazing) kitchen skills just around the house, at holiday dinners, etc. Or is it more of a "just a job" situation that doesn't leave the place of employment. I'm wondering if the Salvadoran cook at the awesome local kebab place makes kebabs when he bbq's with friends, and if they're equally awesome. Ditto for Thai food, Italian, etc.

I asked an acquaintance of mine recently who supplied restaurants in the L.A. area about this possibility, and he just laughed and said "impossible". Is it??

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    1. I think you may need to realize there is a whole lot more world than " la"

      1. I have seen this, so yes.

        anyway, why wouldn't it be possible? people who think it's "impossible" are ignorant and/or living in a small box.

        1. The last restaurant I owned AND actively managed was a higher end steak house. Soon after purchasing the restaurant and observing the routines of the staff I realized that the head Chef who was American born and raised really did very little actual work. Yes he was behind the line and worked the grill/expedited a bit but all the sauté or “skill” cooking was being done by the Mexican line cooks.

          It took me less than two months to decide I didn’t need to pay a Chef to just be a supervisor I have enough kitchen skills and restaurant experience that I could assume the supervisory position. My experience was just this…….I could teach these guys anything and they could replicate it however outside of some local Mexican cuisine that they cooked for themselves they didn’t have one ounce of creativity. After a couple months of me preparing specials showing them how I wanted them made and presented I would try to engage them to come up with some dishes of their own the results would me nothing, none zip. No originality or ability to put something together. They were EXCELLENT workers but not very good leaders or original thinkers. I believe they just grow up in a worker mentality where creativity isn’t cultivated and isn’t a strong suit of theirs.

          I will also say this…..most I would say at least 75/80% of kitchen workers in restaurants (not chains…but some chains as well) are undocumented illegal aliens. Thus opening up a location of their own would be extremely difficult from a tax stand point unless they were only going to accept cash. I’m sure there are examples out there but I would say they are very few and far between.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jrvedivici

            I agree with almost everything you say jr, except that I would add, those were particular people you employed who did not have creativity. Some of the guys I work with now are definitely creative. You should have tasted the cream of mushroom soup the new manager made!

            1. re: Missmoo

              It could be......I'll tell you this much too, the fact that I actually fired the Chef and put them in charge made them fiercely loyal and appreciative to me. I know these guys had been in the state's 10+ years.....some had families and children who were American Citizens in the school systems etc. I could not believe the pride they took in the fact I trusted them with this responsibility. Those were a special group of guys......on my last restaurant venture I tried to track the main two brothers down but sadly they went home for a visit and got caught trying to cross the boarder again. I believe it wasn't their first attempt so now they have to stay 5 years I believe or get jail time if they get caught trying to cross again. (Not 100% sure but that close to what I was told)

          2. Language has nothing to do with it. What matters are knowlege and skills beyond those of a typical line cook, and business acumen. There was a restaurant in my neighborhood which had an established reputation and which drew customers from a wide area for years. Eventually it was sold, and the cook who took it over ruined the business practically overnight. He didn't want to (or couldn't) make the food that had made the place a success, and had nothing to replace it that he could sell.