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Why cooks are leaving SF?

grayelf Dec 28, 2013 10:06 AM

http://www.sfgate.com/food/article/Ec...

Interesting article that may impact our ability to get more of the good stuff in the coming months.

  1. Robert Lauriston Jan 5, 2014 12:25 PM

    "I think a living wage can be calculated using average rent, transportation and other living expenses"

    The common rule of thumb is rent * 40 (which is the same as saying rent should not exceed 30% of your income).

    Which rent would you look at? In my 20s I usually had a bedroom in a shared flat in a then less-desirable neighborhood. In the outer Richmond and Sunset, such rooms appear to be going for $700 and up, which would mean $28K (just about the median salary for line cooks, according to salary.com).

    Studios in those neighborhoods are going for $1600 and up, so that would be $65K. However, a lot of young people would probably prefer to spend the same money for a room in a shared flat in the Mission.

    I don't think "living wage" means enough money to rent your own apartment in one of San Francisco's most desirable neighborhoods.

    "In God we trust. All others must bring data."

    5 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston
      s
      sugartoof Jan 5, 2014 12:50 PM

      "Studios in those neighborhoods are going for $1600 and up"

      Craigslist has 1br's and In-laws in the Sunset starting under $1500.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston
        bbulkow Jan 5, 2014 07:43 PM

        Best post on this off-topic.

        Just think: if it's bad for chefs & cooks, where there are at least jobs & restaurants, imagine how bad it is for musicians. They got priced out of The City in the 90's, but their lousy industry has been contracting so badly even the teaching jobs are drying up... and the mixdown/studio jobs.... etc.

        1. re: bbulkow
          s
          sugartoof Jan 5, 2014 08:33 PM

          More mythology of so called gentrification. It's all very romantic.

          1. re: sugartoof
            d
            dunstable Jan 6, 2014 07:40 AM

            I can understand your skepticism regarding the impending death of SF's dining scene; I share it, to some extent. But you also seem to believe that gentrification is not causing rents to go up in SF, which is, to put it bluntly, bewildering. My friends and I make several times more than the salaries quoted here for line cooks, and even we worry that we will be priced out of the City.

            I currently pay over $1000 to share a 2br in the Richmond, which is neither a hip nor posh neighborhood. I don't understand where you think people making $30k a year are going to live in the City. Perhaps Excelsior or Visitacion Valley may still be affordable to a line cook, but it's not like there are all these options for low-income cooks. This is definitely at least an issue they have to deal with, although perhaps not a barrier to employment.

            1. re: dunstable
              s
              sugartoof Jan 6, 2014 09:41 AM

              Here's the thing. Gentrification is real. It's detrimental to many neighborhoods, while improving some others. It's also one of the best things that has happened to the fine dining scene, even with prohibition like laws restricting them. People like a safer city with fun new businesses to visit, all of which makes it more attractive to live in, and the redeveloped corridors aren't typically things new transplants gripe about. It's a much more livable city to some and attracts people.

              I reject the idea that the "musicians" were pushed out by Gentrification as if SF had a thriving music scene at the time, and those people were all somehow more indigenous because they're musicians, and live cheaply.

              Likewise, Service industry automatically makes you a working family, or more indigenous? Frank, the Sous Chef at Aziza, comes from Vermont, and doesn't like the high rents in SF. I'm supposed to consider him a victim of gentrification now?

              The issue isn't gentrification, it's quality of life. If you're a Line Cook or Sous Chef in your mid-20's, living in Visitacion Valley might not fit the lifestyle you were hoping to live. Like the job itself, it's not always glamorous.

      2. Mission Jan 1, 2014 02:45 PM

        Why do the Cities next to Rent Control cities have lower
        or similar rents?

        SF: Marin, South SF.
        Berkeley: Albany,El Cerrito,Kensington.
        Oakland: San Leandro,Hayward,Emeryville.

        Can anyone name a city where rent control has worked?

        3 Replies
        1. re: Mission
          m
          ML8000 Jan 1, 2014 03:22 PM

          Why? If you look at the total available units for rent in those cities (vs. SF, Berkeley and Oak), you'll see it's limited and a majority of suburban single family dwellings. Historically these cities (next to SF-Oak-Berk) came about later and grew slower as outgrowths of the main cities. In other words, it's a apples vs. oranges comparo.

          Also since these cities are adjacent but not in those cities, they're less desirable (or have specific draws) and generally take the rent level as their larger neighbors. Eventually the higher rents will hit these non-rent control cities...so it's really just about time.

          Seriously, so the rent in Albany takes 2-3 years to catch up with Berkeley (with its super high student population), it still goes up.

          1. re: Mission
            Robert Lauriston Jan 2, 2014 10:08 AM

            People who have been in rent-controlled apartments for a while have lower rents than you'll find for a comparable vacant apartment anywhere in the area, unless you luck out and find an eccentric landlord who charges well below market rates.

            The local laws used to control rents on vacant units, but big landlords successfully lobbied the legislature to impose vacancy decontrol statewide.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              s
              sugartoof Jan 2, 2014 10:57 AM

              How about State legislated Menu Control for all fine dining establishments, freezing their pricing?

              I'm worried a young cook might not be able to try French Laundry or try Aziza.

          2. c
            chrisjuricich Dec 31, 2013 05:39 PM

            Of course it's not just chefs--everyone is feeling the crunch. My wife and I plan to retire to the Philippines eventually where our 'mighty dollar' will carry us through to doddering senility--otherwise, it's stay here in the Bay Area and work till we are in our late 60s.

            Lessee...tropical lifestyle, cheap housing and food, easy access to travel in Asia, and actually some nice restaurants that aren't an arm and a leg...OR...continue working 40 hours a week for another 10 years? Hmmm....

            1. s
              sugartoof Dec 31, 2013 03:36 PM

              I call BS.

              First of all, let's differentiate between a Chef and a Cook, shall we? Cooks often get paid under the table, lack benefits, and the legality of their hiring is typically in question.

              Chefs make good money, often get a percentage of sales and are silent partners and in 2014 they have corporate job options that aren't minimum wage. This is an improvement over the past. We live in an era where Chefs make a living simply consulting, and after 3 internships, and a year or two of slave labor, can acquire a Sous Chef, or Chef de Cuisine position. A year after that, it's not unheard of to begin the process of opening your own overly lavish establishment, paid for by investors, often coming from internet dollars, or private wealth. We live in a time when you can become a minor celebrity by starting a food cart, and upgrade to a food truck, then an actual retail location.

              We're not talking about your average food service industry worker affording rent, suffering from virtually the same economical issues all low level industry workers are facing.

              Perhaps the owner of Aziza should consider their role in pricing out their patrons, and the ramifications of taking a dish traditionally meant for sharing and reducing it to the shameful size of an egg roll. What comes around goes around.

              69 Replies
              1. re: sugartoof
                c oliver Dec 31, 2013 03:38 PM

                Actually we ARE talking about "cooks" and not "chefs."

                1. re: c oliver
                  s
                  sugartoof Dec 31, 2013 06:33 PM

                  Actually, it seems more like talk of who to scapegoat in a discussion that's unrelated to food.

                  1. re: sugartoof
                    c oliver Dec 31, 2013 06:42 PM

                    If you read the OP, it IS about food.

                2. re: sugartoof
                  Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2013 03:46 PM

                  That is what we're talking about. The article linked in the opening post is about chefs having trouble hiring line cooks and sous chefs, and about how increasingly they'll open trucks or pop-ups, bypassing the traditional restaurant ladder.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    s
                    sugartoof Dec 31, 2013 06:29 PM

                    " chefs having trouble hiring line cooks"

                    There's no trouble hiring them. The reality is most kitchens relied (or still rely) on undocumented workers, so the young chef is caught in a pickle. The bigger problem is the habit of paying chefs who aren't actually cooking, when a portion of their salary could cover benefits, and other inducements to retaining more qualified cooks.

                    1. re: sugartoof
                      Robert Lauriston Jan 1, 2014 11:53 AM

                      Wrong.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        s
                        sugartoof Jan 1, 2014 12:13 PM

                        Owner Chefs, Executive Chefs, even Chef De Cuisines, have become figureheads and bookkeepers in most restuarants. That's one example of how the economics really fail. If you think all your food is being cooked by a celebrity chef, or even their protege, you're fooling yourself. I'm reading a lot of misdirection, but the problem is the businesses themselves, nothing more. If they can't support their fine dining model and attract staff, they are to blame. Likewise, we can blame the cooks who are over achieving. It's not a matter of just paying rent. Line cooks can do what my friends that work for Google do - get roomates. Consider the first 5 years of their career an investment and live withint their means. The job is no more luxurious in Portland or other small markets where they might overvalue cooks with SF experience on their resumes.

                        1. re: sugartoof
                          c
                          calny Jan 3, 2014 02:08 AM

                          I think you may be confused about the difference between compensation in the food service industry and other sectors. Line cooks make very low wages and their earnings are a fraction of what an entry level employee in a tech company makes.

                          1. re: calny
                            s
                            sugartoof Jan 3, 2014 12:37 PM

                            Oh please. Pretending every entry level tech job is a cash bonanza would be like pretending every line cook has a salary like Tyler Florence.

                            We're not talking about workers at Super Duper, we're talking about fine dining. It's deflection for their employers to blame the real estate market for their inability to take a lower profit margin, and lower income themselves to fairly compensate their own employees.

                            We're on a food forum...anyone care to explain how the high end restaurants are free of blame? We live in an era of $300 tasting menus.

                            1. re: sugartoof
                              Robert Lauriston Jan 3, 2014 12:48 PM

                              Per salary.com, median salaries in SF are $27K for line cooks, $70K for entry-level quality assurance engineers (bottom of the tech food chain).

                              Both would qualify for low-income housing (cutoff income in the SF metro area is about $70K).

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                s
                                sugartoof Jan 3, 2014 01:30 PM

                                1) Quality assurance Engineers aren't the bottom of the tech food chain.

                                2) Why not compare cooks to attorneys or doctors instead? It's about as logical.

                                3) Which establishment names would be the equivalent of low-income housing? Again, it's silly.

                                Why isn't it a restaurants responsibility to pay a living wage and stop placing blame elsewhere?

                                1. re: sugartoof
                                  Robert Lauriston Jan 3, 2014 01:53 PM

                                  Entry-level salaries for tech jobs start at more than twice what line cooks make. If you think that's not true, try to find some data.

                                  1. re: sugartoof
                                    n
                                    nocharge Jan 3, 2014 02:07 PM

                                    Actually, QA people are pretty much at the bottom of the tech food chain when it comes to engineers, at least in software. That's not to say that they are unimportant, but what category of engineers would you consider to be lower on the food chain?

                                    1. re: nocharge
                                      s
                                      sugartoof Jan 3, 2014 02:40 PM

                                      "what category of engineers "

                                      Clearly we're back to the whole "Is this about cooks or chefs" question.

                                      Engineers?

                                      Are there no service jobs in tech? Enough class nonsense.

                                      1. re: sugartoof
                                        n
                                        nocharge Jan 3, 2014 03:08 PM

                                        There are clearly jobs in the software industry that are lower on the food chain than QA. Receptionists come to mind. But if you spent any time in Silicon Valley, you would realize that QA is pretty low on the food chain when it comes to engineers. A serious engineer in a support organization has to have a deep understanding of the product in order to diagnose defects. A lot of QA work could be left to a thousand monkeys with typewriters.

                                        That's not to say that QA is unimportant, but in terms of software engineers, it's very low on the food chain.

                                        1. re: nocharge
                                          s
                                          sugartoof Jan 3, 2014 04:26 PM

                                          No idea why you want to discuss the engineering food chain. It's trivial to this forum, even with the food chain analogy.

                                          1. re: sugartoof
                                            n
                                            nocharge Jan 4, 2014 02:10 PM

                                            sugartoof,

                                            You made the following claim about the engineering food chain which rings totally false to me as a Silicon Valley veteran.

                                            "1) Quality assurance Engineers aren't the bottom of the tech food chain."

                                            Have you ever checked out institutes like this one
                                            http://www.portnov.com/portnov-comput...
                                            that has been generating QA "engineers" for the last 20 years? Three sessions a week for 13 weeks and you are ready to go. Where do you think it puts you on the food chain?

                                            A friend of mine told me the following story: A young Russian guy had a job driving one of the Airporter shuttle busses between SFO and the downtown hotels. During the dot-com boom, when pretty much anyone who could fog a mirror could get a job in high tech, he took one of those three-month classes at a software QA institute. He then landed a job at a startup paying him something like $90K. Not too surprisingly, that startup went belly-up, and as the dot-com bubble was collapsing, he couldn't find another job in QA. So he went back to working as a bus driver.

                                            1. re: nocharge
                                              s
                                              sugartoof Jan 4, 2014 05:20 PM

                                              Yeah, yeah, the fantasy tech world where every single person in the building is an engineer or some technical job, and every starting job is 90k.

                                              1. re: sugartoof
                                                n
                                                nocharge Jan 4, 2014 05:32 PM

                                                So the point of your comment that read

                                                "1) Quality assurance Engineers aren't the bottom of the tech food chain."

                                                was really that there are receptionists and janitors that make less than engineers? If so, thanks for the insight! Who would have thought?

                                                1. re: nocharge
                                                  s
                                                  sugartoof Jan 4, 2014 06:04 PM

                                                  Well where's the insight of a conversation based on the fallacy that engineers of any sort are the tech industry match for line cooks? What would it even matter? Why ignore the influx of Students, or the decrease in housing *sales*? It's obvious why.

                                                  Look, you can't blame Google for Aziza's inability to figure out how to pay their staff a competitive wage. You can however blame something like this:
                                                  http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

                                                  1. re: sugartoof
                                                    n
                                                    nocharge Jan 4, 2014 06:42 PM

                                                    Robert Lauriston made the comment that QA people tend to be at the lower end of the high-tech food chain (if you exclude the likes of receptionists and janitors). I agree with his assessment based on a long career in Silicon Valley. You disputed that claim and it's a much more narrow discussion than general properties of line-cook compensation, Google, or Aziza.

                                                    1. re: nocharge
                                                      s
                                                      sugartoof Jan 4, 2014 08:47 PM

                                                      Because it's ludicrous to argue there are no tech employees under a Quality Assurance salary. Convenient exclusions, and nitpicking aside, this relates to food how exactly?

                                                      1. re: sugartoof
                                                        n
                                                        nocharge Jan 4, 2014 09:13 PM

                                                        This topic here is about the ability of line cooks to pay rent in SF. Exactly how that relates to food may be somewhat of a mystery. My original post was about a very narrow claim regarding the status of QA people. If your contribution to this thread is that there are people employed by high-tech companies, like receptionists and janitors, that make less than those in QA, I'm sure everyone will stand in awe in appreciation of having been enlightened by this insight.

                                                2. re: sugartoof
                                                  Robert Lauriston Jan 5, 2014 12:03 PM

                                                  The ratio of professionals earning >$70K to support staff earning <$40K is much higher in tech companies than in other major employers in SF such as banks, law firms, corporate headquarters, education, and government.

                                                  Startups commonly have NO support staff for the first few years. Even after that the ratio is often 20:1 or higher, and the number of support staff required keeps dropping as more services are outsourced to companies such as TriNet and Salesforce.com.

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                    s
                                                    sugartoof Jan 5, 2014 12:33 PM

                                                    According to who, and why? Why do you care?

                                                    It doesn't add up. You're free to think cooks are competing for the same luxury condo lofts as instantly wealthy tech workers but why would you? Cooks are competing with the tech workers living meagerly with three roomates along with a growing student population, in combination with a stagnant market for buyers, who are forced to rent. The income of students is no more relevant than the income of these tech workers.

                                                    What happens in the tech industry shouldn't enter in the brain of someone who cares for the well being of the Cook, unless it's in support of their patronage.

                                                3. re: nocharge
                                                  g
                                                  gnomatic Jan 5, 2014 02:45 PM

                                                  The "institute" you mention is like the many "IT schools" that sells the gullible individuals into paying for useless education. It's not surprising the startup well under if that is typical of the hiring decision they make.

                                            2. re: sugartoof
                                              Robert Lauriston Jan 3, 2014 03:10 PM

                                              Engineers, sales, and marketing types are the ones with the fat paychecks who are driving up the rents.

                                              People who are vacuuming floors in tech offices are in the same boat as line cooks.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                s
                                                sugartoof Jan 3, 2014 04:39 PM

                                                Are these same types the ones driving up food prices and setting profit margins deciding what staff get paid?

                                                Seems that's the real topic you want to avoid at the expense of demonizing people over childish "Have and Have Not" blame games. Rents were on the rise before the tech boom. So were property taxes. That's a fact.

                                                1. re: sugartoof
                                                  m
                                                  ML8000 Jan 3, 2014 04:47 PM

                                                  http://www.salon.com/2014/01/03/techs...

                                                  1. re: ML8000
                                                    s
                                                    sugartoof Jan 3, 2014 06:23 PM

                                                    I'm not mocking tech bashers, I'm saying it's off topic, and self defeating. Tthe reality is there are more line cooks in SF than ever. More of them are also opening their own restaurants, or jumping into executive chef roles in a shorter time period. More of them are breaking free to open their own bars, or coffee shops than ever before. Gentrification is what's carrying the high end market where these particular line cooks work, so cry me a river. You think the families that go 4 or 5 generations deep in SF arrived and got magical affordable housing that didn't break their backs? Guess again.

                                                  2. re: sugartoof
                                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 3, 2014 04:54 PM

                                                    The market determines what people get paid. For a restaurant to pay its line cooks enough to compete with techies in the SF rental market they'd have to maybe double their prices, which would quickly put them out of business.

                                                    Rents on vacant apartments dropped substantially after the dot-com crash. The tech boom is the main driver of rent increases in recent years.

                                                    Property taxes increase 2% a year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                      s
                                                      sugartoof Jan 3, 2014 06:09 PM

                                                      Menu prices HAVE increased. That is my point.

                                                      Rents dropped because more people started to buy.
                                                      Now that people can't buy, and there's no inventory, people are forced to rent, which drives up prices. It just doesn't fit your narrative.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                        s
                                                        sugartoof Jan 3, 2014 06:28 PM

                                                        "Property taxes increase 2% a year or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower."

                                                        Wrong, and far too OT to explain it to you.

                                                        1. re: sugartoof
                                                          Robert Lauriston Jan 4, 2014 12:10 PM

                                                          Property taxes were on topic when you brought them up but off topic after I corrected your misstatement of fact?

                                                          Property taxes in California are like rent controlled apartments in SF only more so. In the long run, in inflation-adjusted dollars, they go steadily down, and are only set at market rate when property changes hands.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                            s
                                                            sugartoof Jan 4, 2014 01:45 PM

                                                            No. Simplified blanket statements like that aren't a clear picture of the reality of assessments, and limitations of Prop 13.

                                                            Debating the housing crises and rants feeding paranoia about how the real estate market is effecting our ability to eat out, and drop $100+ on a single meal is incredibly off topic. I keep trying to talk about the restaurant's own responsibilities but nobody is hearing it.

                                                            Meanwhile, here's the same BS story floated 7 years ago:
                                                            http://www.sfgate.com/restaurants/art...

                                                            How's the dining scene turned out since 2007?

                                                            1. re: sugartoof
                                                              Robert Lauriston Jan 4, 2014 04:21 PM

                                                              There's no bullshit in that old story. It supports my point that this isn't new, it's just the continuation of trends that have been going on for a while.

                                                              Few restaurants could pay their staff more than market rate wages without going out of business. If they all did, consumers would adjust, but only the law can instigate that kind of systemic change.

                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                s
                                                                sugartoof Jan 4, 2014 05:45 PM

                                                                Seven years later, it's still alarmist BS.

                                                                Your coal mine canary would have got a job working for Patterson for 5 months, and started shopping around for their own place by now. There are more options for food jobs than ever.

                                                                The cost of living in SF certainly been going up - for EVERYONE. We do live in a city of $4 cups of coffee, and $300 tasting menus.

                                          2. re: sugartoof
                                            c
                                            calny Jan 3, 2014 01:29 PM

                                            I'm not suggesting that entry level tech jobs are high paying. I know that line cook jobs are low paying, even at the high end. I might even say particularly at the high end since many line cooks at top restaurants work many hours of "voluntary" unpaid overtime.

                                            1. re: calny
                                              s
                                              sugartoof Jan 3, 2014 02:44 PM

                                              I'm not going to talk you out of that, so perhaps you can explain why you don't think it's a restaurants responsibility to pay a fair living wage within their own industry?

                                              Talking about what the tech industry is doing is a red herring, because without the tech industry, many more restaurants would be closed, period.

                                              1. re: sugartoof
                                                c oliver Jan 4, 2014 06:43 PM

                                                Could anyone here give a definitive answer to what is "a fair living wage" in SF?

                                                1. re: c oliver
                                                  s
                                                  sugartoof Jan 4, 2014 08:55 PM

                                                  Are you suggesting it's still up for debate whether Cooks are making a fair wage?

                                                  We have Restauranters claiming they can't pay a living wage to their Cooks, yet they're not addressing the real question, of whether the wage is fair or not.

                                                  1. re: sugartoof
                                                    c oliver Jan 4, 2014 09:02 PM

                                                    I'm not "suggesting" anything. I'm asking what is a "fair living wage" in SF? Sorry I had to repeat that. I'm asking a very specific question. Tell me in dollars what a "fair living wage" is.

                                                    1. re: c oliver
                                                      n
                                                      nocharge Jan 4, 2014 09:23 PM

                                                      The answer to that is the same as to what is the "fair price" of a Picasso painting.

                                                      1. re: nocharge
                                                        s
                                                        sugartoof Jan 4, 2014 10:21 PM

                                                        Picasso? We're still talking about line cooks rather than Chefs, right?

                                                        1. re: nocharge
                                                          c oliver Jan 5, 2014 07:46 AM

                                                          I don't believe that is so. I think a living wage can be calculated using average rent, transportation and other living expenses. From there one can calculate what it would take to get there.

                                                          @sugartoof, I think debating has to be based on facts and if you don't have facts then you've lost the debate.

                                                          1. re: c oliver
                                                            s
                                                            sugartoof Jan 5, 2014 11:44 AM

                                                            What do you think you're debating?

                                                            Every individuals means to earn, lifestyle, and opportunities is different and factors in. Often more important to a cook than the average wage, is how many hours they're averaging at their jobs, the politics within their Restaurant, if they're getting paid on time, job stability, the benefits....these are things within the control of the individual industry. But if restaurant owners are publicly saying they don't pay competitive wages to keep their staff - then they should fix that themselves. It's unacceptable for a restaurant owner to want cheaper housing for their staff, so they can keep their salaries low, and profit more.

                                                            1. re: sugartoof
                                                              c oliver Jan 5, 2014 11:54 AM

                                                              I'm going to leave you to this as YOU'RE the one debating not I. And because I'm NOT talking about anyone's "means to earn," but rather what it actually costs to live in SF I'd have thought you would have given the average cost of, say, a 2-bedroom, food, transportation. But you seem more interested in the what if's rather than the what are's. Have fun.

                                                              1. re: c oliver
                                                                s
                                                                sugartoof Jan 5, 2014 12:04 PM

                                                                It's unfortunate you keep referring to this discussion as a debate. It's a FOOD FORUM.

                                                                The actual costs to live in SF depend on the individual. Someone would have to live in the city itself to understand how misleading the concept of averages are. Take food for example. A cook would live off family dinners when working, and get comped from friends here and there. They would know how to cook on a budget, if they wanted to. Does that reflect the average SF transplant? No. You mentioned transportation as if there's any average that could account for the options, like walking, barting, taking muni, driving, carpooling, car payments, car payments. Are these people living within their means? The very fact is, there are MORE restaurants, and they employ MORE cooks and other staff.

                                                                1. re: sugartoof
                                                                  c oliver Jan 5, 2014 12:10 PM

                                                                  I lived in the city for MANY years.

                                                                  YOU'RE the one debating...and not in a very effective way, IMO.

                                                                  Goodbye.

                                                                  1. re: c oliver
                                                                    s
                                                                    sugartoof Jan 5, 2014 12:37 PM

                                                                    Great. Were tasting menus $300 at the time?

                                                                    Does that effect the cost of living?

                                                        2. re: c oliver
                                                          s
                                                          sugartoof Jan 4, 2014 10:14 PM

                                                          I'm not interested in debating my opinion by dollar amount. The OP article claims Cooks make half the average salary of everyone else. So if you buy that, a cook at an establishment with hype, awards, and larger than usual profit margins, that's expanding or already has a second location shouldn't have to whine about losing their own staff because they underpay. They charge San Francisco prices, they should pay San Francisco wages. Then it's a non issue.

                                                        3. re: sugartoof
                                                          m
                                                          ML8000 Jan 5, 2014 01:02 PM

                                                          This is the living wage calculation for San Francisco:

                                                          http://livingwage.mit.edu/places/0607...

                                                          Part of the calculation involves how many children, and the cost of housing.

                                                          For a single person without children, the living wage is $12.83 p/hr ($26k/yr), also based on $1,144 monthly housing. For a couple it's $19.17 p/h and $1,406. It goes up with children.

                                                          The hourly seems reasonable until you look at housing costs. Not only is the allowance in the calculation low, but the vacancy rate/availability is very low. There's simply not a lot of vacant apartments. Houses and condos are also at a premium. The disparity between income and housing is different from the past cycles.

                                                          1. re: ML8000
                                                            Robert Lauriston Jan 5, 2014 01:27 PM

                                                            That table looks to me like some kind of academic calculation from statistical data and national norms that has no relationship to real life in SF. There's no reason a low-wage SF resident needs to spend more on transportation than than $66 a month for a Fast Pass.

                                                            They're using the $8 state minimum wage. SF's was $10.55 last year and it just went up to $10.74. Who knows what other bad data they've got in there.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                              s
                                                              sugartoof Jan 5, 2014 02:10 PM

                                                              " Who knows what other bad data they've got in there."

                                                              Sure, but the entire discussion is based on a confused false narrative to begin with - like the one where rich Techies making three times the salary are supposedly competing for the same apartments as broke Line Cooks, and service workers.

                                                              1. re: sugartoof
                                                                m
                                                                ML8000 Jan 5, 2014 02:25 PM

                                                                Techies might not make 3x (on the low end) over line chefs but they do make more (on average..and way more on the mid-to-high end) and they're competing for the same apartments. Given there's very low vacancy in SF and the average apartment goes for $3k, the lower wage earners are at a huge disadvantage.

                                                                1. re: ML8000
                                                                  Robert Lauriston Jan 5, 2014 03:42 PM

                                                                  "Competing" is maybe not the best word, since someone earning the $27K that per salary.com the median line cook does has been priced out of most SF neighborhoods.

                                                                  1. re: ML8000
                                                                    s
                                                                    sugartoof Jan 5, 2014 04:21 PM

                                                                    The average apartment does not go for 3k. Anyone in a starting position would need roomates in the 3k price range, and this might blow some minds here, but sometimes Cooks, and Techies, they become roomates.

                                                                    1. re: sugartoof
                                                                      m
                                                                      ML8000 Jan 5, 2014 05:03 PM

                                                                      Average 1-bd room goes for $2,800, less in some hoods, more in others. 2 bd goes for $3,875. $3,000/m is the average used by the media and those in the discussion.

                                                                      http://sfist.com/2013/07/19/another_s...

                                                                      A 1-bd room shared by two people at $2,800 is $1,400, $300 more ea. per month than what a person making $12 p/h can afford.

                                                                      If you can provide other numbers, please do.

                                                                      1. re: ML8000
                                                                        s
                                                                        sugartoof Jan 5, 2014 05:32 PM

                                                                        Yet people are affording it, which is the best indication the numbers are misleading. You can pay that on a new lease if you want, but most SF residents pay much lower rents.

                                                                        1. re: sugartoof
                                                                          Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2014 08:35 AM

                                                                          People who've been here a while pay much lower rents due to rent control. That's not of much benefit to new arrivals.

                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                            s
                                                                            sugartoof Jan 6, 2014 09:24 AM

                                                                            So everyone lives in a rent control apartment that's not paying $2,800 for a 1 bedroom?

                                                                            1. re: sugartoof
                                                                              Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2014 09:38 AM

                                                                              Most people have to pay market rate when they first move to SF.

                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                s
                                                                                sugartoof Jan 6, 2014 10:00 AM

                                                                                What city doesn't charge market rent?

                                                                2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                  m
                                                                  ML8000 Jan 5, 2014 02:30 PM

                                                                  Do you have a better one, backed by standardized methods?

                                                                  Also, most people I talk to or know think you need between $35k-$40k to get by in SF, and definitely not anything extravagant.

                                                                  If you can get a $1,500/month in-law, that's $18k a year. 3 x $18k = $54k/yr, based on the standard calc of 1/3 of income.

                                                                  1. re: ML8000
                                                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 5, 2014 03:56 PM

                                                                    I think that earning enough money to have one of the 220,000 rental apartments in one of the most desirable cities in the world all to yourself puts a person well beyond living-wage level.

                                                                3. re: ML8000
                                                                  s
                                                                  sugartoof Jan 5, 2014 02:06 PM

                                                                  " There's simply not a lot of vacant apartments"

                                                                  Agreed. Inventory is low, and a lack in Sales means more competition for Rentals.

                                                          2. re: calny
                                                            d
                                                            dunstable Jan 5, 2014 11:35 AM

                                                            I'm not up on who is making what in software these days, but we have a guy here who graduated college recently, who doesn't do much more than file documents, and he is making almost $60k. And that's in civil engineering, which is typically not as lucrative as software. If an entry-level tech salary isn't 90k, it's not far off. Either way, it's probably a lot more than a line cook makes.

                                                            1. re: dunstable
                                                              c oliver Jan 5, 2014 11:56 AM

                                                              Here are some examples:

                                                              http://www.businessinsider.com/record...

                                                              1. re: c oliver
                                                                s
                                                                sugartoof Jan 5, 2014 12:36 PM

                                                                Because everyone is a programmer!

                                                                In that case, everyone is a Sous Chef!

                                                                Problem solved.

                                            2. psb Dec 31, 2013 01:16 AM

                                              I am quite curious what will be the SF (SF dining?) equivalent of Codys-on-Telegraph shuttering. I think there is going to be some kind of market failure ... i.e. it's not going to be just a case of some wages and prices smoothly changing. e.g. the formerly $8sando which is now lets say a $10sando cant really become a $12 sando overnight ... there will be some kind of substitution.

                                              Are resto people opening up in Oakland consciously thinking about finding locations which are accessible/amenable to SF people?

                                              accessible = BARTable (like Rockridge or right off say the Grand ave exit)

                                              amenable = not in a "scary" or hard to find/out-of-sight-out-of-mind part of OAK, rather a familar area (e.g. downtown berkeley)

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: psb
                                                Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2013 09:19 AM

                                                The market's very strong. You can already see what many restaurateurs have been doing to deal with increasing expenses and consumer resistance to higher prices: more pop-ups and food trucks, more casual service, small plates over multi-course meals, cheaper decor and furnishings, bars with food over restaurants with bars. The Dining Room at the Ritz converting to Parallel 37 is the most high-profile extreme example.

                                                Cody's was just a high-profile local example of a national phenomenon resulting from consumers buying books online. The same thing happened to record and video stores. It won't happen to restaurants.

                                                1. re: psb
                                                  bbulkow Dec 31, 2013 02:26 PM

                                                  If by Codys-on-Telegraph, you mean the book store, we'll need a complete up-ending of the restaurant business, where you can cheaply put a matter replicator in your house and download a meal that Thomas Keller cooked 15 years ago without going out of the house.

                                                  We're so far from the kind of disruption that would lead to the last restaurant closing that it's not even credible.

                                                2. eatzalot Dec 30, 2013 11:50 PM

                                                  In silicon valley (where the first responders and teachers were gone from many of their towns of employment long ago -- some of our police and firefighters have long commuted from the Central Valley), the restaurateurs I talk to are buzzing about all the competition now for skilled restaurant staff from the large high-tech campuses -- which have become the first choice of many talented cooks when they come onto the employment market. Servers too. These are definitely recent phenomena, G**gle is considered a middle-aged firm at 15 years old and is much larger than it was 10 years ago; Faceb**k didn't exist (just a few years back in fact, it was a nondescript Palo Alto office near a fashionable Indian restaurant, Junoon, itself a much better-known address locally at the time).

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: eatzalot
                                                    c oliver Dec 31, 2013 08:02 AM

                                                    Your point is what some of us are trying to make here. Yes, it's been going on a long time but it's now ratcheted WAY up. BTW, in Silicon Valley, is there generally available free parking?

                                                    1. re: eatzalot
                                                      Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2013 09:08 AM

                                                      Tech companies have been competing with restaurants for a while. I think the first time a chef I'd been following left the public scene for Google or wherever was 2002. Tech money also leads to a lot of private chef gigs.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                        c oliver Dec 31, 2013 09:20 AM

                                                        http://m.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news...

                                                        That's a pretty recent article about the tech boom in the whole Bay Area. It's not just taking chefs away, it's driving up the price of all sorts of housing. And it's a pretty new surge.

                                                        1. re: c oliver
                                                          Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2013 09:43 AM

                                                          That's not new. There were slumps in 2001 and 2008, but overall the tech sector has been growing for decades. Here's a chart of recent quarters from the same source as the data in that article:

                                                          http://www.cbinsights.com/blog/trends...

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                            c oliver Dec 31, 2013 01:49 PM

                                                            My point was that the increase includes all manner of SF tech startups. Not talking about the rest of the country. Not sure why you have such an issue with this. It seems pretty straightforward to me.

                                                        2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                          eatzalot Dec 31, 2013 09:44 AM

                                                          "Tech companies have been competing with restaurants for a while..."

                                                          Right, and you keep sounding that theme. However, what I am reporting here (from day-to-day contact and gossip with them, probably beyond what any journalists see) is that restaurateurs are now grousing about this competition from new large hip business kitchens to an extent unlike anything I've seen in silicon valley in decades.

                                                          Standard of practice for most of silicon valley's 50-odd years has been corporate-cafeteria contractors like Sodexho-Marriott (the big firms that hire all those CCA graduates), where I've had literally thousands of meals. That STILL may be typical (most of silicon valley isn't Google or Apple). The new wave showed early with Charlie Ayers at Google a decade ago, but only recently has this become the main gripe of independent restaurant owners here seeking staff.

                                                          1. re: eatzalot
                                                            Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2013 10:21 AM

                                                            The cook shortage has also been exacerbated by a couple of years of record numbers of new restaurants opening. The industry's partially a victim of its own success.

                                                            Tech firms have trouble hiring the people they need. Some use food as a differentiator. It's not just cafeterias but five-day-a-week catering gigs that draw cooks from restaurants.

                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                              eatzalot Dec 31, 2013 10:43 AM

                                                              "The cook shortage has also been exacerbated by a couple of years of record numbers of new restaurants openinng..."

                                                              I've tried to express this as clearly as possible, but the #1 complaint I hear from restaurateurs is the new competition from new corporate campuses. That complaint was absent, from the same kinds of restaurateurs, in past local restaurant booms.

                                                              1. re: eatzalot
                                                                Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2013 12:32 PM

                                                                The number of high-end corporate food service jobs in SF proper has increased a lot in the last couple of years, that's certainly true. Cooks can get the better money, benefits, and hours without having to move or commute to the Peninsula.

                                                      2. b
                                                        Bellachefa Dec 30, 2013 04:45 PM

                                                        There is a very similar article recently about Boston cooks. Too many restaurants and too few qualified cooks mixed with low wages and high rents. It's become impossible to make a living wage in the kitchen.

                                                        http://www.bostonmagazine.com/restaurants/article/2013/11/26/not-enough-line-cooks/

                                                        http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2...

                                                        1. smatbrat Dec 30, 2013 03:35 PM

                                                          I am so glad this was written I have been working on my own op ed about this for a few months however I just opened a restaurant, so I haven't had the time.

                                                          A few things: it is not just line cooks and the BOH. Its FOH also, Hosts and managers specifically. And commuting is just fine, however Bart does not run late enough and no one knows if they will strike again. I can speak from experience of how many employees I list during the Bart Strike. Our kitchen closes at 10:30, so my staff usually isnt done till midnight at the earliest and they have to take Muni to get to Bart. How do they make it back to Oakland?

                                                          If they drive, then they have to move their car every 2 hours, since there are no garages in this neighborhood.

                                                          I know this is chowhound, but it is not just in the restaurants. I am noticing it in retail, vet techs, customer service of any kind really.

                                                          Next year there will be an article about the the services are leaving/closing and how you can not get good customer service anymore. A vet tech can not afford to live here. A sous or AGM can not afford it. not if they move here today.

                                                          I am lucky I found my place in 2008, and even at that rent, it is half of my salary, not 1/3 and that is just fine. 1/2 I can handle.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: smatbrat
                                                            a
                                                            Andrew H Jan 2, 2014 10:50 AM

                                                            Has it gotten so bad that the hostesses at the front are forced to smile?

                                                            1. re: Andrew H
                                                              m
                                                              ML8000 Jan 2, 2014 11:21 AM

                                                              Apparently so, or at least M Bauer thinks so:

                                                              http://www.sfgate.com/restaurants/article/Amber-India-Stellar-dishes-often-soured-at-the-5076404.php

                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/928509

                                                            2. re: smatbrat
                                                              karendor Jan 4, 2014 06:43 PM

                                                              sb, I would really like to try your restaurant as you have always given me good advice, and I admire your palate! my blog is on my profile and my email is on my blog. Please LMK! ~ K

                                                            3. c oliver Dec 28, 2013 01:11 PM

                                                              There's also the fact that this is another tech boom era so that drives down vacancies.

                                                              1. m
                                                                ML8000 Dec 28, 2013 01:04 PM

                                                                A 1-bd rm apt is now going for $3k+/month. If you use the standard calculation that rent (housing) should cost 1/3rd of your income, that means the average line chef would have to make $108,000+ per year.

                                                                Given, "restaurant cooks in San Francisco make an average annual salary of $27,660, well below the average San Francisco salary of $62,680," it's NOT JUST chefs that are being squeezed but anyone not making 6-figures, and you still have to find an apartment.

                                                                Perhaps restaurant owners will take a page out of how they dealt with healthcare and add a "rent affordability surcharge" to the bill, so workers can live in the same city and let customers know things cost a lot in SF...least of all the meal you're stuffing down your face!

                                                                Of course that's not going to happen...but I can see a "worker transportation surcharge" so workers can be bussed in from Stockton. Okay I jest sorta...but unless restaurants start paying talent everyone will suffer.

                                                                If the average worker can't afford the product they produce, it's really about income disparity and it's going to get worse. So buckle up boys and girls...your fancy meals are going to cost more or go away.

                                                                Next up: restaurant rankings according to who pays their workers fairly. If people want guilt-free workers along with their guilt-free produce and animals parts, it's going to cost. Pony up or LET THEM EAT CAKE!

                                                                42 Replies
                                                                1. re: ML8000
                                                                  Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2013 01:32 PM

                                                                  Even in the 70s one-bedroom apartments were beyond the budget of people with low-paying jobs. The only people I knew with their own apartments had unearned income.

                                                                  From the dot-com era on, if not before, a line cook who wanted to work in SF would be looking for a room in a shared house or flat in an outer neighborhood, or near BART in the East Bay.

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                    c oliver Dec 28, 2013 02:01 PM

                                                                    I was a secretary in SF in the 70s and always had my own one bedroom apt. I just read that in the Mission it takes, IIRC, five incomes for that size apt.

                                                                  2. re: ML8000
                                                                    d
                                                                    Dustin_E Dec 30, 2013 12:43 PM

                                                                    >> "so workers can live in the same city"

                                                                    why is this important? what's the problem with "workers" commuting?

                                                                    1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                      wolfe Dec 30, 2013 01:23 PM

                                                                      Transportation.

                                                                      1. re: Dustin_E
                                                                        m
                                                                        ML8000 Dec 30, 2013 02:10 PM

                                                                        No problem with workers commuting if they choose to do so. Not everyone wants to commute. Some workers (high and low paid) wish to be part of the community they work in.

                                                                        Given the thriving food culture in SF, I think it's beneficial for restaurant workers to live in the community since it can influence their work and contribute to the economy, community and their work...or they just don't want to commute.

                                                                        Commuting isn't cheap, time or money wise. Round trip from Dublin to SF is about $12 bucks, and 50 mins ea way. That's $60/wk, or about $3,000 a year, or about 10% of an average line chef's average pay of $27k. If I were in that situation, I'd rather not commute.

                                                                        Beyond that, healthy economies are diverse and that includes high, medium and low wage earners.

                                                                        1. re: ML8000
                                                                          d
                                                                          Dustin_E Dec 30, 2013 02:36 PM

                                                                          i guess i see not-commuting as a luxury not everyone can afford.

                                                                          of course, ideally, everyone would walk to work and income disparity would be modest.

                                                                          but in a place with crazy-expensive real estate, workers commuting in from less expensive areas seems inevitable.

                                                                        2. re: Dustin_E
                                                                          n
                                                                          nocharge Dec 30, 2013 02:51 PM

                                                                          I won't be losing any sleep over whether a line cook or a bartender who works in SF actually lives here. I'd be more concerned about first responders being priced out and living far away. If firefighters and police officers, who are usually better compensated than line cooks, are not readily available when the next big earthquake hits, it's a bigger concern than whether a bartender takes BART in from Oakland.

                                                                          Labor costs, including various SF mandates, do affect the the restaurant picture in SF, including making some restaurateurs opening up new restaurants outside the City. However, that's a slightly different issue than whether the restaurant employees live in SF proper.

                                                                          1. re: nocharge
                                                                            m
                                                                            ML8000 Dec 30, 2013 03:10 PM

                                                                            Wage disparity, economic inequality effects everyone in modern communities. The line chefs are simply the "canary in the mine" and the first to send a warning signal.

                                                                            Today in SFGate was an article about how two teachers in SFUSD can no longer afford to live in SF. Call them the "oxygen sensor" in this situation because the first responders are next.

                                                                            Or maybe SF should just evict all children. They don't really don't contribute to the local economy or pay in. In fact education costs $$$ and takes from the economy. Or maybe they can commute to school. Outsource education to somewhere else.

                                                                            Seriously, while you're not losing sleep now, consider the warning signs have been sent.

                                                                            1. re: ML8000
                                                                              n
                                                                              nocharge Dec 30, 2013 03:19 PM

                                                                              I believe a fair percentage of first responders already live outside the City and I find that more worrisome than whether line cooks, bartenders, or teachers do.

                                                                              But, yeah, wouldn't it be great if housing was dirt cheap and everybody was making a million bucks a year?

                                                                              1. re: ML8000
                                                                                Robert Lauriston Dec 30, 2013 04:16 PM

                                                                                It's funny to me that anyone thinks of this as a recent problem. Most people I know were priced out of SF years ago, and we were all making a lot more money than line cooks.

                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                  m
                                                                                  ML8000 Dec 30, 2013 04:38 PM

                                                                                  This round is a little different. The past isn't anything compared to the current round.

                                                                                  I did the compatibles, adjusted for inflation current housing is way more than in the past. I have a friend who still has a rent control apt in SF, he started paying $350/month in 1981. Adjusted for inflation today that would be like $1,000. Current average apt is $3k/month. 3x over the rate of inflation. Also know of a house bought in the late 90s in the Mission for $350k...recently sold after a renovation and a couple of ownership changes for $3m...yeah $3,000,000.00.

                                                                                  Like I said, this round is different. I also have had the experience of being ellis acted in SF. I left in 2003 and it was nothing like today.

                                                                                  1. re: ML8000
                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Dec 30, 2013 04:50 PM

                                                                                    It's just the continuation of trends that have been going on for a long time. In the late 80s I went to a garage sale in Noe Valley, two partner-level lawyers I knew were moving to Berkeley and talking about how they'd never be able to afford to move back to SF because the bankers were pricing out the lawyers (and this just 10-15 years after the lawyers priced the hippies and working class out of NV).

                                                                                    I couldn't find a decent *flat* for $350K in the late 90s. The only houses I could afford were in neighborhoods I'd never visited and in some cases even heard of before. That's why I moved to Berkeley.

                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                      c
                                                                                      calumin Dec 31, 2013 09:45 AM

                                                                                      I wouldn't say that what we're seeing now is the continuation of a long-term trend. It is more of a peak, similar to the peak we saw in 1999-early 2000. Overall there is a long-term trend of housing prices going up, but when it gets really out of whack like it is now or like it was 14 years ago, we see crazy things happen at a much higher rate than usual.

                                                                                      1. re: calumin
                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2013 10:16 AM

                                                                                        Whether this is a peak depends on when it stops.

                                                                                        Whether the current tech boom is a replay of the dot-com bust or sustainable growth is anybody's guess.

                                                                                    2. re: ML8000
                                                                                      d
                                                                                      dunstable Dec 31, 2013 11:03 AM

                                                                                      I don't really understand all the hand-wringing. Manhattan has had far higher rents than SF for a long time, and still does, but they still have plenty of food in Manhattan. At this point, even places in west Brooklyn and north NJ are beyond the price range for a lot of these people. Mind you, restaurants often stay open a LOT later in Manhattan as well.

                                                                                      I agree that a lot of the young energy in the food scene in places like Portland or Philly is being sapped from the City, but them's the breaks with gentrification. It is what it is. At least Oakland is right there.

                                                                                      1. re: dunstable
                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2013 12:27 PM

                                                                                        SF is now the most expensive rental market in the country and public transit for cheaper outlying areas is much better in NYC, especially in the wee hours.

                                                                                        www.cbsnews.com/media/top-10-priciest...

                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                          drewskiSF Jan 3, 2014 10:15 AM

                                                                                          wow, Oakland is #7

                                                                                          1. re: drewskiSF
                                                                                            Robert Lauriston Jan 3, 2014 10:28 AM

                                                                                            Odd that the median two-bedroom Oakland apartment is cheaper than the median one-bedroom.

                                                                                            I suppose that could be because the fancy new condos near BART are mostly studios and one-bedrooms, while many two-bedroom places are in old buildings in less desirable neighborhoods.

                                                                                        2. re: dunstable
                                                                                          bbulkow Dec 31, 2013 02:23 PM

                                                                                          When I asked someone how to get a good meal in NYC without a reservation, he said "flee the island". On a recent trip, I went just over one of the bridges and ate at Traif --- great meal, really great, better than I've eaten in Manhattan outside of the michelin-3-stars. Certainly better than the 1-star places.

                                                                                          I'd still rather eat in oakland, there are plenty of chefs, plenty of interesting places opening up, places that can take more chances.

                                                                                          Handwringing about the City --- puuullleeeese. They were probably doing that in 1880. Whatever, I'll just eat in Oakland. Or Napa. Whatever.

                                                                                          1. re: bbulkow
                                                                                            d
                                                                                            dunstable Dec 31, 2013 05:28 PM

                                                                                            If you're willing to sit at the bar, then it becomes more or less the same as SF. I've gone to Momofuku Ssam without a reservation, no problem. Just did the same at The Modern yesterday.

                                                                                            Yah I do think Oakland is the Brooklyn of the Bay Area, at least where food is concerned.

                                                                                            1. re: dunstable
                                                                                              bbulkow Jan 1, 2014 04:12 PM

                                                                                              It's better than that, as NYC Hounds steered me to Le Bernardin's counter, where I was able to walk in, order the chef's menu with truffle extension, a few years ago. Do any of the SF 3-stars have open bar seating where the entire menu is available?

                                                                                              In SF, I feel like I have to know the restaurant and timing well to hit bar seats reliably, which I can do. Cool snags, getting MS and The Modern with no rez.

                                                                                              1. re: bbulkow
                                                                                                s
                                                                                                sugartoof Jan 1, 2014 05:20 PM

                                                                                                Part of it is you just went in and did it, and expected it was okay. Chances are if you tried that here, some would turn you away, but many would do their best to accommodate.

                                                                                                1. re: bbulkow
                                                                                                  n
                                                                                                  nocharge Jan 1, 2014 06:43 PM

                                                                                                  If by SF-3-stars, you refer to Michelin-starred places in San Francisco proper, there aren't any. Among the two-star places, only Quince and Saison have real bars. I believe you can get the entire menu at the bar at Quince and even get stuff a-la-carte off of the tasting menu. Saison is so quirky that I have no idea what you can order at the bar.

                                                                                                  As for the discussion about NYC, I've eaten at both Ssam Bar (without a reservation) and Ko. Completely different animals with Ko having two Michelin stars and Soup-Nazi-like procedures (for a place with little ambience) and Ssam Bar being just cool and without any stars.

                                                                                                  Le Bernadin, in my opinion, is just an old-school seafood restaurant that is extremely well executed and that happens to have a bar. It's not particularly rare for old-school restaurants in Manhattan to have a bar.

                                                                                            2. re: dunstable
                                                                                              Josh Dec 31, 2013 04:22 PM

                                                                                              I was just in Manhattan and my wife and I were surprised to see that you can get much more for your money than in SF. Numerous 1- and 2-br apts in the city for less than $2500. Good luck finding that in SF.

                                                                                              1. re: Josh
                                                                                                c oliver Dec 31, 2013 04:49 PM

                                                                                                I would guess that SF has a lot more SFRs (single family residences) than NYC and NYC has more and bigger apartment buildings. At least that's how it looks to me when we visit.

                                                                                                1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2013 04:59 PM

                                                                                                  NYC has more of every kind of housing. SF has less than 400K units, a third of which are officially single-family (though many of those have an illegal second unit). NYC has over 3.3 million, 30% are one- and two-family houses.

                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                    d
                                                                                                    dunstable Dec 31, 2013 05:18 PM

                                                                                                    You seem to be including information about all five boroughs, which is factually correct but still a little misleading when it comes to these sorts of discussions. A person who lives in Woodhaven is not flitting back and forth to Manhattan very easily. It would not be that much easier (nor, in my opinion, more desirable) than commuting from SF to Oakland.

                                                                                                    1. re: dunstable
                                                                                                      Robert Lauriston Jan 1, 2014 11:46 AM

                                                                                                      The question isn't what's easy, it's what's possible.

                                                                                                      NYC's 8 million residents are spread over 300 square miles. Some of the neighborhoods where Manhattan line cooks can afford to live have decent public transit 24/7. Obviously they'd want to live near the subway instead of a bus ride away.

                                                                                                      The SF-Oakland-Fremont metro area's 4 million residents are spread over 2,400 square miles. The closest counterpart to Astoria for SF line cooks would be cheaper parts of the East Bay near BART, e.g. San Leandro.

                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                        d
                                                                                                        dunstable Jan 1, 2014 02:01 PM

                                                                                                        Be that as it may, it is "possible" to commute from the East Bay just fine; plenty of people do it every day, including me. The other day on the bus, I overheard a woman say she was on Section 8 housing, but also commuting from Antioch. To San Francisco! San Leandro should be a piece of cake, then.

                                                                                                        Anyhow, a lot of commenters on this thread are talking about the commute time like it's some sort of barrier to being a cook in the City, but that subway ride to the outer boroughs can be an equally long hike. You can be stuck in there over an hour late at night -- and as a longtime former resident of Flushing, I unfortunately know this firsthand. It's not any easier than taking the BART to San Leandro, although it is admittedly a little cheaper.

                                                                                                        And again, it's been over a decade since low-end cooks have been realistically able to afford Manhattan. They still have food there.

                                                                                                        1. re: dunstable
                                                                                                          m
                                                                                                          ML8000 Jan 1, 2014 02:51 PM

                                                                                                          Here's the deal, many people do not want SF turning into Manhattan. Economic and ethnic diversity really makes SF a more interesting place, including food-wise.

                                                                                                          Manhattan is also obviously a very interesting place but at the core so much of the place is about $$$ and has been forever. That's a part of SF as well but all the weirdos from the beats to hippies to gays have been accepted. Also SF is the City of St. Francis.

                                                                                                          People who like this vibe or have long roots don't want to see the ability to enjoy and live in such a place to be exclusive based on $$$. This has always been part of SF's charm.

                                                                                                          Again, the issue of restaurants staff not being able to afford living in SF is really just a "canary in the mine" warning.

                                                                                                          1. re: ML8000
                                                                                                            d
                                                                                                            dunstable Jan 1, 2014 03:47 PM

                                                                                                            Frankly, I think that torch has already been passed to Oakland, and probably a couple of years ago at that. I don't think there's any stopping the g-word in sf.

                                                                                                            1. re: ML8000
                                                                                                              Robert Lauriston Jan 2, 2014 09:58 AM

                                                                                                              It was the construction of BART in the 1960s that first got San Franciscans worrying about "Manhattanization." The city's paved with dead canaries.

                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                m
                                                                                                                ML8000 Jan 2, 2014 01:18 PM

                                                                                                                The definition of "Manhattanization" refers to the skyline first and not about BART. The FiDi was aiming to expand into Chinatown and North Beach and the prevailing design and planning think was build vertical. Neighborhood activist in both Chinatown and North Beach got involved and stopped it.

                                                                                                                One of the galvanizing issues was a planned building near the TransAmerica building that would have blocked morning sunlight in Portsmith Square, one of the very few open spaces in Chinatown.

                                                                                                                As a result, developers went to SOMA, and thus you got highrise development around Mission/Beale/Rincon, etc.

                                                                                                                Also as Manhattanization sprouted and left, the new millennium came, income disparity was not the same issue as it is today. There was a housing squeeze during the first dotcom boom but the income disparity didn't appear like today.

                                                                                                                The building of the BART system is another story. San Mateo and Marin both rejected it. The conventional wisdom is they didn't want urban riff raff coming into their white(at the time) suburban communities.

                                                                                                                1. re: ML8000
                                                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Jan 2, 2014 02:41 PM

                                                                                                                  The earliest published uses of the word "Manhattanization" with regard to SF predate the opening of the Transamerica Pyramid in 1972.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
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                                                                                                                    ML8000 Jan 2, 2014 04:53 PM

                                                                                                                    The TA pyramid in '72 isn't the point. Manhattanization does pre-date TA but so what. Manhattanization means high rises and skylines, in this case the fear was the whole of SF was going high rise, because like Manhattan SF has a very limited size. The fear was a big part of the city was going to become giant gray canyons stuck in shadows.

                                                                                                                    The mention of the Pyramid was in reference to a proposed building that when protested, stopped the high rise encroachment in Chinatown and North Beach.

                                                                                                                    1. re: ML8000
                                                                                                                      Robert Lauriston Jan 2, 2014 05:23 PM

                                                                                                                      My point is that SF has been pretty Manhattanized in the 40-plus years since people started worrying about it. The Proposition M "growth cap" voters passed in 1986 only limited highrise office development to 475,000 square feet per year through 1999 and twice that since then.

                                                                                                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston
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                                                                                                                      sugartoof Jan 2, 2014 05:07 PM

                                                                                                                      The term originated in the 60's, but the idea likely even predates the skyscrapers of the 20's.

                                                                                                                      Can't forget suburban expansion itself.

                                                                                                                2. re: ML8000
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                                                                                                                  calny Jan 3, 2014 02:30 AM

                                                                                                                  I'm afraid that SF is nearing the tipping point of becoming the worst of Manhattan. Let's not forget that Washington Heights, Harlem and Greater Chinatown remain solidly on the island. San Francisco won't turn to Walnut Creek, but the city does seem to be losing diversity in many neighborhoods.

                                                                                                            2. re: dunstable
                                                                                                              bbulkow Jan 1, 2014 04:15 PM

                                                                                                              Probably does not include near the PATH stations in NJ, which run 24 hours unlike BART.

                                                                                                            3. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                              c oliver Dec 31, 2013 05:53 PM

                                                                                                              http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/201...

                                                                                                              NYC is actually more "affordable" as far as % of income going towards rent. SF only hits that 30% mark if you consider only "middle class" and that's a HIGH income indeed. Certainly nothing that a line cook could afford.

                                                                                              2. re: Dustin_E
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                                                                                                tastesgoodwhatisit Dec 31, 2013 02:59 AM

                                                                                                One problem with commuting for line cooks is that working at restaurants is a job with long hours, finishing late at night. Getting public transportation back to the suburbs, or a nearby city, at 3 am is problematic, and carpooling difficult. So they need to buy a car, and insure it, and pay for city parking, and be sober/clean/awake enough at the end of the end of a shift to safely and legally drive home.

                                                                                                Commuting for low-paying jobs is a related issue. If people who do they low paying generic work are able to move out of the city, they might as well go for a similar low paying job where they end up living, and skip the 3 hour public transit commute every day.

                                                                                              3. re: ML8000
                                                                                                Robert Lauriston Dec 30, 2013 02:30 PM

                                                                                                What would a housing surcharge have to be? 200%?

                                                                                                SF is a victim of its own success here. Rich people from all over the world want to live there, so they bid up property prices and rents. Politicians are worried about people who make $100K no longer being able to afford to live in the City, which is to say not just line cooks but executive chefs can't afford to move there.

                                                                                              4. Mission Dec 28, 2013 12:21 PM

                                                                                                Rent control always drives rents higher!

                                                                                                1. Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2013 10:18 AM

                                                                                                  That's not about any recent change that will make a difference in the short term. Those are all long-term trends that have been going on for years. They're not likely to make any difference in the quality of the food we can get.

                                                                                                  12 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                    c oliver Dec 28, 2013 10:55 AM

                                                                                                    Didn't the article say that the average rent in SF went up 20% in the last year. That sounds pretty recent to me.

                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                      Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2013 11:15 AM

                                                                                                      Cooks have been leaving restaurants for tech company cafeterias, pop-ups, food trucks, private chef gigs, and so on for years.

                                                                                                      SF rents have been out of reach for people without big paychecks for years. For an SF resident to get by on line cook wages they'd need a rent-controlled apartment.

                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                        c oliver Dec 28, 2013 11:27 AM

                                                                                                        But it appears to have gotten worse. At least that's what our mid30s kids have said. And what this article said. And what the restauranteurs are saying.

                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver
                                                                                                          Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2013 11:43 AM

                                                                                                          I didn't say the trends had changed, only that it's wrong to characterize them as new, expect big near-term changes, or worry about any decline in the diversity and quality of our food.

                                                                                                          The changes for the most part are positive. The dearth of line cooks encourages chefs to open smaller places where they're more hands-on.

                                                                                                        2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                          monfrancisco Dec 28, 2013 11:37 AM

                                                                                                          When a tenant leaves a rent-controlled apartment (which is basically never), that unit is re-rented at the market price as I understand it.

                                                                                                          1. re: monfrancisco
                                                                                                            c oliver Dec 28, 2013 11:50 AM

                                                                                                            That's correct.

                                                                                                            1. re: monfrancisco
                                                                                                              Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2013 11:53 AM

                                                                                                              Correct, vacant apartments can be rented for what the market will bear. Average / median rents are misleading to anyone looking to move to SF since what's actually available to rent is much more expensive.

                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                monfrancisco Dec 28, 2013 12:04 PM

                                                                                                                Precisely. That's why I didn't understand your point about line-cooks (and similar) needing a rent-controlled place; it keeps rent increases down, but not initial rent.

                                                                                                                I do realize this is chowhound not renthound!

                                                                                                                1. re: monfrancisco
                                                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2013 12:22 PM

                                                                                                                  When a line cook who has been living in SF for a while vacates a rent-controlled apartment to move to another city, the new tenant's not going to be a line cook, so that's one of the trends.

                                                                                                                  I think that's another trend that's benefitting Oakland at SF's expense. Cooks working in the City live over here because it's more affordable, and then take jobs over here because the commute's easier.

                                                                                                            2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                              chefj Dec 28, 2013 05:57 PM

                                                                                                              And or Plenty of Roommates. We had 6 in 2.5 Bedroom Flat in the Mission when I was on the Line..

                                                                                                          2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                            grayelf Dec 28, 2013 11:44 AM

                                                                                                            I thought it was a decent summary of the state of the back of house union, and shed some light on a situation that many readers of CH who don't live in the Bay Area or aren't close to the industry might not be aware of. And I did say "may" impact :-).

                                                                                                            1. re: grayelf
                                                                                                              Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2013 12:01 PM

                                                                                                              Those trends have been going on for years as the quality and variety of food has continued to improve. There's no reason to expect that to change.

                                                                                                              Ambitious young chefs may find more corners to cut, though with people eating fried chicken in an unheated loading doc I'm not sure there's much farther things can go. I keep expecting someone to open a pop-up in the off hours at a sewage plant.

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