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30 Chefs Open Up About Tipping, Gen Z Cooks and You the Customer

What do chefs actually think about what it’s like to run a restaurant today? What do they say when they’re being absolutely candid about the job?

Restaurant chefs, who run businesses all over the country serving millions of people, have weathered some dramatic years. Through the pandemic, and the sea changes of #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, they have kept their kitchens going while balancing the needs of demanding diners and staffs that are often overworked and underpaid. The culture and economics of their businesses have changed, in some cases drastically.

In January, I went looking for 30 tough, flexible and devoted professionals who are still making delicious food and serving guests at a high standard. I interviewed them separately, edited their responses for clarity and put together a current picture of the profession.

Their responses show some dramatic shifts and hot takes. They all hate tipping, but it seems unlikely to change. Culinary school? Usually a waste of money. Gen Z cooks are better at speaking up for themselves, but worse at sticking with a kitchen job — even though pay is now up to $25 an hour for a line cook. The customer is not always right — especially on Yelp.

Most important, these chefs are seeing (and making) real progress, reshaping an industry that has historically struggled to provide the basics of work-life balance, respect in the workplace and a living wage.


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