Your Free-Range Chicken Had a Great Life, But the Man Who Cooked It Makes a Subsistance Wage (Barely)

In a powerful essay for The New Inquiry, Willoughby Cooke explores how the farm to table movement has done little—if anything—to improve the lives of people who work in restaurants. He writes: “I have worked as a cook in the restaurant industry for the past decade, and it has become clear to me over the years that the vision of a sustainable food system ignores one key element: working conditions. In other words, it ignores me — the grunt, the cog, the line cook making your dinner.”

Cooke has worked as “a prep cook, fry cook, pantry cook, grill cook, pastry chef, and baker. The least [he’s] made was $7.50 per hour; the most was $13.50. To be a line cook and eventually a chef you must submit to the hell that is the professional kitchen: long hours, low pay, no breaks, no respect.” This essay is a must, must read.


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