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Irish kitchens — maybe even a little bit worse


Autumn 2002

I've worked in a few Irish kitchens. I don't have much good to say about the experiences. No; that's not true. I have met some great people in Irish kitchens.

Of the job itself, I will say that I'd generally rather work as a dishwasher, or "kitchen porter," and make the minimum wage, than to try to work as a "chef," as they call it. There is little difference in the pay scales, and that's the unpretty truth.

In a supportive environment, I can learn to produce a menu with skill and with speed. (I did this in Spain, in Spanish, to my significant pride.) But communication is poor, in the manly world of the Irish kitchen.

A word about kitchens generally: The money sucks, badly. The job is dirty, dangerous, highly stressful, and unprotected by unionization.*.... You are subject to the whim of the owner or change of ownership. The hours are shitty. This is all normal.

But there are factors that make the Irish kitchen bad in a special way. The head chefs in most of the Irish restaurants where I've worked have generally had a dominating attitude that is not conducive to good work. And there is, endemic to the system, a somewhat inflexible expectation of particular knowledge.

The owners — bastards — do not even treat the employee as good as a piece of equipment. Stupid, never mind inhumane.

Working in an Irish kitchen is bad—much like working in a poxy kitchen anywhere. Except it may actually be a little bit worse.

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*Oddly, there is some unionization in and around Dublin, in contrast with food service nearly everywhere.

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