Are there still careers to be built as a Chef and Bartender? Or just another dying lost art... by co-host David Mau
At Fat drunk and happy we strive to give our listeners a real taste (pun intended) of what it like to work in the realm of food and beverage. All the ups and down, pinnacles and pitfalls along with some straight up dirt on what really goes on behind the curtain. What the public sees is one thing, no matter how many times you’ve seen “Waiting” or “Chef”. The real story is quite a bit different in more ways than your friends here can count and its our mission to pull back the veneer to reveal the good, bad and the ugly.
Last week we chimed in about how to land your dream restaurant gig in The Biz, a first timers guide to the things to both seek and shun when hitting the bricks for your first foray into the restaurant world. But this week, let’s back that out just a little. Before you start making decisions on the what and where of employment in this world we have (for whatever reason) chosen to make our own let’s pose the question of whether you should even consider such a radical, life altering course.
Us here at Fat Drunk And Happy do believe one thing when it comes to this element of the equation. Everyone....EVERYONE....should work at a restaurant in some capacity during their lives just to understand what it’s like on the other end. It’ll also teach you a lot about humility, the human condition and exactly what you are made of when the shit hits the proverbial fan. Anyone can work retail for a bit while they figure things out or make copies at your parents buddies office. But there’s not much to learn in those situations aside from numbing yourself to the daily grind you will face when “real life” comes calling. It’s akin to compulsory military service. It probably really sucks at the time and doesn’t make any seeming sense but at least be fed, learn how to shoot an assault rifle and basically fend for yourself. The restaurant world is a similar trial by fire.
Don’t get us wrong, life in The Biz can be lighthearted too! Like working weird hours and feel you’re what could classically be termed a “free spirit”? Then it’s a pretty good place to land although it can be unpredictable, which doesn’t sit well with many personality types. But those people eventually gravitate towards the more traditional 9-5 anyway. But the restaurant industry is a great way to define your character and motives. Most people that stick around the bar, kitchen or front of house long term find it suits who they are deep down inside and figure it’s better than being chained to a desk somewhere - which can seem like a death sentence. Shhhhhhhh.....that’s because it is.
Your foray into The Biz can teach you a lot about resilience too. Like when that epic first rush working the line on a Saturday night is over for all but a second and your kitchen printer starts spewing out tickets like a Kinko’s copy machine on meth. That’s a great moment to reach way down inside yourself and see if what you THINK you have is what you REALLY have, believe us. It’s a bit more complex than character-building, it’s more like digging your way out of a prisoner of war camp only to have your tunnel collapse mere yards from the barbed wire. It will break you at the moment, then make you when you realize the only way forward is to grab that shovel and start digging again.
For sure The Biz is an epic way to have a good time. The energy is generally youthful and people rarely go out hell-bent on having a lousy experience - except in Santa Monica. So the environs of your employment tend to have quite a bit more levity than your standard gig. Everyone is there is to party, which can also have its pitfalls, but while you’re in the midst of it there is a certain charm to what’s going on around you. If you can tolerate people, stress and chaos that is.
But this part of the equation has its pitfalls too and us here at Fat Drunk And Happy would be not in true service as your Obi-Wan Kenobis of the F&B realm if we didn’t warn you. It’s fine to work in the industry because you want to, that’s admirable and a great space to be in. But it sucks to do it because you HAVE to. So if you decide to make this your life, least for a little bit, always be doing something else. Go to college, find a cool side-hustle, learn some random wacky skill that makes you happy, write a book, build your own brand.
Whatever. Anything. Literally anything.
It’s kind of like that first bong rip of the morning. Thats’s always the best one and you can spend the rest of your day chasing it. Same thing in The Biz. You can hold on to the frivolity of your early experiences until they are long past and you have aged out with no backup plan. That’s just the worst. So always have something in your back pocket just in case. You don’t want to work at some really cool mom and pop place forever and have them close up along with your prospects for a real future. We’ve seen it happen, believe us.
Our verdict on this? Well, “nothing ventured nothing gained” as they say and it will teach you lot about life outside your immediate skill set. There’s also plenty of room to advance your career if you decide this is for you. Management can be tough but you’re still around people and, although the hours suck, it’s a solid way to go if your waters are charted that direction. I.e. when you don’t feel like carrying plates, working the broiler or pouring drinks anymore. Just keep yours eyes open and eyes up while you’re doing it.
- David Mau