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low wagesI’ve come across many stories recently about restaurants having trouble finding qualified chefs and cooks to staff their kitchens given the increasing demand for quality restaurant food. Here is  one from Portland, Maine:

Like most chefs, whenever executive chef Troy Mains interviews someone for a line cook position at the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport, he gets them in the kitchen and watches them work: Are their knives sharp? Are they clean? Can they communicate and take orders?

“It takes me an hour to look at them,” Mains said. “And then I say, in the most polite terms, ‘I don’t think it’s wise that we continue our relationship.’ Or I might say ‘Please, please, you’re hired. Oh, please, I’m begging you. Please work for me. Please.’”

Why the groveling? Because Mains and other chefs say a national shortage of qualified cooks is happening here in Maine, too, and leaving them chronically understaffed. Most say they started noticing a problem a year or two ago, and some say the current shortage is the worst they’ve seen.

My EGullet feed has been full of such reports as well.

Then I came across this report yesterday asserting that the wages of cooks have declined more than any other profession:

According to new reports, the onion-chopping preppers and burger-patty grillers of America are suffering most from declining real wages. Real wages refers to pay that’s adjusted for inflation, and by this measurement, the take-home payments of cooks have fallen by 8.9 percent since 2009. It’s the steepest decline among all the large occupations in the lowest-paid segment of the workforce. By comparison, janitors’ real wages have shrunk by 6.6 percent, and housecleaners’ by 6.1 percent.

Does anyone see a connection?

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