Issue 30

Food Service Warrior: What’s a ‘Real’ Job?

Food Service Warrior: What’s a ‘Real’ Job?

I have been working in the restaurant industry for about the past five years now and I currently bartend at M’s Pub. I’m very grateful to be working with great people and doing something I enjoy very much. I’m writing this sitting across the street from the very first restaurant I ever worked at while on a mini-vacation in Chicago. Recently, on several occasions I have overheard people, (and in some cases co-workers) assume that a person who works in a restaurant or bar is really just there to make quick money while focusing on getting a degree in school or trying to get a better job and that most restaurant employees will soon be out of jobs due to the inclusion of the restaurant kiosk in more and more establishments, which is just plain wrong – you can’t take human interaction out of the equation and expect customers to enjoy the same experience they once knew.

The problem with this is that there’s a common misconception that what we do for a living is like a temporary setback to working in what some people call a “real job”. I couldn’t tell you what defines a “real job”. I do know, however, that at the end of a shift, I bring home real money. I love what I do, and I feel extremely lucky that I’m able to make drinks for people and get paid to do it. Don’t get me wrong, there are many people who are in the service industry (myself being one) that are also in school, or looking for a better job, etc. And that’s perfectly fine. But to suggest or question that what we do for a living isn’t “real” is just plain wrong.

Through working in restaurants I have been able to meet different people from all walks of life, many of whom I still connect with on a consistent basis. What we do in this industry is a trade or craft that we can carry with us for the rest of our lives. There was a girl I used to work with in Chicago who was a bartender and ended up moving to Prague. After a few months she was running out of money and couldn’t afford her apartment and eventually applied at several restaurants in the area. Since she couldn’t speak the language fluently she was unable to bartend or wait tables, but since she was able to convey the fact that she had bartended she was hired as a barback. I don’t know of too many jobs where you can basically pack your things and move to a different city and find a job as quickly as in our industry.

And this doesn’t just apply to the front of the house staff either. I have an enormous amount of respect for line cooks and chefs and dishwashers. A friend of mine named Raul was a line cook in a restaurant I worked at and after five years of working was able to build a house for his family who were still living in Mexico.

Working in a restaurant is never monotonous either. You can pretty much guarantee that each shift is going to be different and to never expect the same thing. As a friend of mine once said, working in this industry is like gambling – you never know who you could potentially meet, or what might happen in the duration of a shift, just like if you were sitting in front of a slot machine.

I was talking to a friend of mine who has been working in restaurants for the past few years. We both started at the same restaurant as bussers, and now a few years later, we are both bartenders. We talked about how when I was a busser, I was terrified to approach any tables and actually converse with guests. Being in this industry has given me an enormous amount of self-confidence. It has changed me in so many ways it’s ridiculous. Thinking back on when I first started wiping off tables to where I’m at now, it’s been a great past few years that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. And for me that’s real.

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