The Restaurant Kitchen: New York’s Locker Room?


(from The Times)

With all the alleged back-of-the-house discrimination in restaurant news these days, I got to thinking about my own days in the kitchen. I was not a cook, but a lowly errand-runner/sauce-drizzler, etc. And let’s just say, my butt was slapped with more than a few wet dishtowels.

Joseph Bassani’s charges against Jean Georges go way beyond that, and the mass attack on Daniel Boulud is also a much more serious one, of course.

But how many of us have experienced kitchen life that didn’t include the dirtiest jokes, the most embarrassing come-ons, and the extreme macho-ism of cook rivalry? In my short time in the back of the house, when a line cook’s station lagged or he overcooked the halibut, he wasn’t just reprimanded but maybe called a fag or a pussy for good measure. If a female server passed through, she was met with a loud audience, and upon her departure, the commentary often shifted into a shocking realm.

Kitchens are adrenaline-filled pressure cookers, and a thick skin is crucial to surviving inside. But it almost seems that we’ve accepted that behavior amidst the fire somehow doesn’t count. What do you think?

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 17, 2007

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