Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Toronto, The Good the Bad and the UGLY

I've been seeing all these 'bad vibe' postings on Craigslist, specifically in Toronto, so here is a forum to vent, warn, avoid, etc... etc... you get the point.

Toronto seems to have a very large influx of restaurateurs who feel that paying just slightly above the minimum wage is perfectly acceptable, and then when it comes time to even receive your meek pay, you get stiffed, or screwed on hours, or worse.

So I've decided to post this blog as a forum to share your and our horror stories. Remember, we can put these places out of business if they don't provide decent wages and working conditions.

For those of us who HAVE gone through culinary school, or even those who've simply put in the years as line-cooks, cooks, etc. Why isn't that worth anything to these employers??

A recent example is Toronto's own "Nota Bene". They are looking for cooks, with a minimum 2 years experience and are offering up the princely sum of $10/hr. Now this is a restaurant that charges $10 for a soup at lunch, with a lunch time entree averaging around $20. McDonald's will start you at $9.50/hr. regular shifts, benefits, no crazy close down times at 4 a.m. Oh, and if you have any skills, you'll get raises at a regular interval.

Well, there is my starting off rant... please feel free to join in the fun. I will be adding more, believe me!


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  5. The "funny" thing is I watched McLibel ONLY last night. It had the vision to see how McDonald's did propagate the dehumanizing disesase all Kitchen workers may have to deal with too often.

    W Burger Bar

I start there end of October and get fired a week later because I was among a pool of 4 workers that closed the kitchen the night some 200$ worth of Kobe got stolen night (mind you the ONLY one that got fired or even HEARD of it). I plead my case with the owner and he offers to call me the next day, so he does and feels bad about the whole thing (I hoped he had camera security so he can keep his workers at ease, none cameras) since I tried to convey how serious and important the job is (was) to me. He gives me my job and the hell starts.

He starts distributing thermometers so that we always get our burger cooking temps right and begins to drill us at every moment how he wants to see us use it for every burger. I'm thinking it's the easiest way to dry out a burger and serve something messed up. I would gently touch the meat on the grill, like with a steak, to get a feel and got railed for it "GET YOUR FRICKING FINGERS OFF THE MEAT!!" So the inevitable, I sent out a "medium" burger temped at 134 like they want it, but raw inside....He eventually got and started yelling the opposite :I DON'T WANT TO SEE A THERMOMETER IN THIS KITCHEN, USE YOUR EYES!!"

So he fires me a second time on the grounds that his partner thinks I can't do the job based on that scenario......I'm called to his office the next day "to talk about it" and it's where the fun STARTS.

  6. He closes the door and asks me "what is wrong with you??? You can't seem to focus on your job and you're always looking like you got a thousand things on your mind... I used to think you come into work stoned!! are you stressed or something???" I responded well F*^&ck YEAH! you would if you're getting paid next to min AND fearing to lose that job too!! "My main concern is losing my job and paying the bills I'm always chasing...it always seems I get fired like a dog on a moment's notice just when I begin to catch up" he offers to "loan" me some money after he asks me how much I need to get back on top of things... "I said I need a permanent job, that's all!!" (I
ve even abandoned all fantasies of earning a living wage in the kitchen... I just want to SURVIVE now)
So he offers to just give me a $1000.00 cheque to start me up and hopefully clear my head enough so I can "focus" anyway, he gives me the check the very next day (in the kindest, most thoughtful way I must add, let's be fair :D) And I get back to work. AGAIN.

Fast forward to last tuesday (not yesterday) and I'm feeling good, exams are a week away and the holidays are right here... I'm working and things are fine again, right on time. He calls me at school to tell me I'm fired because like he said later in an office meeting "I can't stay in one place for long. I'm always moving and doing other things at one time" He's looking for someone who can just stand there all day and not move and gave me the example of the day cook who he's amazed by "he just stands there all day in front of the grill and if he swivels it's rare!!"


  7. THAT last pay cheque covered a half period (35 precious hours) and was (IS) the only money I have, through the holidays, until I get paid from a new job which I don't have yet (hence craigslist ;))

Those 1000.00 he gave me went straight to pay for the tuition from my final semester from January until April and are out of reach from me, and he's taken the step to keep my final pay cheque in lieu of my loan.

This loan I agreed to take because I made clear I could pay him back using my income tax refund come April. In Full.

I'm out of a job, out of cash flow, and indignant as F&^&%.

and I also have Two pocket-fulls of some horror stories I can't understand how it's allowed.

Kitchen management, general managers, corporate heads, require the kitchen worker to function as required for as little as p.o.s.s.i.b.l.e. There isn't any respect, even the front of the house has made it a point to make sure they get some kind of dignity even if it's not getting yelled at in the dining room goodness it is something.

  8. Good idea, finally a blog where we can post crooks in culinary info... lot of us are not members of unions so we have no protection but word of mouth, and even unions in hotels screw you so many times, you have no free will to join or not join a union.

    The only thing I would suggest is a instead of using a blog, get this on a proper bulletin board if you can.. with ID login the whole nine yards, because sooner or later you will get all the assholes on here posting shit.. with a bulletin board you can root out that stuff.. I will look online for a bulletin board. I posted in craigslist about these crooks already...

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  13. I'm not some hack Sri Lankan guy who just serves up underdone burgers, but it sounds likd he's a misdirected in what he wants done.

  14. Cora's Pizza on Spadina got shut down this week for health board violations... another case of rodent infestation... sad.. used to love to go eat pizza there ages ago, but last time I was there a week before it closed I noticed the pizza was not that good, and they had all new workers also, so I don't know what happened to the management, but it definately went for the worse, till now finally the place got shut down.

  15. Not surprised about Note Bene. I did a stage in the kitchen for David Lee back in the Splendido days (2001 I think). My FREE trial day was more than 12 hours and at the end of it he wanted to offer me a job.... for $85 per day. I laughed in his face. Then he jumped to $100 per day. I still didn't take it because he is a self-obsessed asshole. I ended up at Pangaea, under Martin Kouprie, who is an excellent chef and a decent human being. Pangaea was a great place to work.... too bad there aren't more places like that around.