Off The Menu: The shortage of line cooks persists
Long before the pandemic disrupted the job market, the restaurant industry was already facing a persistent staffing problem – a chronic shortage of line cooks.
Companions (and women) of the culinary profession, line cooks are the people who prepare and prepare most of the dishes on a restaurant menu. Their job title reflects the fact that they “line work,” that collection of kitchen equipment and workstations that act as an assembly line for a commercial kitchen. “Line cook” is an intermediate skill position in the kitchen; the work is a cut above “preparatory cook”, but does not carry the status of “chef”.
In a large kitchen, a line cook can be a bit of a specialist, working only on the blasting station or on the grill. In a smaller operation, he or she will likely do everything, striving to consistently translate a chef’s or owner’s menu vision into the desired dining experience.
Successful line cooks need good organizational skills, sanitation knowledge, and the ability to work in a busy, high-energy work environment. They must be able to learn quickly and work as a team with others.
Unfortunately, line cooks have traditionally not been paid very well; before the pandemic, the typical hourly rate could be between $ 12 and $ 15. Factor in the evening and weekend hours, the dynamic nature of the job, and a generous measure of physical discomfort, and it’s not hard to understand how difficult it has been to attract and keep good line cooks.
As part of its mission to support the hospitality industry in the region, the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute in downtown Holyoke offers a short course “Line Cook Certification”.
The program is designed for those already working in the restaurant industry who wish to upgrade their skills, as well as unemployed or underemployed people interested in a new career in restaurant cooking. Taught in two parts – one online and one in cooking at HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute – the program focuses on the essential skills that a line cook needs.
These include culinary knife skills, the basics of culinary measurement and math, and certification of food safety practices. Program participants also receive in-depth hands-on training in a range of food preparation and production techniques.
Offered as part of Holyoke Community College’s workforce development effort, the online cook certification course is free to eligible applicants. The next certification program starts on October 5th.
For more information call (413) 552-2500 or email [email protected]
Celebrating two years in business, HighBrow Wood Fired Kitchen + Bar in Northampton will be hosting a ‘2 Years Party’ on October 1st.
The restaurant will serve $ 10 pizzas throughout the evening (on-site dinner only) and offer beer, wine and specialty cocktails to mark the occasion.
The celebration begins at 4:30 p.m., with the Beau Sasser Trio performing after 10 p.m. that evening.
For more information on HighBrow Wood Fired Kitchen + Bar, go to their social media feed at facebook.com/highbrowrestaurant.
The German restaurant Munich Haus in Chicopee will once again host a series of Oktoberfest celebrations over two weekends in October.
Each Oktoberfest will feature an all-you-can-eat buffet of traditional specialties – pretzel-crusted chicken, sauerbraten, meatballs, sausages, and various cutlets – accompanied by an assortment of side dishes including spatzle, sauerkraut, red cabbage and more.
The gastronomic finale will be a Viennese dessert station.
Live music will be a part of every Oktoberfest night. On Friday, October 15, the Bavarian Brothers will entertain from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., while on Saturday, guests will enjoy the traditional oom-pah sounds of the Vagabonds.
Doors open both evenings at 6 p.m. tickets cost $ 35 plus tax and tip.
Reservations can be made by calling the Munich Haus at (413) 594-8788. Tickets can also be ordered online at munichhaus.com.
Westfield’s Shortstop Bar & Grill celebrated the return of the Big E this year with a specialty ‘Fair Food’ menu.
The entrees offered as part of this ‘Little E’ tribute menu include a glazed donut burger, a sausage sub with peppers and onions, a chili hot dog with foot cheese and potatoes. baked stuffed topped with a variety of topping combinations.
The keyword for the dessert is “deep fried” with choices like deep fried OREOS, fried cookie dough, and fried dough.
The Shortstop Bar & Grill answers at (413) 642-6370; their web address is shortstopbarandgrill.com.
The Student Prince Cafe and Fort Restaurant in Springfield will also keep its Oktoberfest traditions alive by celebrating the return of “Mighty Oktoberfest” on October 8th.
The festivities will begin at 5 p.m. with the Berkshire Mountain Wanderers providing the soundtrack for the event in person. The keg tapping ceremony will take place shortly after.
During the month of October, the restaurant will enrich its regular menu with seasonal German specialties, and shows will be organized every weekend evening.
Tickets for the October 8 launch event are $ 20 ($ 25 after October 1). For more information, visit studentprince.com or call (413) 734-7475.
With the closing at the end of the summer of Coco and Cellar Bar in Easthampton, western Massachusetts lost one of its most remarkable dining experiences. The closure also resulted in a loss of jobs and community for a small but dedicated staff.
In order to bridge the financial gap created by the closing of the establishment, Coco’s friends have set up a GoFundMe appeal, the proceeds of which are distributed fairly to former employees. Originally slated to have a fundraising goal of $ 7,500, the appeal significantly exceeded that amount, a testament to the loyalty of past customers and a tribute to the esteem in which the now-defunct restaurant was held.
The link to the Coco GoFundMe call is gofundme.com/f/help-the-coco-staff.
Having had to cancel its flagship national show in 2020 and 2021, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) has already started planning for its 2022 NRA Show. The 2022 edition of the show, says the Association, “will be the return event. that the industry deserves “.
Scheduled May 21-24, 2022 at its traditional venue, the McCormick Place Exhibition Center in Chicago, the NRA Show 2022 is already accepting attendee registrations, with an early registration fee of $ 75 available through November 21.
Information on the NRA Show 2022, including links to online registration, is available at nationalrestaurantshow.com.
Champney’s Restaurant at Deerfield Inn in Deerfield, in collaboration with West County Cider in Colraine, will host an adult cider and food pairing with live music on October 1st. The evening will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will include a four-course course. menu with each segment of it accompanied by “tastes” of two adult ciders.
The components of the food line are the butternut bisque with cider, the scallops with apple salad, the sausage merquez with hot green vegetables and the cider-braised pork knuckle. Apple bread pudding will be served for dessert.
The cost of participation is $ 75 per person, plus taxes and tips. Local favorite John Corbett will be responsible for the musical portion of the evening.
Reservations can be made by calling the Deerfield Inn at (413) 774-5587.
Kids’ menus at restaurants are changing, according to trend data collected by Technomic, a consumer behavior consultancy specializing in the restaurant industry.
According to their most recent menu research, kid-friendly classics like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and grilled cheese sandwiches don’t appear on kids’ menus as often as they once did. Instead, these options are replaced with more “adult” foods like grilled salmon and five-cheese tortellini.
Millennials, now entering their child rearing years, seem to be driving this change. After exposing their offspring to “healthy eating” and more sophisticated flavors at home, Millennials are creating an audience for children’s meals at restaurants that reflect contemporary family dining experiences.
Hugh Robert is a faculty member in the Hospitality and Culinary Arts program at Holyoke Community College and has nearly 45 years of restaurant and educational experience. Robert can be reached online at [email protected].