” Why are chefs so poorly compensated? “

Hans Susser commented :

Dear Gavin, although I agree with a lot you are saying, I must also say that there is a large number of culinary students (and teachers) who are passionate, talented and have what it takes to become a great cook. On the other hand, what you said about the education system is also mostly correct. When education is a business, quality is the least important factor required by the for profit institutions.

M. Gavin Shipman commented:

Been cooking since I was 19 or 20…Can’t remember anymore, but it has been more than 20 years as a professional cook, then a chef. The title is bestowed, in my opinion, not given by a piece of paper.
On to the reason why we are paid so poorly in the states. To me it goes back to the way the culinary education system is organized here. The “education” is run by for profit college systems, therefore even the idiots will graduate. The students that cannot make pate a choux, but make shoe paste will still get the degree because the university wants their dollars.
On the other side, the system is run by guilds that depend more on their reputation of creating qualified cooks to put out in the industry than they do money. If their reputation fails, so does their system and the tradition fails, which they would never allow.
So, the result is, my guess, 40% of American “chefs” who have graduated from culinary schools-even after several years in the industry-are mediocre at best. Add in the dishonest, alcohol & drug-addicted, “I’m just here for a check” or just plain not intuitive cooks and you are looking at a career that keeps a bad reputation. So, they are the ones that keep the compensation so low for those of us capable of more. Until we change the system, it will stay this way.

Give me a “learned on my own”, battle-tested, open-minded cook any day over a know-it-all culinary school grad. And I am prety good judge of character, too.

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