'My restaurants would close without European immigrants' says Jamie Oliver

16 Oct 2012
Local time
12:49 PM
Jamie Oliver claims that all his restaurants would close down without his European immigrant workers. British youths, he says, can't cope with working long hours in hot kitchens. The story is here.

Until I had to retire through ill health, all my working life was spent in a catering environment, and even then I found that a lot of people couldn't cope with the heat and the hard work. Do you think you need to be a special kind of person to work in a kitchen?
Well, being able to cope with heat is an advantage!

I don't think I'd do well, I wilt. I'm also not good with high stress, fast deadline type work, so I think I'd crack pretty quickly.

If it was the only job I could get, I'd have to make the best of it, but it wouldn't be what I'd choose, knowing my strengths and weaknesses!
My husband, who worked in a professional kitchen for about 7 years, says that working in kitchens is brutal and ruins a lot of lives. The hours are irregular, requiring you to sleep during the day and work well into the night. All the holidays that most families observe are spent working. It's backbreaking work, and according to my husband, the late hours drive a lot of people to drink.
My mother says that when she was a child, my grandmother used to work at a restaurant washing dishes and certainly was a backbreaking and brutal work that used to kept her away all day long, as such restaurant was opened from 7 am to 7 pm.

Therefore, my mother had to care for her little brother and take care of the household tasks because granny returned home and barely drank a coffee before going to sleep to start over the routine.

Even though, the good side of such job was that mom says the restaurant owner used to give granny pots with food or her children, and eventually she married the owner and stopped working there. Women before the 60s used to quit job once they married and were not of the idea to work from home at least.
My mother works as a lunch lady at a middle school. Granted, it's nowhere near the same thing, but I can understand the heat being an issue. They have no air conditioning and it can get well over 100 degrees in their during the first and last parts of the summer months when school begins and gets out for the year. Then you have the bending over when washing dishes issue and the lifting heavy containers of food items. And being on your feet that long? Even I have issues with that, being in retail. At least we get breaks quite often to go sit and do whatever.
I worked in kitchens for years when I was in my teens and in college, it's hard work, but the bigger problem is it pays crap for the work you have to do. Just reading between the lines here with "immigrant workers" and taking on "young unemployed people as apprentices" here reeks of "cheap labor" which is what he's really dodging saying. People would have more incentive to put up with these jobs if they were being paid fair wages to do so. I guarantee you there would be much less turnover and much less call offs if it was actually worth it for the employees to come into work that day. Telling someone to bust their asses for 8 solid hours, and only paying them minimum wage, means after taxes all that work was for a measley $35 bucks or so. Part of the reason these people are calling off is because they are probably actively looking for another job that pays better.
I didn't know you were in catering Sandra. That's fabulous! It really does take a special type of person who can work under all of that stress and really pull it together. I don't think I'd be able to do that. What's sad is that Jamie Oliver isn't helping these immigrants become citizens.
What's sad is that Jamie Oliver isn't helping these immigrants become citizens.

I don't know where you got that idea? :scratchhead:

Any citizen of any country in the European Union is entitled by law to seek work or reside in any member state.

That's why I can live in France without the permission of the French :laugh: and I don't have to ever become a French citizen (although I can apply after 7 years residence)
Emeril Lagasse recently made a similar complaint, but he just flat out said it that he was angry at the increases in minimum wage. How much money do these celebrity chefs really need? Are they they greedy and hold their workers in such contempt that it's going to kill them to pay them a living wage, while they are making millions doing not a whole lot themselves? The CEO of Costco has already proven the "raising minimum wage" fear mongering wrong - he simply makes less as a CEO and pays his workers better wages and benefits. It's as simple as that. The sky didn't fall, the business didn't shutter, in fact it's out performing Wal Mart in many cases. The existing minimum wage is already well behind the times, and cannot buy you nearly any of what it would get you in the 70's. These celeb chefs are rolling in cash, but it kills them to pay their workers who keep their cash cows afloat, a good age too. That is just plain old greed.
Is it possible to install some equipment that reduces the heat and feelings of suffocation. I can't completely blame the young people. In fact, this generation has a high attrition rate compared to the previous ones. I think choosing comfort is so ingrained in them that these ordinary challenges become great obstacles for them. Polishing staff hiring requirements may also be in order.
I've never worked in one myself but I've seen enough shows on working in small kitchens to know how difficult and stressful it is. I imagine I'd only grow much more of an appreciation for restaurants if I ever did have an opportunity to work in one. It's good that JO recognizes his workers and I hope he compensates them well for it.
It's not only the pay, but the long hours and as many immigrants share bed sits, they are happy not to be at 'home'. Many work together so it's a social thing, the jobs they do are not skilled work, cleaning and carrying, doing the prep and things like that. Many people don't want these jobs as the pay is low and you have no life, so a man with family would never see his kids. For young immigrants it's perfect, an unskilled job, food and pay.

Unfortunately this goes in kitchens of five star hotels too, except many don't allow them to eat the food, but must bring their own or buy from the staff canteen. Yes, they throw away food rather than allow the staff to eat it.
So it's ok to give immigrants long hours and low wages but not the locals then ? As for the heat I seem to remember the old steamship companies saying [not my words here] 'that blacks could cope with the heat better than whites so it was better to use them as stokers etc in boiler rooms'. Are we saying this sort of attitude is acceptable now ? No Mr Oliver - pay a fair wage and stop treating your employees like dirt and you may be surprised at just how many 'local' youths try for a job and if there is a future in it stick with it.
Every restaurant in the world is like this got to a major city in the US and you will find the exact same situations with a large number of employees being immigrants, and often times illegal ones. I have worked "on the line" in kitchens and my husband is the saute chef at one of the busiest restaurants in town and it is hot, grueling, thankless work with long hours and no breaks. There aren't a lot of people who WANT to work these jobs you have to really want it and love it to do it for long.
Hmm, food for thought here(no pun intended!). I'm in the UK too and can confirm that the national minimum wage is really low and does not tend to increase inline with inflation. You can bet Mr. Oliver is paying his staff no more then NMW. Of course, the NMW is still higher than what some European migrants are used to. It's just exploitation really. If we didn't have free passage in the UK, many employers would have no choice but to increase their wages.
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