Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Why are all the brothers in the kitchen?"

That was me to Mrs. Field as we ate out today in one of those chain restaurants (I won't give the name) that serves up the standard A-merry-can cuisine. You know the type of joint I am talking about. Television sets on every wall, entrees average about ten bucks a pop, and there is a huge circular bar for folks who just want to drink. The kitchen is visible for everyone to see (I guess that's the new thing with these types of joints, so that everyone can see how their food is being cooked.

Of course, me being me, I notice that there is nothing but brothers in the kitchen. And conversely, all the waiters, waitresses, hosts and bartenders are white.

"Who are you, 'Buggin Out' from 'Do The Right Thing' now? Maybe if the 'brothers' would get an education past the tenth grade they wouldn't have to be in 'the kitchen." Mrs. Field was glaring, and I could see where this conversation was heading. Mrs. Field has a serous issue with brothers and education, or lack thereof. "Yeah yeah, I know, but no disrespect to waiters and waitresses, but I am quite sure that it's not rocket science. Some of those brothers in the kitchen would probably make fine waiters." "Would they?" (Mrs. Field was glaring again.) "I mean you would have to be able to understand them when they describe the menu, you know how your cousins are." Whenever Mrs. Field speaks ill of black folks they all of a sudden become my cousins. "Whatever, I am just saying there is an apartheid element to it that's just a little unsettling. Hell, this is Philly, we aren't in some back water town somewhere." I was getting a little pissed off myself. "Exactly, which is what makes it even more sad. We must have over a hundred colleges within a fifty mile radius of here, and I guarantee you that not one of those grown ass men back there ever set foot on a college campus. Field, not today, I am not in the mood for your defend the brothers no matter what conversation."

It was my turn again, and I know she was waiting....I figured I would get diplomatic, and end an argument that there is no way in hell I was going to win. (You brothers with the "I do's" in your past can relate) "Well, at least they have jobs. I will give the restaurant that much; they gave the brothers jobs. Now maybe they can earn a living and save up enough for college. At $200 a week, they ought to be able to sign up for a class or two" (I couldn't resist, and she knew it).

"Not today Field, not today."

"Hi, I am Mandy (her real name), may I take your order?" "Mandy, are you in college, my husband and I were just having a conversation about area colleges." (She just couldn't resist)"Yes, I am at LaSalle, but I just took a semester off, I'm going back this fall." "Wow, that's nice Mandy," I said. "May I see your drink menu, please?"


Gine said...

A former (college) student of mine, black and male, used to tell me about his McDonald's experiences. (He was The Best Worker there and had many, many stories about that.) Smart kid. Funny. Hardworker.

He's still working on his degree --as he does the cooking, now, for an upscale restaurant (meaning one which I can't afford).

I know quite a few black male cooks who are working their way through college.

Just sayin.

Hathor said...

My son who has gone to college was hired to offload stock and bust dishes in one of those chain type restaurants. It has nothing to do with education, it is not chic to have black waiters now.

When the restaurants were exclusively white, the waiters were exclusively black with the white gloves. All was expected then was to serve unnoticed; whisper yes sir and no ma'am, be able to remember the orders and to anticipate the customers request. Not a great deal of education was need for that.

Anonymous said...

I do not know because contrary to what you believe, cooking is a skill. It does require a level of creativity as you may to substitute for one ingredient for another. It also require you to cook a dish in a certain about amount time that is good and cooked properly. There is a level of science when it comes to cooking. Also, the cook has to know food and the preparation to food. I also think that cooks are paid more than waiters. Wait people need interpersonal and diplomatic skills because it is the different between getting a tip or not.

I can honestly say, I would not want to be a wait person because means dealing with a lot of people during the course of the day while keeping a smile on your face. That is not an easy thing to do, but people do not how important it is to have interpersonal skills as it does carry far sometimes even further than any other skill.

It is interesting how a person like Bobby Flay is well-respected chef, but not a person who works at Applebees does not garner that same respect when the job is to cook a dish. I think people would be surprise to know that in the profession of cooking that 60% of the cooks and chefs are men and I find it interesting since probably 80% of the home cooks are women. However, I suppose it's a matter of perspective.

heartsandflowers said...

If this had been California the cooks would have been Latino instead.

Anonymous said...

It's also an unappreciated job being a cook and it does pay very much, but a waitperson or bartender need to reply on tips. It's unfortunately that cooks are not paid that much.

Anonymous said...

Does not pay very much

Bellini said...

I'm surprised all the cooks were black, the trend tends to be more Latino cooks irregardless of the major city. Although at an upscale restaurant I patronized today the kitchen composition is 1/3 black, 1/3 white, and 1/3 Latino -- i can' help but wonder the pay distribution (given all things being equal).

Anonymous said...

Field, tell your wife, we all can't or don't want to go to college....

Sal Kilmister said...

As Heartsandflorwers said, if this had been out here in San Diego, there is an almost near certainty that everyone in the kitchen would have been Latino fwiw....

szechuanpork said...

Cooking is a good skill but you won't learn it at a chain restaurant. Henna, have you ever tried cooking one of Bobby Flay's recipes? They're too expensive and take too long and just ain't worth it.

My favorite restaurants besides Mexican all have AA females as cooks and waitresses. You won't find find okra tomato stew as a side dish at any other place.

classical one said...

Having worked in the kitchen and in the front of the house, I'll take the kitchen any day. A waiters job can be a god forsaken one.

jjbrock said...

Field most cooks make the most money because without them the restaurant would die.

My nephew was a cook for many years for Friday's and he made great money doing it and he loved it.

He graduate from A&M in Alabama with a degree in engineer but said that he should have stayed in the restaurant business said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Whitney B. said...

Mr. Field, with all due respect,

Yikes that's racist...not to white folks, but on your part about black folks.

I live in a predominantly (70% plus) black middle class community, here in the city of Killadelphia, Eastwick to be sure. Just a few short blocks from gangsta land. However, the people who serve me, at the grocery and the fast food links are folks. They are just your typical (these days) shunned kids (white and black and other stripes)
who might have gotten a better education were it not for "no child left behind".

What you ranted about with your wife is just house negro behavior.

I know, you are sufferin' from that separartist non-"A-Merry-can" black man stuff.

This little redheaded white gurl is ready to bust yo' chops. I am hopin' that you're being facetious, as in your last blog.


Whitney Brown said...

Hey Field Negro!!

I don't know what to say about it.... I have actually heard that many white hiring managers of restaurants think that black men are "too intimidating" and "not personable enough with the public" to be friendly waiters... I just think that sometimes brothas would rather be working in the back with their music or a game playing and "jaw-jagging" (as the older folks say) with the other fellas rather than kissing up to total strangers for a meager tip.

Anyone who thinks that brothas aren't warm and personable with total strangers has not been around them at closing time on Saturday night at a club. (I'm just sayin'!!)

Ahem....NOT that I have ever stepped foot in a club...{wink}

Besides, what's wrong with brothas wanting to be chefs?

Okay, okay....I know where you were going with the post...

{shaking my head}

Anonymous said...


I work retail and most AfAms would decline the opportunity to abase before the almighty 'Merican consumer. With a history of slavery and reminders from their elders, many blacks do not feel quite comfortable with constant subordination.

White chicks can play at slavey, AfAms know that the end result is not pretty.


Whitney B. said...

I ain't goin' out with you for supper if I gotta eat okra :{. I don't like okrie-gumbo (tomato stew with fishes) and that's that. I know, tomatoes take the "slime" outta okra. Whatever! Chicken, I'll eat chicken an' you can have pork or okra or whatever...Gag. Whit

naf said...

i waitressed right after i got out of college at applebee's and most of the cooks were black men. the waitresses were black and white, but mostly women. the cooks i met preferred the kitchen b/c being a waiter was too volatile. most of them had families and needed a steady paycheck. i think that some of them had been waiters in the past. its all a matter of perspective. for me the flexibility of the hours mattered more than the paycheck issues. but i do think more of the front-room staff were going to college or some kind of vocational school.

Anonymous said...

Here in San Diego, us Latinos are in the kitchen unless it's Taco Bell. Go figure.

szechuanpork said...

Whitney, okra and tomatoes make vegans see Gaia. You at least have to try it.

Whitney B. said...

Anon @ 11:24:
"White chicks can play at slavey"? Your quote, not mine. Just what do you mean by that? Have you ever helped your brothers and sisters? I have. By thought, word and deed. I have been through lots of struggles. I have gone to jail to stand on my beliefs. What have you done?

Yeah, I like to have fun with words, but I have been there and done that. Have you?

Kiss my a**!!!

Libby said...

I understand you and your wife's conversation, however, cook staff makes considerable more money than waiters and hosts anyway.

So, I do support the argument that more black men need to get an education, however, in this case they are still in a better position than the waiters and hosts, probably not the bartenders; they always make more money because of the liquor.

tenacitus said...

Field if your wifeMany years ago I was admitted to La Salle, I went to Temple instead. Cooking in a restraunt, even a chain is many orders of magnitude different from cooking at home since, they have to keep track of orders, sides, for maybe a hundred people who mightr have ordered on of maybe fifty items.

Plus as others have pointed out, many black folks would rather not have to take shit from customers. Yesterday I heard a customer tell a server in Applebees that he would be her asshole for the day, maybe he was joking, maybe he was not, but she said Great!!!

Waiting sucks plus they split the tips with the plongeurs "dishwashers, cooks, & other staff"

Please consider reading Down & Out in Paris & London

Think Mps said...

I ask myself the same question every day about the security guards where I work.

Fucked up. I was surprised, one day I ran into white security guards.

Whitney B. said...


Too funny, but too true. Racism?

So, howdya end up with a Frenchy (Cajun) last name? Droppin' the x as it were.

And, another thing, could you clarify for the folks on this blog the difference between Latinos and Hispanics? It does need clarification.

Thanks, and respectfully,
Whitney Brown

Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

07 12 08

Whoa! Your reality is so different from mine FN. My husband and I go to restaurants (like Soul Food places) and always ask where are the brothas. All we see is Mexicans in the kitchen, whether it is Chinese food, Korean food, Greek food or whatever else. Perhaps the West Coast has a different worker class...

Whitney B. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GrannyStandingforTruth said...

It's a job isn't it? Doesn't it demonstrate that black men do and will work and all are not selling drugs or pimping? I mean, what is wrong with being a cook? Look at G Garvin a well-known cook who has his own television show now.

Color has nothing to do with it, a lot of people coming out of college with degrees are working in restaurants, department stores, security guard, etc. these days. One of my nieces graduated from college last year, and she got a job at of all places Starbucks. Why, because the job market is not so hot right now. At least in this part of woods it's not. Or maybe, it's getting to the place where you need a degree to work at even the lowliest job now. America is so messed up right now,until who knows.

I went to return some books back at the library recently and there was a line that went around the whole block blocking the path to the front entrance of the library. When I enquired about the line, I found out people were standing in line for a job interview to work at Target. I've seen other lines like that in various places, people lined up for interview for jobs. To be honest it disturbed me that so many people are out of jobs and looking for one at the present. Yeah, Bush and McCain say that the economy is great.

Whitney B. said...

Mahndisa s. rigmaiden,

Yep, you're right. Here soul food restaurants (at least in my 'hood) are run by black folks. Chinese and Greeks (here it's the pizza places if you can imagine) are run by their respective races. The fast food joints are run by black really great A-Merry-cans. I love the folks around here that work at Mickey D's and Booger King. Though I don't frequent them (onc't every 3 month's or so) they are so nice, and I wish they had gotten beyond "no child left behind" 'cause they're not stoopid.

west coast story said...

I live in oakland and the cooks in the kitchen are rarely black unless it is a black owned resturant.. The only Latinos I've seen in Asian resturants are in the Panda Express chains. Latinos are typically busboys in all resturants now, even Asian resturants.

Memorable trip to a Chinese resturant down the street in the mostly Latino part of town: The resturant help was all Asian and spoke to one another in Mandarin. The guests were all Latino and speaking Spanish. It was a very Oakland moment.

Footnote: there is a difference between a cook and a chef. Bobby Flay is a chef (watch him and others on Iron Chef--that action requires considerable skill). Rachel Ray by her own admission is a cook. Doesn't mean she can't cook, just means when she does iron Chef she's helping Mario Battali because she doesn't have the training or skill to pull it off by herself. Being a chef is a fine paying gig. Being a celebrity chef means living the good life. Being a cook can pay well but it's not the same.

Bob said...

Wait staff are a transient group. They're all doing it until they do something else. Bartending schools crank out bartenders. Cooks not only have to know everything that's on the menu, they have to know how to cook it, too. Restaurants don't like turnover in their kitchen staff.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I'm shocked there were brothers in the kitchen. In L.A. unless it was a black owned restaurant I never saw brothers in the kitchen. However there were a plenty of black waiters. Most of course were actors.

The chef Anthony Boundain's book KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL is great. Most kitchen staff in America is latino. I don't know what it's like at a chain (he focuses on non-chain places) but being a cook is no joke. First those jobs do not pay well unless you have a few years under your belt. The pace is crazy and the work (I would assume esp. at a chain) can be boring as you have to prepare the same dishes over and over again. What I loved about the book is it showed a slice of America you never hear about. The way the multi-ethnic staff interacts, why people work this insane job, how there are few women in the kitchen (it's a very male dominated world), even though cooking is see as a "women's thing".

west coast story - I saw that Iron Chef and it ticked me off. Rachel won only because she was teamed up with Mario Batali. I am not a fan. I do not understand why she is so popular.

Grata said...

Nothing wrong with being a cook if one is content with it. And being black, I would prefer being a cook than a waiter. (I am currently in this self protection/preservation mode). I worked in retail for two and a half years and you do see things as a BP that have to do with your race. So I would definitely take the Kitchen over waiting.

I am however saddened by the educational opportunities that people just won't take advantage of (this may have to do with my African background). There is no reason one should not have a college degree or some ceritfication. The education opportunities are there. The job market is tough, however, I have come to notice that there are fields that even with the disadvantage of being black, you have much higher chances of employment. Unfortunately these fields need alot of investment in terms of college time. But even when completed half way, one can can get a decent job and finish off college while working.

My conclusion for surving the job market in America, and that is from my personal experience, is that there are not that many doors open for your average black person (those from low income backgrounds) but there are few that are and one needs to identify those early on and work towards them and know those that will be a waste of time and cause alot of heart ache.

NSangoma said...

whitney b, gumbo is originally an African word. It means okra.

[Origin: 1795–1805, Americanism; < LaF gombo, gumbo < a Bantu language; cf. Umbundu ochinggombo, Luba chinggombo okra]
[Louisiana French gombo, of Bantu origin; akin to Tshiluba ki-ngumbo, okra.]
[Of West African origin; akin to Akan (Twi) nkruma.]

Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

07 13 08

Hehehe West Coast Story:
Do you remember the place called Soul Brothers Kitchen, located at the Berkeley Oakland interface? It has closed down, but the owner was an old Black man with all Latinos in the kitchen, at least a few years before he died that was the case. That was a quintecintial moment in time for me, I was about twenty or so and was tripped out! On June 22nd before I had my boy, we went to Mycanos Restaurant in SF (in the Post/Polk area) and the ONLY kitchen staff were Mexicans. This is pervasive!

I am always amazed when I hear stories like Whitney B has mentioned, most ethnic restaurants are owned by said ethnic groups in her area. To me, that is exotic. Oh wait, I went to Lebanese food in Modesto not too long ago and the kitchen staff were Lebanese, that was a first in a long string of local restaurants, whether in the Valley or the Bay Area!

Hathor said...

I didn't think Mrs. Field was thinking of the kitchen staff as cooks or did I read the post wrong?

Lisa said what my son has said, that many times young black men are thought to be "too intimidating," whether they dress, speak appropriately or not. Even a black manager, had a hard time believing that my son could operate a cash register. Previous experience and going to college at the time didn't seem to be sufficient qualifications.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that there were any brothers at all in the kitchen. They must have deported all the Mexicans in Philly.

Jody said...

When I first moved to Philly, I was appalled at the low numbers of students here who did not go to college. Then, I learned about the high cost of college. Sure there are a bunch of schools in the area, but the overwhelming number of them are private schools with ridiculous tuition!
By comparison, in Texas, public universities are everywhere and are cheap. My son graduated from school there and his tuition was never more than 2500 a semester and there were state as well as federal loans and economic based grants to cover the cost. Temple, one of the cheaper schools here is over 5,000 a semester.
PA needs to make a greater commitment to higher education. Many states have great state Universities with satellite campuses all over the state. PA does not. It needs to get over its "pride" in all the Quaker and Ivy League and small Liberal Arts colleges in the region and realize these schools do not make a commitment to serve all the region's youth.
Then, maybe you would see more youth here going to college.
Yes, Community College is affordable, but it is not a 4 year institution and does not offer the same degrees as a 4 year school does.

Wine Dog said...

In the restaurant business the kitchen has to be tipped out by the wait staff, so the Brothers in the kitchen are getting a rip on that. In that sort of restaurant the kitchen staff makes a smidge more than the wait staff base. The kitchen also requires more talent than the floor. The floor just requires you to be nice to people and bring them the right stuff. I'm going to guess your filter on this reflects that the cooks in the military used to always be the black guy. Those days are gone in the military but I can imagine how it looked. It may have been entirely coincidental...or Field might have nailed it and it was deliberate.

All that being said, there's no shame in the kitchen. Lots of brilliant chefs and restaurant owners paid their dues in the kitchen of an Applebee's, then a little bit higher end, then a little bit higher end until they were grillin' in a house on the Ruth Chris level. (which is the last step before independent high end houses.) I don't know that your Brothers need to go to college as much as they need to hone their skills, and in the back of a house like where you were at, it's hard to tell if any one individual is doing that or not.

Besides, when the Bush Administration is done with this country all that's going to be left is salesmen, lawyers and the wait staff. Brother's got the right job.

Anonymous said...


A lot of Bobby Flay's food is grilling. However, it's cheaper to cook the food at home than eating out at restaurant. Personally, I am not to going to make a porterhouse steak because of the expense. A porterhouse dinner at the restaurant will run you at anywhere between $75 to $150.00 depending upon the restaurant and what part of the country you live. The most expensive meat I ever cook at home is prime rib, and that can cost me about $5.00 a pound if I get on sale at the supermarket and I could paid anywhere between $20 to $30 to feed 4 to 6 people. Now a prime rib dinner for one person can run about $46.00 at a steakhouse. A duck can cost me about $12.00 at the supermarket, but a restaurant will charge you at $25.00 for duck breast.

I can honestly say that I know how to cook everything from a Thanksgiving dinner to a simple pasta dish. I learned how to cook at the age of 11 when elementary school had home economics, music and art. I've even cooked venison once, but it wasn't difficult because I've learned the basics. I am also a very good baker which is anomaly because cooks are not necessary good bakers. I've made pita bread and it's cheaper to make because flour is a household staple.

I agree with Wine Dog many chefs starting at the bottom like working at Applebees. Applebees has an executive chef for the chain.

However, anyone at home can cook a decent meal and does not have to be expensive or take a long to time prepare. I make egg dishes like Frittatas which eggs is another household staple. I have made baked potatoes with eggs, onions and peppers, and it's a meal which does not take long. It's filling and healthy. I am proponent of staying home to cook a meal anyway, and not afraid of buying Charles Shaw wine better known as Two Buck Chuck, I am not a snob in that sense.

field negro said...

I hear what everyone is saying, but my issue is economics. And part of what I do for a living is knowing what type of income folks have. Trust me on this one. In this area, cooks at restaurants like the chain I went to, do not make as much money as the wait staff.

But some of you made valid points about the dynamics of waiting tables, and I guess I could understand why some of my peeps would not want to do it. Still, I am curious to know how many of them were even offered the position.

"Besides, when the Bush Administration is done with this country all that's going to be left is salesmen, lawyers and the wait staff. Brother's got the right job."

amen to that wine dog.

"I didn't think Mrs. Field was thinking of the kitchen staff as cooks or did I read the post wrong?"

No you didn't hathor. I think you read it correctly. Not all the staff in the kitchen were cooks. Many of them were bussing tables. I don't know how Mrs. Field saw them, but I did not see them as long order cooks or chefs. And I am pretty sure that she was just responding to my angst. In fact, I am sure she was.

gwpriester (i before e) said...

Field - A suggestion. Next time you go out to dinner with Mrs. Field, pay attention to Mrs. Field, not what is or is not going on in the restaurant.

Order the best bottle of wine they have on the menu (unless it is one of these restaurants where that would require a second mortgage on the house). Ditto with the specialty of the house. Enjoy your dinner. And enjoy each other. Life is short.

Just my dos centavos Nuevo Mexicano. :-)

west coast story said...

Nyc/: Rachel Ray doesn't bother me. I don't watch her much anymore because she's a bit intense. But I admire her and what she has accomplished with sheer will. I'm happy for any woman who can build an empire without having money or a family legacy. She also showed a lot of class responding to Anthony Bourdain's insults by saying how much she always admired him. And I thought it was very telling that someone as respected as Bobby Flay spoke up for her in her bio. As for the Iron Chef, she didn't win it, Batali did. But I don't begrudge her success. She makes meals for working parents who want to eat well and not spend hours in the kitchen.


Of course I remember Soul brothers! Terrific food and a nice welcoming atmosphere. Didn't notice who was doing the cooking but I stopped going years before they closed. Not sure why, just fell off my radar screen. Was just talking about Soul Brothers and Bertola's the other day. Cheap eats and good food on a tight budget.

Anonymous said...

It may have something to do with the person's ability to read and write food orders. Personality could be another reason the person is a bussing. Can the person interact with the public? Let's face some people have personalities as of toads. It could be a matter of choice that would rather word beyond the scenes, and yes there is the air racial preference. I think the factors vary and there isn't really one specific reason. There is an Applebee's in Newark, so all the employees are black, but in certain parts of New Jersey and I have to say that I have seen a mixed of black and white people in various positions.

Anonymous said...

Having worked as a waitress many years ago when I was in college (went to college in my mid 20"). I have to say as others have already said, working in the kitchen to some degree is a lot easier than waiting tables.

Waiting tables requires the ability to put up with a lock of crap and you hope folks feel like leaving you some scratch. Personally as a Black woman I felt like Black folks gave me a harder time than others. People assumed you were there because you had no choices when my reality was that I was there because the hours were flexible enough to balance school and family.

I don't think I would make an assumption about why the brothas were all cooking, every region and every restauraunt is so different.

That said, guess I will say at the least the brothas had jobs, the alternative of not having jobs is a lot worse than cooking. I will also add I have known folks who make a lot more money cooking than I do with both a BA and M.Ed.

NSangoma said...

Field, what of that Bernie Mack moment?

Deedlelee said...

Ahhh, something I know something about...

First, my qualifications:

I am a retired chef from Baltimore with over 25+ years experience in the "back of the house." I am also a black woman, so I am a rarity in itself, as I have been in charge of and ran kitchens for the last 10 years of my career. And, I took an break midway in my career to wait on tables. Here are my observations:

It is a CONSIOUS act not to hire black servers. The reasons are many, but the ones I figured out are :

MONEY-There is a lot of money in waiting tables and bartending. An average waterfront server in Baltimore at a non-chain restaurant can make as much as $500/wk alone. In my last job, the girls there made as much as $300 a day if they worked a double shift. Black folks can't get these jobs because they are set aside for "college students"(read: white girls). Unfortunately, we are still stigmatized with not being articulate enough to handle the job. I overheard one employer in my past say that he didn't think his clientèle wanted some "ghetto sounding" server telling them about the shrimp scampi and pronouncing it "strimp scampi."

IMAGE- In the chain restaurants as well as the stand-alone restaurants, the owners (and customers) seem to gravitate toward the fresh-scrubbed white youth to put forth a universal image as part of their whole concept. Any diversion of that is eschewed. This is the reason why you rarely see black or overweight servers. It has been my experience as a server to routinely have my "natural" questioned by customers and employers alike. I am neither blonde haired, nor blue eyed, and my natural was my extension of the burgeoning nationwide expression of black pride that resurfaced during the late 80's and early 90's. There were even rules that forbade any "ethnic" hairstyles, or hair that ha more than one color. This, of course, excluded white girls because their hair, with has natural gradations from one color to another was seen as a natural occurance. This was aimed directly at blacks in server and counter positions. This was challenged by a black girl when hired by Aramark to work at the then newly constructed Oriole Park at Camden Yards. She eventually won her case, and got her job back. She lost her job when she reported to her new job wearing a braided hairstyle.

Both of these factors have a direct bearing on how the owners of these establishments hire blacks, if any. In my experiences, I have worked in racially and ethnically mixed kitchens, No one race dominated as the talent in the kitchen. But one thing remained constant:
No matter what the racial makeup of the kitchen staff was at the time, the front house staff was always white.

I have several friends who work in bartending and wait tables who are black. All of them say that now, times are getting better for them here in Baltimore. And, it is. In the larger restaurants, you will see more of a racial and gender mix in waitstaff. The downside of this is that these restaurants, the average tipout to support staff is about 21-28% of the waiter's income. This means that after you have the mediocre lunch at Crabby O' Mondays, your server has to then give the 21-28% of the tip you leave to assorted bussers, runners and bartenders. These less lucrative jobs are more available for blacks.

The bottom line is this: Ketchup on the table= more of a chance you will see an ethnic server.

Ketchup off the table= almost no chance you will see a black server.

Woozie said...

Because white people can't cook.


Kellybelle said...

"Field, not today." LOL, sometimes you just want to eat.

Francis L. Holland Blog said...

With ninety-six white members and only one Black member, the US Senate has become a "white hole of dysfunction, corruption, self-dealing and a millionaire clubhouse divorced from the needs of average Americans." It's a white hole legislative hell.

Anonymous said...

Only in Philly, L.A. (yes, even in the Asian joints) it's all Latino..cooks, bus, and yes, even servers...I've lived here 56 years--in the last 10, non-Latinos can't get a job in fast food, and have difficulty getting even wait staff in all but the "upscale" West Side & Valley...before the flood, please note that this post is descriptive only.

Whitney B. said...

Thanks for the reminder about the word gumbo. My Cajun husband told me that a while back.

When he cooks an (okra) gumbo, he first fries the okra for a long time, to get the slimy part under control (more for me than for him) and then cuts in tomatoes. Adds a nice seafood stock, then the seafood. Quite tasty....but, I myself prefer a chicken and sausage gumbo, made with a roux. Cheaper, too.

Thank the lawd for men who can cook, and I am especially lucky and glad to be married to a Cajun (since I like my food spicy hot). He's even really good with Creole cooking, too.


Back to topic at hand, I have been to a few really fine restaurants here in Center (and Old) City, and the wait staff is equally black and white or some other ethnic origin. I have no idea what that means in the scheme of things, but that's been my experience.

In Chicago, same thing...but in mostly any kinda restaurant there.

The Christian Progressive Liberal said...

I'm with Hennasplace. If brothas are in the kitchen, that means they are good at what they do, and I'll probably be able to get my grub on with good eats.

Here in DC, the kitchen at Georgia Brown's is manned by white guys trying to cook down-home southern black style...and failing miserably. Anyone knows you cook collards with a smoked turkey neck if you're going healthy, but the real deal is a smoked hamhock for flavor. They think they can fool people by cooking those greens in water with hot pepper sauce and say it's "down-home".


Anonymous said...

It is simple--Blacks are the best cooks! But I have to agree with the other posters that most kitchen staff I see these days are Latin American--in the DC area, most of them are illegals. At least the restaurant you went to demands proof of citizenship. Brothers are doing well just to get their jobs back from these border jumpers. People decry the Lou Dobbs' of the world as just a bunch of loud mouthed bigots for demanding immigration reform, but it is workers like the Black men you saw in the kitchen that are losing their jobs to illegal aliens. Lawyers, journalists and politicians don't lose jobs to illegal aliens--cooks do. As for waiting--it ain't all it's cracked up to be. Especially in those chain restaurants where people pay 15 bucks for a meal, demand 5 star service with a smile and leave 2 dollar tips. I think I would stay in the kitchen too.

Whitney B. said...

re: Big Mac moment. That is such an old tired joke. Musta been a lot of whities at that fund raiser. Offensive, yes. Makes me wonder what the O'Man's thinkin. Or has did he drink his own 'aid and gotten completely lost in the stardust?

That little glitch in your comments section is back. It as a little box to check and says "Email follow-up comments (to my email address). Natch, I did not check the box. Just to let you know.......

mellaneous said...

Hey Field I think you and the wife stepped in one on this one.

But I think I understand where you are coming from, like why were all the brothers in the kitchen? But like many folks have said the cooks do just fine its an honourable living and in some restaurants its the path to promotion to management. And Ms Fields is way off on this one many folks in the kitchen of the more expensive restaurants have in fact gone to college to learn their trade.

I think the Mrs was being a bit elitist. Everyone doesn't have to go to college to be productive or even to make a difference in the world. Some of the folks who have made very significant contributions have never been to college.

And I am not going to even begin to talk about the college graduates who are causing real pain in the world while killing and theiving (George Bush, General Patreus, Condoleeza Rice, corrupt lenders, Enron execs and just about anybody else who think that ripping off workers everyday and saying that it is fair, etc.) So she has to be careful and if I can get a little political, hell most colleges are teaching young people not to think but just how to prepare for a job, thats not quite education or at least not a liberal one. More and more colleges are really technical colleges.

And it wasn't that long ago that this degreed writer worked as a server at a restaurant. Whenever I would get friendly with a female customer, who was clearly feeling me I could see that question raising in their minds. And they would judge me as somehow deficient when I was one of the folks in the streets fighting for their rights or writing a piece for the local paper trying to expose an injustice or right a wrong.

I would sometime just for fun tell folks what I did when I wasn't trying to please them and kissing their butts and you should see the looks I would get.

We of all people ought to know better than to judge a book by its cover.

Steve-MD/DC said...

OT - in case you haven't already seen it, here's a pretty funny account at HuffPo by Nathan Robinson, What It's Like To Watch FOX News For 24 Straight Hours.

Anonymous said...

After 300+ years of institutionalized subordination to people like Cheney and Bus, why would any AfAm take a job that requires you to defer to their stoopid. Waiting tables is horribly status poor (look at B&W movies) and I believe if I had to 'make nice' to Whitey McBush, I'd see if he really could take care of hisself.

Cute young things loosen the strings on the wallet. Why else would anybody hire the BushSluts.


field negro said...

"Because white people can't cook."

Wrong woozie, some white folks can cook. Hey aren't Italians considered white? I love their foods, and most Italians I know can cook their asses off. Cajuns are white too,[even though they don't think they are] and we all know how they can throw down.

deedlelee, you nailed this one! Ans I co-sign with most of what you said. The money can be huge with waiting tables. Especially at upscale joints (which this was not) even in the joint we were in I am pretty sure that the waiters can make good money.

"I think the Mrs was being a bit elitist.."

No argument from me there melaneous:)

jackson said...

The opposite dynamic is just as weird. My girlfriend and I ate at this place in New Orleans called the Camellia Grill--one of her old-money, southern white friends recommended it to her, saying that it had a "unique atmosphere." It was basically a bunch of brothers behind a counter in an open, Waffle House-style kitchen, dressed in white chef's uniforms and serving white folks who were willing to pay the exorbitant prices to be waited on by black men whom, had they seen them on the street, they would have crossed to the other side to avoid.

It was a little surreal. I was the only black customer; our waiter didn't get around to serving me my beverage till I was halfway through my meal. When my girlfriend and I sat grimacing after finishing our overpriced, miniscule waffles, the lead waiter (replete with dreadlocks) looked directly at my girlfriend--a white woman--not so much as glancing in my direction, and asked her if she had enjoyed the meal.

rikyrah said...

I'm happy to hear that Brothers can still get restaurant jobs where you are. Where I am, it's Latinos everywhere.

But, I'm feeling you, FN. And, I'm glad you brought it up.

Whitney B. said...

Mr. Field,

Been bizzy packin' all day and just popped in.

There is this really BIG gap between your last comment to this blog and the extemely (way earlier) insulting comment from the Anon. Mold to me.

I can only hope that it is due to the hint that I gave you about email responses. But I am highly offended that anyone would think that this little redheaded white chick is a racist and that I would look at the history of this country through rose colored (pun not really intended) glasses. I know racism, I see it in my husband's family (who have a great grandma in the "wood pile", to use that nasty racist term; theirs, not mine). My particular side of the Whitney family never owned and never condoned slavery. They say that Eli's invention of the Cotton Gin expanded slavery, but I don't know if that's fact.

Perhaps Nsangoma can enlighten us on this tale (or is it?).

I can trace my family's history back through the Whitney Geneology, which was published in 1898, when my grandmother was 10 years old. The name comes from William The Conquerer (1066) and he dubbed them "Wise Men on The Whitten Wy" (a river) and was shortened to Whitney...kinda like Wooster sauce, if you get my drift.

I abhor racism and sexism, and I will tell you that to your face, whether you are black, white or any other race, and whether you a GLBT or not or some other unknown stripe. I'd smack little green folks from Mars with it, too.

I am deeply insulted and hope that this issue will be corrected by you or one of your loyal fans on this blog.

Respectfully submitted,
Whitney (proud of my name) Brown

For some interesting reason, there's not a little check the box there now. Hmmmmm. Am I the discoverer of someone's secret. Go eat a mold(y) biscuit.

Whitney B. said...

Here it is 10:27 and still no other comments. Mr. Field, someone is sabotaging and stealing the comments. It ain't early. And, yeah, you posted another story, but look at your history on this blog-osphere!

glory said...

I ain't mad atchu, Buggin Out. You and Mrs. Field are funny. Your tit for tat reminds me of the dialogues I sometimes have in my own head: hood native vs. grad school alum.

heartsandflowers said...


Too bad about the greens, but you know people have their preferences. Me, I like kale not mustard greens. I did make a vegan version once just to see if it would be edible. I put tons of vegie broth, onions and seasonings in it for flavor. I still prefer salted pork to hamhocks or turkey.

Lordessofthebloggers said...

I guess it's easy to say, if black men would go to school and make something of themselves, maybe they could own the joint one day.

Until that happens I don't blame them, who wants to serve on white people?

Anonymous said...

triflin' story, now we're complaining about brothas with jobs?

everything is not about race or rather move on. I was recently helping a group of school kids on a field trip, elementary. When the kids would describe people they would never use race only what the person was wearing, "Oh the guy in the red hat or my teacher is the lady with the flowered dress on"
I learned a lot from the kids that day and never point out anyone based on race unless that is the subject I am specifically talking about. Culinary school is hard, you must go five days a week, damn if the bros didn't have jobs they'd be put down, move somewhere else you'll see nothing but Mexicans who gives a fuck we are all Americans and humans!

I busted my ass getting two degrees, can't find a job, maybe it's my name, the economy or just my "irrelevant" generation

RisingTide said...

Chefs and cooks and anyone else who needs to rely on their sense of smell tend to be men. Biological, maybe? But even expert perfumiers are men.

the uppity negro said...

I know other's have said it, and I concur, but, I'd rather eat food cooked by black folk.

Only problem is that they probably don't get the benefits of tips which can be pretty good at the high end restaurants.


Anonymous said...

Damn, brother can't get a chance anyway he go. why u think the place is so pop, cause the bro's doin the cook`in shit everybody know its the flav not the color.
started as a dish washer worked up to asst chef, kept a job and had no want to deal w/ dumb azz folks complain`in bout every thing.
some people are never sat-tis-fied

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