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Line Cook - Shit Jobs

Line Cooks

Part 1: Line Cook

Restaurants offer one of the highest concentrations of shit jobs in any mountain town. The least glamorous job at a restaurant is the dishwasher, hands down. Since I’ve never met a dishwasher that speaks English, or skis, I’m starting this series with the second least glamorous restaurant job: line cook. Like any job, there are pros and cons, good and bad, strikes and gutters.

One of the finer points of working in a kitchen is the schedule, as long as you work the dinner shift. If you work breakfast or lunch you are blowing it and probably don’t get to ski that much so this doesn’t really apply. Depending on the restaurant you work at, your shift probably starts between 2 and 4 p.m. This leaves plenty of time to ski at Mt. Gnarnia before it’s tracked out, or session laps in the local backcountry.

Once at work, there is a nearly unlimited supply of food and beverages to consume. Free lunch, dinner, and drinks of any kind are a godsend for broke-ass ski bums, and as a line cook the food is at your fingertips, literally. Eating one or two meals a day at work can save you heaps of money, especially when you are forced to shop at absurdly overpriced ski town grocery stores. You can also drink iced tea, coffee, and Coca-Cola until you’re blue in the face or develop heart palpitations. Alcoholic beverages might also be part of the program, but if frowned upon by upper management, you can probably sneak a few beers in the walk-in or bribe one of the waiters with food in trade for some red wine.

As a member of the kitchen staff you don’t have to associate with the customers and therefore you can farm your goggle tan to the point of total ridiculousness. Showing up to work with helmet hair and 5 day growth because the skiing has been epic is generally no big deal. Your appearance may hurt your chances with that hot waitress, bartender, or busser, but at least you get to check them out all night at work, and sometimes they actually have to talk to you.

Working on the line, however, can be somewhat hazardous. Burns from the oven, hot pans, and fryer oil are nearly impossible to avoid and the scars on your forearms may tell the story for years. One slip with a super-sharp kitchen knife and you’re stuck wearing a finger condom or heading to the hospital for a few stitches. Your mental health may also be in jeopardy listening to the gratuitous use of words like fire, all day, and dragging. Prepping for and making the same 30 dishes day after day could be enough to drive any person insane.

Working in a confined space next to an oven, stove, and deep fat fryer isn’t for the weak at heart, it is often really, really hot. You’ll also smell like food, or a fryer, and be covered in airborne grease particles until you take a shower, and sometimes longer. Most of the free food you consume at work is terrible for you and combined with your work environment may cause you to break out like a prepubescent teen. Oh, and that waitress, the one you hit on everyday, isn’t interested because you’re broke and you constantly smell like french fries. Not to mention the fact that anytime anything goes wrong in the restaurant it’s your fault and the uppity wait staff and front-house management are constantly staring at you and asking where the food for table 12 is.

That being said, working the line allows you to ski everyday, sleep in if you want, and party like a rock star. No one knows you make 11 bucks an hour when you’re rubbing elbows with local pros in the lift line or smiling ear to ear with a powder mustache. And that guy with three screaming kids, a nagging wife, a $500,000 ski condo, and an $80,000 SUV, whose dinner you made last night is jealous of you. Not because he wishes he was broke, but because he wishes he could live a responsibility free life where skiing is the priority. Because after all, in the end he who has the most fun wins, and at least you’re not washing dishes.

The author, uppity waiter Jeremy Benson, crushing pow October 25.

From The Column: Shit Jobs

About The Author

stash member JeremyBenson

This article is pretty much spot on. I will add though that line cooking is a skill that not many people possess so cooking jobs in a ski town are abundant. Most often you get to choose where you want to work because demand for cooks is high.  The best advice is get to town by mid Nov in Northern Hemisphere or Mid May in Southern Hemisphere and go talk to the folks who run the kitchens.  Busy restaurants are the best.  Back to back winters year after year is a reality if you can cook.  Cooks are ‘colourful characters’, substance abuse is the norm in kitchens, the pace is very fast but there is rarely a dull moment.

If you cannot cook, then washing dishes is a great option.  A reliable hard working dishy is worth their weight in gold.  The cooks will feed you and the servers with ply you with beers if you can keep up with the cutlery.  You wont get paid much, the job is disgusting,
you work late, and women wont pay you much attention but you will ski 100+ days. Plus washing dishes has practically zero responsibility so the pressure is off. Just show up and start scrubbing.

Shenanigans. Sage Cattabrigga and Ryan Hudson both washed dishes and achieved lofty goals, and Cody barnhill was a line cook. There’s plenty other BOH and foh people out there that have made great livings from it. I went from line cook to exec chef over the course time and things have worked out very swell. It does suck for breakfast/lunch cooks, but usually we hire non skiers for those shifts. Shit jobs are the ones that require watching people ski while you work. See: shuttle driver, house keeper, fluffer, and don’t be fooled, liftie is part of that list though plenty will disagree. But think about that next time some guy in wildcat bumps your chair at 9:30am. Cooking is s craft, bumping chairs and shoveling snow is just cheap labor.

Like SP Pig mentioned, this is pretty spot on.

I’d only add that kitchen jobs are extremely easy to get if you know a few rules. In a former life, I was a professional chef and baker. I also weighed a lot more and had no life. No wonder the Chef was a miserable drunk.

1) If you can’t cook, you can start as a Prep Cook. Show up with a good 8” chef knife, a good paring knife and your food handlers certificate on a Wednesday afternoon and you’re golden.
2) Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons are best. Show up and apply between lunch and dinner! Be ready to work too. I’ve hired guys on the spot if someone was out or going to be fired.
3) Keep your head down. The nail that sticks up gets the hammer. Flying under the radar also gets you bonus points because you’ll be allowed to take home that food that’s about to go off. Restaurants throw out so much good stuff.
4) Be nice to your fellow inmates. Kitchen work sucks and until you develop a “knife callous”, you’re gonna be in the weeds and dragging ass. It’s OK. We’ve all been there. If you’re cool, people will help and teach you how to bust up a 50lb bag of onions in 15 minutes.
5) Be reliable. This is the hard one. Show up on time, sober and ready to work. Fall into this pattern, develop a rapport with the sous chef and they’re more likely to excuse the occasional powder day. You can pick your days, trade with others, etc… And you can get re-hired next season!