Friday, April 2, 2010

The reality of kitchens

Pizzeria Gusto is one of my g/f's favourite restaurants in the city of Winnipeg. Well, it was shut down recently. The chef, Scott Bagshaw, gave an interview to Red River College about what chefs are like, and he gave details such as playing the "would you" game, or other such sexist and chauvinist stuff. The owner fired him, and the staff, in solidarity, walked out with Bagshaw. The astonishing thing about this is that it has made national news here in Canada, and on the Guardian website, it's made international news.

I work in a kitchen, and I can honestly say that the "would you" game that Bagshaw says he played is the least of the terrible things that the chef has said. In a kitchen, we say horrible things, insults, jibes, sexual humour, scatological humour, and everything we can possibly say. We've said every swear and a million variants. We come up with new offensive things to say all the time.

Is it right? No, not really. The jokes and comments are hurtful, antagonistic and frankly illegal considering the rights that employees have. But do they still happen in kitchens everywhere? Of course. To deny the jokes' existence is to plunge your head in the sand.

Bagshaw has now become the scapegoat for the culinary industry, a world that features such foul-mouthed icons and heroes like Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey, both of whom are notorious.

Frankly, this whole debacle is bullshit. The chef surely deserved a reprimand from the owner, but not termination. To do so only brings more publicity to it. International coverage, in fact. Punishment should have been kept private.

The reality of it is that kitchens are not fun places to work. Kitchens are hot, stressful and full of angry testosterone-filled young men with knives. The game becomes one-upmanship, in order to make work a little more enjoyable.

To say that "this is the way things are" is an unacceptable excuse for sexist, chauvinistic, misogynistic and racist behaviour. We should strive to fix the kitchen industries. But it seems that the world is hungry for over-the-top personalities from kitchens. To succeed, television teaches us, we must be loud, foul braggadocios.

It is an uphill battle. I'm going to waffle a little bit here and say that maybe the publicity that this is afforded will lend itself to a self-reflective era in kitchens, which would always be a good thing. I will continue to follow this story as it unfolds.


Anonymous said...


matthew. said...

I'm taking a strong stance against this. I sent a modified version of this to the Free Press and to the Sun.

Anonymous said...

Scott bagshaw here, thanks for the support. It is nice to know some people actually get it. Much love and keep fighting the good fight.