Narsai David: Is San Francisco Too Expensive For Cooks?
SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – The San Francisco Bay Area is known as one of the premier culinary destinations in the world, with innovative restaurants and chefs from Napa Valley to San Francisco, the East Bay to the Peninsula and South Bay.
But a front page article in Thursday’s San Francisco Chronicle looks at a growing problem in the food world – whether it is too expensive for many talented cooks and chefs to continue to work in the San Francisco market.
According to the Chronicle report, San Francisco has the most restaurants per capita of any city in the country, yet, 2012 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show restaurant cooks on average take home an annual salary of $27, 660. And on that salary, it has become more and more difficult to find affordable places to live.
Many of the chefs and restaurateurs are looking to other parts of the Bay Area, such as the East Bay, where not only housing, but the cost to rent space for that new restaurant is proving to be far more affordable.
And the notion that San Francisco and New York are the only viable markets for up-and-coming chefs has been tossed aside, as cities such as Portland, Seattle, Nashville, Charleston and Austin, among others have grown into food-centric hotbeds in the United States.
While many cooks are migrating to these other markets, young cooks are also heading to the tech world. Tech companies and their on-site cafeterias are hiring, often offering better hours, pay and benefits for young cooks. The proliferation of startups, pop-ups and food trucks are also offering a less expensive way for cooks to make a name for themselves.
The question remains, is there a reasonable solution? Some look at the restaurant tipping system as a possible fix, as California currently does not allow the sharing of tips. In many cases, that means servers can make exceedingly more than cooks, dishwashers and the rest of the restaurant staff.
With a number of high-profile chefs set to open restaurants in San Francisco in 2014, will there be a downshift in the industry? Time will tell.
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