SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Help wanted!
San Francisco restaurants need cooks. This high-cost city is forcing many to take their culinary talents to Oakland and beyond the Bay Area. KPIX 5 found one S.F. eatery stirring up ideas to fix this looming cooks shortage.
At San Francisco’s RN74, a South-of-Market Michael Mina restaurant, the atmosphere is trendy but chef Adam Sobel is honest about what life in the culinary fast lane is like — it’s often not glitzy.
“Eventually it can be, but it’s not a glamorous life,” he admits.
As chef partner at RN74, Sobel is trying to build his kitchen team. It isn’t easy.
Three years ago a job posting landed 10 qualified applicants a day. Now, Sobel might see one or two and he’s lucky to get the applicant to make a long-term job commitment in pricey San Francisco.
“You go through the process of hiring that person and investing training and all that and they leave because they aren’t able to live or afford the lifestyle. It makes it challenging,” Sobel says.
According to the Bureau of Labor statistics cooks in San Francisco earn an average annual wage just shy of $29,000. That’s far too low to cover the median $3,000-per-month rent in the city by the bay.
At SF Cooking School, founder Jodi Liano sees her students thinking outside the chosen-career box — some moonlight as food writers — just to make ends meet in the city.
“Even students who want to graduate and work in restaurants, if they want to live and work in the city, they often supplement that income by doing something else,” Liano said.
To lure qualified cooks, RN74 is looking to offer its chefs more perks — from paying for public transit, affordable housing and higher pay.
Many commute from across the bay.
“It’s tough because BART ends at midnight. You’re a young cook working in a restaurant, you’re probably not getting off before midnight so you really have to think of the opportunity cost a job in the city might provide for you,” Liano says.
Sobel says the crazy cost of living in San Francisco is just another challenge among many in a cook’s life. But he thinks the rewards are worth the considerable effort.
“You’ll have a great appreciation for everything when it comes to fruition, when you put that time in, learn the craft, do it the right way. That’s what being a chef is all about,” he said.