It’s time to fix Toronto’s food culture

Swinging kitchen doors or the din of a bar can cover up a multitude of sins. Shocking stories have emerged.


Swinging kitchen doors or the din of a bar can cover up a multitude of sins. Shocking stories have emerged from the back rooms of the Toronto hospitality industry in recent years: sexual harassment allegations from the kitchen at Weslodge, an alleged gang sexual assault at College Street Bar and misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic comments from a long list of offenders.

This summer, the industrys focus turned to working conditions and compensation. Employees at Susur Lees restaurants blasted the celeb chef for illegally withholding tips, while employees of the popular Poutinis walked off the job, citing unsafe work conditions. A recent Toronto Star investigation uncovered hazardous conditions and shady temporary staffing processes at Fiera Foods, a North York factory where temp worker Amina Diaby was killed on the job.

These incidents dovetail with what is considered by many to be a local shortage of qualified hospitality and kitchen staff. Recently, the Ontario government has moved to increase the minimum wage to $14 this January and $15 in 2018 many lower-paid workers applauded the move, while others in the industry warned of lost jobs and shuttered restaurants.

How to fix an industry starving for a more positive culture? We asked nine chefs, cooks, owners, managers, bartenders, activists and writers about the greatest obstacles theyve faced on the job, and how they would create change within their own kitchens and across the industry.

These interviews have been edited and condensed.

Owner, The Black Hoof, Rhum Corner, Cocktail Bar, Agrikol, Grey Gardens author, I Hear Shes A Real Bitch.

I was able to manoeuver myself into leadership positions fairly early on, and though I didnt have to deal with being hit on by managers because I was the manager there were different problems, like issues with customers. I first really noticed the oppression within the industry, though, when I started to get more power. Thats an interesting turning point. The moment I became a threat to writers or other restaurateurs even though that wasnt my intent things changed.

Around 2012, I wrote an essay called What A Bitch about how I was perceived compared to my male contemporaries in the industry. I wrote it for a magazine, and the editor, a good friend of mine, emailed me: Darling, Im not sure this is the right direction for the magazine or even for the Jen Agg brand. The darling part wasnt even what bothered me talking about feminism and sexism and gender isnt right for my brand?

My reaction was to never talk to him again. Obviously, I was correct about going forward that way because it ended up smashing open some doors. I still havent published that essay. I developed a public voice that started to pick up wind around that time, and a lot of it was based on that email. Im a responder. Thats kind of my rallying cry: Ill show you.

Its so important to point out whats happening in certain restaurants, even though Ive gotten a lot of shit for that. I think public pressure may be the only actual pivotal point in terms of change. I really believe that people are so scared for their bottom line, or that I or someone else might say something, that it will push them toward a better-run restaurant. But its ridiculous that thats what will be effective.

The idea that modeling positive culture is gonna be a good look for the men who control this industry is both heartening and upsetting. You dont want it to be for the wrong reasons, and yet you think, If its going to have a positive effect, does the reason matter? But of course it fucking matters. People like me who have been shouting about this for years get ridiculed and ostracized. While, say, somebody who owns a really famous restaurant in Europe is given so much bro respect for writing a mea culpa-style essay that’s wrongheaded.

For me, building a positive culture within a restaurant was less of a conscious choice and more like, I want to build an environment where Im happy, and that includes a positive culture. I dont want a gross environment around me. I dont want people acting as enforcers. I want discipline because it has to happen in restaurants to be like, Hey, this is what you did wrong, Ive told you two times, I dont want to have to tell you again. Im still a difficult boss. When you start with me, its a hard training process. But its never abusive.

Theres a cyclical thing thats important in abuser-abusee cycles. I think of a secretary working for an executive whos constantly harassing her: See you later, sweetie. Eventually she responds, Oh, night, baby! Not because she wants to, but because she feels like she has to and she doesnt have any power. So when young cooks are being hazed and humiliated, they might look you in the eye and be like, Nah, bro, its jokes. But when youre 22 and you can lose your job for not playing along, maybe its not. It becomes so normalized.

Its really easy to not run your restaurant like that, but you have to be here, watching. It has to do with gate-keeping, more than anything. Making sure that when you hire someone, they understand what youre trying to do thats the first line of defense. That means sitting in on interviews or having staff you trust doing the hiring. Once theyre in, you have to set good examples.

I recently had someone showing dick pics to a female employee and I was like, Nope. Goodbye. I was angrier than Ive ever been at a person who was working for me. I gotta say, I didnt get the best vibe from that person beforehand. If Id been hiring, I may not have hired them. Sometimes you need people so badly, you are less discerning. But then if you let someone in whos not the best fit, you still need to be on them.

I think that part of the labour shortage is that there are a lot more restaurants than there used to be Id be really curious to see the rate of restaurants versus the number of people joining the industry.

But I also think millennials have a different attitude and not in a lazy sense. Theres an enlightenment moment happening: Youre asking me to do unreasonable things. I value myself, I like my time. I could just go and work retail or even front of house. I dont think its a problem in front of house as much as it is in kitchens.

Its really hard to advise people who are in a negative workplace situation on the right way to handle it. The immediate answer is often going to have a tinge of privilege, like you need to find a new job. Thats not an option for some people. But there just isnt one good answer. There isnt HR, unless youre a corporate restaurant. But bigger restaurants are getting their shit together in that way not because they think its the right thing to do, but because its always economic. So if that means they have to be a little bit nicer to people, or they have to treat people with humanity, they will, so that someone like me doesnt embarrass them or call them out.

Were fine with the minimum wage increase because were already paying it. So everyone else needs to get on board. If you cant pay it, raise your prices. People need to realize that food costs money, and expensive food costs more money. It makes me enraged when people are like, I could have made this at home. Could you have?

Im basically a huge cashmere socialist. I run businesses and I ultimately want these businesses to succeed, but not just for the sake of my bank account. I have a lot of people working for me, and almost to my detriment, I put them first. I know it sounds like lip service, its what everyone says. But I go out of my way to make sure they have good lives. Its not that hard to do. And its the right thing to do.

Kitchen manager, the Lockhart host of the upcoming podcast Kitchen Woes (instagram.com/kitchenwoesTO)

Ive always been a boss, though my bosses have always been men. The upper management, the company president I really didnt feel like those people treated me with respect because Im a woman. It was also difficult managing as a woman, although I do have a dont-mess-with-me attitude that Ive had to build up. Ive had a lot of push-back from younger male staff.

Last summer, I had to start from the bottom at a new restaurant. The chef had 40 years of experience. The sexism wasnt there right away, but he started calling me little lady every single day. The fact that I am only five feet tall doesnt help. Id be doing something [physically demanding] like punching french fries and hed say, Hey, little lady, you wanna cut this lettuce instead? Would that be a better job for you?

There had been lots of complaints about him, and he was fired not long after, but the enviroment never really got better. That kitchen, in particular, was super-understaffed, and I felt like our kitchen manager just didnt care. I was worried that since I was the last one to blow the whistle on the chef, maybe they didnt like me any more, because I put them in a difficult position.

Its a male-dominated industry, and its a really tough job. I think theres a lot of stigma about being a woman in the kitchen even though men think we belong in the kitchen anyway, which makes no fucking sense.

The Lockhart is my favourite kitchen Ive worked in so far. We try to create a really positive, open, communicative environment.

I have zero tolerance for [violence and harassment], and I would really like to have people feel safe in my kitchen. If I feel like the persons temper is too much, and I dont feel like putting the emotional labour into mentoring them, that persons gone.

When hiring, I definitely shy away from the typical chef whos super-temperamental and irritated, even though kitchens are an irritation chamber. I have a diploma in social work, so Ive been able to use that as a way to reason with people.

I really think that idea of You cant handle that in kitchens needs to get the fuck out. And if people cant take the heat, maybe we should turn it down a notch and make it not quite such a tough work environment.

Ive always tried to hire women, as well, just to surround myself with more support, but I have noticed that a lot of women dont apply to kitchen jobs. Id say 99 per cent are men.

Finances and labour costs are all part of my job. I wouldnt have a job if I didnt keep our labour costs at 30 per cent, and without charging a huge amount, its really difficult. Id like to see higher salaries for chefs and kitchen managers and line cooks basically, a livable wage in whatever city or province you reside in. And more relief staff. Give your cooks time off, a vacation. Benefits would be amazing standing all day is not really good for you. A lot of things here are not really good for you. And more support from upper management I think owners and bosses need to be working at their establishments at all times.

Those moves are expensive, but I think you can take small steps, like respecting your staff by giving them a fucking break once in a while people develop smoking habits in kitchens because the only breaks you get are your two-minute cigarette break. We can (enforce) the labour laws that are in effect already.

Ive noticed that really bad things can happen in one shift, where its kind of a domino effect: Your linens dont come in on time, and then your produce guy doesnt show up, and you have somebody coming in to do a review that night. There are lots of experiences that are like that, and I want to interview people in the industry as part of a podcast (Kitchen Woes) and shed light on the industry in a different way.

My main goal with this podcast is to reach out to those who work in restaurants, but also to the customers. While theyre out enjoying time with their loved ones, were often working in not-so-ideal conditions. I think this would help change the mindset of people who eat out often and maybe be a little more forgiving when their experience isnt perfect.

I also dont want people to be deterred from working in the industry because of everything that they hear. I found my place at the Lockhart I believe there is a place for everybody.

Coordinator and co-founder, the Dandelion Initiative

My first two years as a bartender were horrible. I was assaulted and harassed at work, and I would just put up with it. At 20, what do you do? No matter how much of a hardcore queer feminist I was, I didnt have the tools to deal with it.

I reported that one of my coworkers was sexually assaulting me at my first bar job. The next day, at the end of my shift, they gave me an envelope of money and said, Gimme your keys. The response was, How dare you make these false accusations. We thought you were gay anyway.

Then I started working at Rancho Relaxo, a space where my manager and boss were telling me that my autonomy, safety and needs were the most important thing. I was like, Whoa!

In 2015, I was sexually assaulted walking home from my local. They arrested him, and then I went through six months of hell. It went to trial, and he was let go because of insufficient evidence. Being assaulted years after feeling secure and safe and empowered, having that ripped away from me, brought back a lot of residual trauma that I had to deal with, and the way I know how to deal with stuff is to organize.

The Dandelion Initiative mainly focuses on action and education. The first big thing we organized around was the College Street Bar shutdown. The night [the alleged sexual assault at that bar] happened, I was in Teds Collision, across the street. I didnt want to reach out to the survivor themselves because I didnt want to compromise the court case. So I just stood outside, handing out flyers. Then I put up a Facebook event and got a 2,000-signature petition in less than 24 hours. We were able to ask city council to strip them of their licence.

We then launched our Safe Bars project, and thats about using trauma-informed practices and an anti-oppression framework to create safe spaces in bars and restaurants. Establishments dont know that under Bill 132, they have to have anti-violence and harassment policies and training but it doesnt say who delivers it or what those policies look like. Its toothless legislation.

I realized we need three main things: training that is survivor-centric and informed by different types of people holding establishments accountable to policy and eliminating disconnect between managers and staff.

Bars sign up, and we have an open dialogue with staff about their challenges and resources. Then we do three hours of training, with presentations and mock situations that give them concrete, tailored tools and tactics. Then they agree, in writing, to provide zero-tolerance spaces for harassment and violence, and to provide this training to new staff. My dream is to walk down the street and see a bunch of Dandelion stickers in bar windows, showing that people are proactively creating safe spaces.

The challenge from the owner/operator side seems to be: How do I create a safe environment? How do I hold my patrons accountable without losing business? From a staff perspective, its: How do I intervene safely? How do I hold my establishment accountable without fear of losing my job? And then there are environmental concerns lets say I work in a really dark bar. I often work by myself. I cant really see in the far corners and the music is loud. My owner/operator doesnt want to change it. What do I do?

Last year, we had 30 bars sign up for this training that hasnt even fully rolled out yet. Weve just filed our non-profit paperwork. Were also going to start applying for grants and fundraising so we can actually pay the survivors that have been working their butts off the last two years. Well be charging for training, and will also be working on a subsidy system, so if a large organization can afford to pay $1,000 or $2,000 for the training, their share will subsidize a smaller bar that cant afford that fee.

Education is the first step to creating the culture you want. If I went around with a pitchfork and burned down every bar where something shady happened, a hundred others would pop up with the same shit. Education, empowerment and meeting people where theyre at is how you transform culture.

I look at the workforce, and were not mobilizing women. Were not mobilizing trans people or non-binary and genderqueer folk into positions of power, because oftentimes those are the people disproportionately affected by violence. Now add on if youre a person of colour or Indigenous. Its a snowball effect. I think the service industry could be a very safe space, a very community-driven space, a really awesome work experience for young people to have, but we need to make sure its safe.

Head bartender, Pretty Ugly

When Pretty Ugly opened, all our staff happened to be female. Theres been some verbal harassment from customers. We have a door person whos female, and shes had a lot of rude things said to her.

As a leader, you have to let your staff know that no matter what, you have their back. You have to empower them to say, This is the point where my service and hospitality to this person ends, because this is a threat to myself and my guests. Now, we also have some extremely supportive male employees who have our back.

We have weekly meetings about issues that arise during service being aware of your surroundings, what language you can use to resolve and defuse these situations. Theyll say, I just bumped into this situation, I did it this way, how would you do it?

Theres often very little emotional transparency in kitchens theres that sense of needing to leave your emotions at the door and be professional. But once you have that constant communication with your staff, youll have a better idea of whats happening in your kitchen.

I used to be a very harsh, unapologetically rude manager, to be honest. I would come down on my staff, and I learned very quickly that this method just doesnt work. You need to allow people to make mistakes, so theyll understand why things are done the way they are. If I were to put a wrong key in a keyhole, Im not just gonna say This key sucks, Im never gonna open a door again. You have to try and try and try to find the right key.

Your employees also perform better every day if theyre on a decent emotional and health spectrum. If one persons feeling not so great, then everyone is at level three instead of level 10. Whether or not staff can perform a task is trainable, but their job satisfaction you cant just make them have it.

I think the wage increase is beneficial to certain establishments especially ones that are low-paying and dont provide a percentage of tips. The whole Susur Lee IOU thing happens everywhere. Theyre just the first restaurant thats been outed.

But I dont think the higher dollar figure encompasses what needs to be done in terms of labour or creating a better environment. Youre increasing the wage, but in terms of benefits, education, protection how does that help?

With a wage hike, prices also have to go up, which has to be taken into consideration. The Toronto food industry is already so unaffordable compared to a lot of cities its not awful, but its at a point where you can notice a drop in customers going out during the week, and more of a focus on once-in-a-while splurges.

We do classes for our staff, tastings, seminars (on top of paying a good wage). I think thats a lot more beneficial toward building a positive work environment than only raising wages. It all comes back to job satisfaction: if I were getting paid $9 an hour, and Im learning lots and feel safe and fulfilled and happy every day, Id rather do that than earn $15 in a place where I feel like crap.

If you have a good support system from top to bottom, your whole team will be stronger. And if every restaurant, every bar, has that strength within their staff, then the community will be stronger.

Writer former cook host, 86d Mondays at the Drake founder, The Food And Wine Industry Navigator Facebook group

I dont work in kitchens any more you couldnt pay me to go back in. But I still love the scene. The best part, aside from working with food, is the camaraderie because youre in such a crazy business together. Its this wild, dark side, like an alternate reality you get to live in. But an industry where so much happens behind closed doors and where theres no real accountability makes for a perfect situation for [abuse] to happen.

The closest the public has gotten to seeing that side is a Gordon Ramsay freak-out or something. I remember my stepmother saying, Is that what its like in the kitchen? And I said, Yeah, but the insults are better. All the stuff about being asked to work overtime and not getting paid for it, having your tits manhandled it was just part of what you signed up for.

When I was cooking, I was always searching for a place that wasnt bending the rules in some way. Ive seen so many sleazy things. We used to be told to come in at noon and not punch in until two. I said I wouldnt, and the chef said, We need to get this prep done, and if you wont do it were fucked, youre not part of the team. Thats a difficult thing when youre in the trenches with your buddies and youre the only chick, and theyre all saying yes.

Women still arent presented as headliners in things like the S.Pellegrino Young Chef panel or in festival lineups, because they arent names or thats how the argument goes but they wont become names until theyre put there. I can understand, if youre a guy and you get asked to be in some festival, thats great for your career. Youre not going to turn it down just because there are no women. Its every man for himself.

Dominique Crenns response to San Pellegrino has been shared by thousands of people, but only one guy I know shared it. It would be great if all these guys who are staying quiet would speak up. Ive told them, Its great PR, just do it! I know they believe in having women in kitchens. Everybody does because were in a crisis. Restaurants need cooks. Theyre not going to ignore half the population.

When I was cooking, and being abused or assaulted and not helped by my managers, there was nowhere for me to go. I couldnt go onto a Facebook group like the Navigator, and say, I just got the shit kicked out of me. Does anyone need a cook? I didnt know anybody. I was just some dirtbag line cook.

Now, everyone knows who everyone is and you can check everybody out, and Im so glad I have that job group. We recently partnered with an employment app called Pluggd, which I thought would be great way to help even more people find jobs.

I know the line from everyone in the industry is that profit margins are really slim. But how did those Lee boys [Levi and Kai, Susurs sons] afford $20 grand worth of clothes? How much Singapore Slaw do you have to sell to be buying Bimmers? I was surprised and so happy to see [employees] saying, Fuck this, I wont put up with this any more, and the media picking up on it and running with it. Thats only going to embolden more people to put their foot down.

For me, its like, just give [cooks and employees] more money. I dont give a shit about your bottom line. With minimum wage going up, were gonna see a lot of change in the next year.

Restaurant owners complain now that people dont show up for interviews or for their first shift, but its because theyre not desperate any more. The owners are the desperate ones. Its time for them to figure something out, whether its benefits, paid sick days basic human rights. I think those are going to get a foothold going forward.

Former bartender (five years)

Former line cook/food runner/busser (six years)

L: I never worked in hospitality before transitioning. I knew Id be given a super-feminine job, be a hostess, have to wear this and that. It wasnt until I transitioned that I started to realize I actually wanted to work in hospitality. Once I did, I did feel more comfortable, presenting as male and wearing what I wanted. But theres a lot of sexism, a culture between men that isnt necessarily comfortable for everybody, a lot of physical touching. Things like top surgery and passing I feel like if I didnt have those, I wouldnt be able to work at restaurants.

J: I was not out at work. I was pretty stealth. My front-of-house experience was amazing, but working in the back, there was a lot of toxic masculinity, name-calling and sexism. It made me question what my masculinity looked like. Youre thinking, Should I be that way, too? And if youre not that way, youre shamed. I learned to accept the fact that Im not a part of that, because I dont want to be, and thats okay.

As a dude, youre not supposed to speak up. Even if you see women being harassed, you cant say anything about that either because you get read as something different than the norm.

L: At one job, the manager tried to buddy up. He took me out for a smoke and gave me this speech about wanting me to be his spy, to watch the women on staff in case they were doing something wrong. It was this very male-versus-female dynamic, which is weird, especially when youre trans.

J: Were still trying to get used to our own bodies, and to what we should be expected to tolerate because were guys now. Once, I got my nipple pinched at work. I was like, Why?

L: Even when they know youre trans, theyre like, Oh, youre a guy now, right? Well just do the guy stuff. Even if theyre cool with you, that wont prevent [harassment]. I feel like in that industry the rules have been so lax for so long [so no one respects them].

J: Tip-stealing was a thing at one job I had. We werent allowed to question the managers, and if we did, people got let go. Ive had to call the labour board several times sometimes they care, sometimes they dont. At one place that was really toxic, one of the owners was drunk a lot. One day he got in my face, calling me names, being super-abusive. I was in therapy at the time and told my supervisors, and one of them started making fun of me. Some of my co-workers were in on that as well, teasing me, calling me a bitch or a pussy.

L: Its a very manipulative industry. Theyll do anything to have you come in or stay. Ive been tricked into coming in for a meeting and then working a shift. Or theyll say your shifts are only this long or youll only work three days a week and thats a lie.

J: Restaurants also take back a lot of people when theyre short-staffed. At the last place I worked, a guy sent some inappropriate texts to a girl. He got fired but they were short-staffed, so they called him back. I was like, Are you really not taking this seriously?

But when I worked back of house, I couldnt call in sick at all. I could break my arm, and theyd be like Yo, just prep with your left hand.

L: But the reason they dont staff appropriately is their bottom line. I hate that as a customer, too. It makes for a bad experience, and it obviously affects the restaurants tips.

J: And breaks in restaurants arent a thing. You cant provide good service like that. Having more people on call would help.

L: In terms of change, it would be great to have more tip transparency, as well as some kind of HR. Theres not somebody you can talk to whos a go-between. I think it comes down to better relationships between staff and management.

J: A lot of managers get drunk, do drugs, dont show up sometimes, and they dont get in trouble. If people are being disciplined, there should be rules in place for management as well. And better communication between staff and management that would be a game-changer.

Chef de cuisine, the Drake Hotel organizer of The Dinner Party (October 29 at the Drake Commissary, drakecommissary.ca for tickets)

Every time I question why we need to be talking about women in the industry or hosting events [focusing on female chefs] like the Dinner Party, something will happen where Im like, Oh, okay. For example, the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition didnt recognize any women on their board as worth advertising this year. When I did the 2013 Dinner Party, we were talking about how Time magazine had just come out with their “Gods of Food” list and there were no [female chefs] on it. We havent gone anywhere.

Ive always been of the mind that if I want something, then Im going to go for it. Thats why I was prompted to throw the Dinner Party again. What we want to be recognized for is cooking so lets cook.

Weve structured the dinner so that its three groups of 10 chefs, so they have to collaborate with one another. Its a way to get know each other better because its hard when youre knee-deep in a restaurant to get out there and network.

Im championing female chefs with this event, but Ive thought a great deal about involving male chefs, because I want us all to be looked at as chefs, not divided by gender. Is this the best female chef in the world? Who cares? Why isnt she the best chef?

I know Im not alone in feeling like I get asked to do things just because Im a woman. I was in a cooking competition once against two male chefs. The woman that organized it was talking to someone: So, weve got our veteran chef, weve got our hip, new, cool chef and then weve got our female chef! I won, but I ended up thinking, Why did I win? In my opinion, I thought I was the best. But was I the best in the judges opinion or was it fixed?

Ive been working at the Drake for three and a half years, so I feel like Ive become removed from [labour abuses in the industry]. I cant even imagine how that looks anymore. Restaurants are already hard. Were asking people to work on evenings, weekends and holidays, and [youre] not even paying people what they should be paid?

I try to balance out the kitchen with regards to gender and cultural background. Its not that Im actively seeking out people for any particular reason I never hire anyone just cuz theyre a woman but I give everyone equal opportunity, because being able to learn new things from everybody around you is super-important as a cook.

Its hard to reconcile being a parent with being a chef. But when I got pregnant, I promised myself I would commit to both things. At the same time, I do recognize that Im the executive chef here and that gives me different leeway. Since the hours are already so demanding at the Drake, when someone needs time off, whether for their kid or something else, 95 per cent of the time I make sure that happens for people because I feel like you get back what you give. I want people to work for me for a long time. I want to invest in them like they are going to invest in me and the Drake.

Freelance writer for Food & Drink, Eater, the Globe and Mail and others

I feel a bit split on what the food industrys biggest hurdle is. I think labour and wages are huge. We cant attract and keep talent because of what we offer in terms of wages or benefits, and quality of life is poor. The other part of me is focused on the issue of womens access to media, corporate deals and corporate events. Were not even close to parity on those issues.

Women still bear a lot of the burden for family. Oftentimes, child-bearing age coincides with a period in a womans career where shes really accelerating. And but for people of colour, non-binary people its even more horrendous. How many chefs do you see who arent white and dudes?

I wrote a piece in the Globe in the spring about the number of events that dont have women involved. We arent anywhere near where we should be. A lot of men dont look around themselves and say, Jeez, we kind of all look all the same is that a problem? Theyre just on autopilot.

Theres a fabulous woman on the international scene, Maria Canabal. Shes said outright, Im not going on a panel if theres only one token woman. I think we, as individuals, need to start setting those terms. I think one of the big barriers is that a lot of people want the solution to be easy. But if youre hiring or putting something together and you commit to really ensuring diversity, it takes work to make sure everyones represented.

Im totally for this $15 minimum wage raise. The [complaints] are a scare tactic used by restaurant associations worldwide. They all sing from one choir sheet, and that is, The sky is going to fall. The hospitality business is the biggest minimum wage employer in Ontario. Theres a lot of power in the corporate sector to keep minimum wage low.

Its always bothered me that were one of those few skilled trades that isnt unionized. Im not totally pro-union, but I think this is really an industry that needs to grow up when it comes to caring for people paying people well, giving them some kind of work-life balance, having benefits.

Its an industry you retire out of so early because of an aversion to paying for experience. You need skill, but youre not willing to pay what that costs. I can tell you a well-run restaurant is probably already paying people $15 or more.

Ive noticed that the Ontario government is currently advertising for positions that investigate labour cases. I think that is one indication that were getting more serious about the culture of labour.

I still act as a mentor to people coming into the business. I speak candidly with people around me about what needs to change.

But its tough because a young person comes to you with their passion, and Im not gonna squash that. I dont feel excessive cynicism about the industry either I think we can make progress. I certainly feel that so many more women are just rising up and being counted.

I wouldnt counsel anyone to not go into food, but I think people need to be aware. Any young person interested in the industry is also aware of whats going on but they still have the desire to get involved.

Thank goodness. Someones gotta cook my dinner down the road.

nataliam@nowtoronto.com | @nataliamanzocco

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