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Vietnamese restaurants relying on Latino cooks


Drive-by Critic
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Bourdain always made it clear that the real cooking in most restaurants was being done by Latino immigrants, but would you have thought that was likely true of Vietnamese restaurants?

According to this WaPo article, it is:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/at-vietnamese-restaurant-a-honduran-does-all-the-cooking/2012/07/01/gJQASPafGW_story.html?hpid=z4

My question is this - according to this article, this guy is slaving over a hot stove for 60ish hours a week, making about $7.35 an hour. The article alludes to exploitation, and it sure sounds that way to me, but I don't know what cooks in small, local restaurants ordinarily earn. It bothers me to know that some of the places I frequent regularly might be exploiting the labor and I would not want to continue eating at these restaurants if that proves to be true. At first, I thought, well these low-priced places can't possibly pay the same wages that high-end restaurants pay, but they serve far more many people in a day than do the high-end places.

Does anyone know what the going rate is for cooks in small, local restaurants? I mean, it could be that the prevailing wage is itself exploitative, but I'd at least like to know if they are paying the prevailing wate.

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I don't doubt at all that wages in many mid-range restaurants are at close to the minimum (& the servers, if they have them, probably get paid even less, because they are expected to make the difference in tips, which frequently doesn't happen). A lot of difficult, crap work for not much money, but what's the alternative? No work at all...

I have a local place (5-10 Mart) that I believe has an Asian owner & primarily Hispanic cooks, lots of Hispanic dishes, but very good pho. I prefer it to Viet House, further down Rt. 1 (I don't know about their cooks, but my server was Hispanic, last time I was there, & the fried spring rolls were abysmal, totally soaked in oil).

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I once had the owner of a respected DC Indian restaurant tell me that he preferred Hispanic cooks to Indians, because "they cook it the way I want it cooked. Indians always want to cook things like their mother cooked them."

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I've also noticed that my local Vietnamese owned bakery (Mrs. Donut) has a strong Latino following, especially for the rolls & baguettes. They make really good donuts & pastries, also- I like the pineapple/cream cheese pastry...I wish they had banh mi, too, but I'm happy w/ good bread & pastry.

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