One thing I really respect about food service is its meritocratic nature. Unless you’re selling very cheap food to lots of people, the only way to survive is to consistently put out good food. You can’t bullshit diners into thinking that bad food is OK or OK food is good. It doesn’t matter where you went to culinary school, where you’ved worked before, how much people like you, what awards you won in the past, or who your relatives are–dry chicken is dry chicken.
I think this emphasis on quality has a lot to do with the high proportion of drunks and druggies in the restaurant business. It’s one of the last industries that pretty much never does drug testing, maybe because it’s increasingly become a haven for skilled people who lead legally suspect lives. I’ve got really old fashioned ideas about this. I’m happy so many big companies have employee assistance programs to help workers in trouble, but if someone shows up on time and sober then it’s not any of the boss’s damn business what they were doing before they showed up. Don’t get me wrong, a cook shooting heroin on the line and fucking up orders is a big problem, but until he’s so far gone that he’s actually incompetent THERE AT WORK, no one wants to train up somebody else. If the diners are happy, no one’s stealing much, and cops aren’t raiding the place, then the kitchen staff can be the biggest pack of high, drunken malcontents you ever met.