I have many, many articles to write post Vinitaly 2022 e Slow Wine Fair and I'm behind like a loquat... but I really feel compelled to share this reflection on youth work with you today. Because, honestly speaking and with all due respect, Alessandro Borghese e Antonino Cannavacciuolo (and those like them) broke my... breadsticks with this article published in Il Fatto Quotidiano. I swear, I bit my tongue, I drowned 'the invocation' to the god Bacchus in two goblets of Sangiovese... but nothing, I can't help but get the animal up when I read these things.
First a premise...
I love both Alessandro Borghese and Antonino Cannavacciuolo, by far my two favourite TV chefs. And I think that the success of their figures has contributed exponentially to the elevation of the image of the chef in the collective imagination... from worker to star, if you can call it that. Programmes such as Masterchef (which I love, by the way), 4 Ristoranti (I would eat in practically any restaurant I see...), Cortesie per gli ospiti ristorante and a good slice of Discovery's programming has 'mythologised' the kitchen and its work and so, if in my day it was the 'dunces' who chose hotel school because there was little study (Mr.!), today it is a fashion also instilled by the high earning prospects (only for those who make it!) and by 'how cool is it' to say 'I am a chef'.
On this, but only on this, Alessandro Borghese and Antonino Cannavacciuolo are right...
The harsh reality is that "being in the kitchen is not like being on the set of a TV programme". So surely anyone who has approached this world out of fashion or convinced they are going to get rich because 'the restaurateur is rich or rides around in a Porsche' is going to run away pretty fast! I also agree on another big issue: young people often lack humility, especially if they are talented and/or 'studied'. And I was young too, and I for one was the one who lacked humility when I was fresh out of studies and convinced that these were an arrival rather than a departure. As my beloved Franco Battiato used to sing "Long live youth, which fortunately passes / Without too much trouble / Living is a gift given to us by heaven...' and indeed then we all grow up and understand the value of life and - if we grow up well - we really begin to be humble.
But there is a huge, huge BUT.
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... but precisely because we understand that life is a gift, we learn to value our time, our values and our dreams.
Dear Alessandro Borghese and Antonino Cannavacciuolo...
... when you say that young people demand 'big rewards right away' what exactly do you mean? What is for you an important compensation?
"I may be unpopular, but I have no problem saying that working to learn does not necessarily mean getting paid. I used to serve on cruise ships with 'only' recognised board and lodging. Stop. I was fine with that: the opportunity was worth the salary'.
But let's face it... not everyone is the son of an actress and an entrepreneur. I wonder if young Alessandro, returning from that extraordinary opportunity for professional growth that consisted of working for free, had any spare change to buy a girl a pizza, pay his rent with bills attached, have a beer. Or - worse I feel - treat himself to a cavity. And (without counting in my pocket, for charity's sake, but as food for thought) if these pennies did not come from work, how did they materialise in Alessandro's wallet?
I for one did a two-year 'internship' in an architectural firm at €330 per month for over eight hours a day, and one year I remember how I went to work on a Saturday, 8 December (a holiday, as well as not working on Saturdays) in the snow. I remember the egg sandwich I ate every day, the cappuccino and water that took up almost half of my daily income. I certainly learnt a lot, more than business management architecture, but I could do it because my rent, my bills, my fridge and most of my expenses were taken care of by my parents. That's right, my parents were paying me the salary that my employers were not paying me.
Not everyone has this opportunity. And, with the hindsight of adulthood, I'm not even sure I consider it an opportunity. In fact, you know what? That I would never have accepted being exploited like that today. Work has to be paid for, and mixing work with study to have the excuse of not paying a young person is immoral to me. Because let's understand each other: if a young person is intelligent and has studied, however different school is from work, he has the basis to learn the job. And since restaurant work takes up a lot of time, especially in the kitchen, if this young person produces wealth for the restaurant, he must be paid. Or else it is called exploitation.
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But also those who believe that the restaurateur - or any other entrepreneur, especially if he is self-made - is a 'heartless rich man' who charges €10 for a plate of pasta with sauce (I swear I have also read comments of such intelligence on Facebook) without realising that:
- a dish in a restaurant does not have the running costs of a dish at home;
- raw material is the last (or almost the last) cost of a restaurant;
- work in Italy is very expensive;
- companies in Italy are taxed a lot;
- the employee does not even know what pressure is compared to the entrepreneur;
- the business risk is the entrepreneur's and this risk, sooner or later, must necessarily present the bill for it to have made sense to be experienced
... broke my breadsticks more than Alessandro Borghese, Antonino Cannavacciuolo et similia.
But beware: these are not valid reasons for not paying a person to work. Also because economic gratification is fundamental to having a person, young or old, who cares about his or her job. Work must be paid, shifts managed. I have seen staff in both the kitchen and the dining room just over €1,000 a month and also do more than 60 hours a week, including holidays.
Dear Alessandro Borghese and Antonino Cannavacciuolo, are you sure you offer a salary commensurate with the skills you seek or, at least, in line with the legal requirements? If you do - in my opinion - someone who comes to work for you and lasts more than two or three days will be found... you would be amazed at how many guys have been working - with pride and commitment - in the same restaurant for years when treated like human beings.
Before complaining that young people do not want to make sacrifices or become adults, try to give the right weight to the words: making sacrifices does not mean volunteering. A young person who works 10 hours a day and has a house to run - rent/mortgage, bills, cleaning, cooking, washing... - without help struggles to take an hour for himself and to have money to eat a pizza out a month, especially if he lives alone. These, yes, are sacrifices. But not being able to afford that house and being forced to live with your parents while being exploited by someone is giving your time to someone willing to steal your future.
And for me a mentor gives you heart. And not just in words because it gets ratings.