There is talk of the flight of waiters, of unavailable staff and equally rare cooks. With the end of the pandemic, in Italy an important slice of restaurant workers never returned to work. The reason? “In the country that prides itself on its culinary tradition, there are no conditions to work in the sector”. The one told by Pietro Leoni, a young chef from Parma, is the story of many professionals in the restaurant world, sometimes forced to leave Italy to find decent contracts.
Not just cookers
Leoni, 30 years old in December, has been a chef for 8 years. He studied at Alma, the famous cooking school in Colorno and, after a period of practice in the city of Ducato, he left for Paris, where he learned the secrets of French cuisine. Working first for a Parisian starred restaurant, Le Meurice by Alain Ducasse, 2 Micheline stars, then in the hotel opened by the most famous gastronomy in France, Fauchon. But training in the highest level of catering is not always enough as a guarantee of a decent salary. At least not in Italy. «I have returned to Parma just before the pandemic began. After the emergency, I was contacted for some interviews by some renowned restaurants and clubs close to opening in search of chefs. It turned out that I preferred to re-invent myself as a private cook, at home“. The reason? “In the country that prides itself on catering, there are no conditions to work there – explains Pietro Leoni – A chef runs a business. His work requires a lot of study, knowledge of food safety, seasonality, cooking techniques and combinations, but also more practical skills, such as the management of a supplier, the relationship with the customer and compliance with workplace safety regulations. Comparing the pay of us cooks to that of other professionals at the activity guide, the comparison is ridiculous ».
Of course, Covid has reshuffled the cards, forcing everyone into more thrifty accounts. But it’s not a problem due to months of lowered shutters. “I tried to stay in Italia, but in the talks that I have done I have always clashed with indecent proposals», Comments the young chef from Parmesan. «In one case, I was contacted to become the chef of an ambitious venue, close to opening. I was supposed to be in charge of a kitchen with 3 cooks, two dishwashers and 4 waiters to manage. In short, the equivalent of a small company. Come to talk about contracts, I was offered an apprenticeship for 1,200 euros per month. I was speechless », admits Leoni. All the more so considering that an opening requires you to work up to 18 hours a day, in the first five months. “For a management post – he continues – such low figures are not seen in any other sectorHe adds.
“Pay consistent with requests”
The script was repeated equal to a second attempt. «A restaurant offered me a contract for a farm work, paid by the day. Without contributions, no holidays and overtime. This is one of the many examples encountered by those who work in the world of catering in Italy. Examples that existed even before the pandemic. In many cases, the lack of staff in the dining room and kitchen in this period is due precisely to this treatment ». Employment contracts are not always flattering and “the pay is inconsistent with the required commitment” they are “reasons why young chefs leave our country and go to do this job elsewhere”. Pietro Leoni has decided: he will return to the Ville Lumière. The final consideration is a bitter pill. “A little resigned, I decided to move back to Paris. I want to try to open my own business, a deli. I find it easier in France than in Italy. However it will go, the least of the problems is finding a job in catering in Paris: the basic contract in the kitchen is a permanent one, the extra hours of work are considered and, even if they are not paid as overtime, they are transformed into days of paid rest. In short, the cook is recognized as having a know-how. That’s the way it is abroad. In Italy, from my experience, no ».
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November 28, 2021 (change November 28, 2021 | 15:30)
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