'It was a brutal life': Why young culinary talent is fleeing SF
A month-long apprenticeship with little-to-no pay, paired with astronomical rental costs. Bleary-eyed commutes lasting up to three hours, with physically demanding daytime shifts stretching even longer – sometimes 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Kicking off one's culinary career in San Francisco is becoming harder than ever for the city's budding chefs and restaurateurs.
Eater SF’s recent portrait pulls back the curtain on the plights of the city’s devolving scene, with local experts behind some of San Francisco’s most iconic eateries explaining why – one by one – young chefs are abandoning their dreams of honing their craft here.
Rental costs are largely to blame. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition's annual "Out of Reach" report, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties are all tied for top most expensive county to rent in the U.S.
Eric Ehler, executive chef at San Francisco’s Fort Point Beer Co., told Eater he had personally witnessed the lack of fresh talent.
“We’re not seeing as many young cooks from 19 to 24,” he said, adding the kitchen lifestyle was not for “people who are trying to live a sustainable lifestyle.”
Recent closures aren't helping, either.
Christa Chase, a member of the team responsible for opening San Francisco’s Tartine Manufactory in 2016, said she and other staffers didn’t live in the city, so they ended up facing a grueling commute to work that lasted between one and three hours each day.
Even Alexander Hong, owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Sorrel, recalls how his first job working twelve-hour shifts on the line at the now three-starred Quince wasn’t for the faint of heart. “It was a brutal life,” he admitted to Eater, especially with paycheck-to-paycheck wages. “It was just draining on my body — it hurt all the time.”
Read the full interview on Eater SF.
Amanda Bartlett is an SFGATE Digital Reporter. Email: [email protected] | Twitter: @byabartlett