The Tricky Blog!

I Know What Chalaza Is, But Does It Really Matter?

Posted in News & Entertainment by trickyd313 on November 29, 2010

I joined the United States Army in 1990 as a cook. I decided to leave active duty ten years later and take my skills to the civilian workforce. When I was on active duty I won many awards in my field. I have received gold and silver medals from various culinary arts competitions and have been a two-time Cook of the Year. My experience in Army food service prepared me for two things; preparation of standard products and management. I later found that my culinary arts skills were less that I thought they were, but at the time I just knew that I was the greatest. I had been involved in competitions that brought creativity into the kitchen. I explained this to the head hunter services, as they shopped my resume around but they all told me that when I go on an interview–DO NOT SAY THAT I WANT TO BE CREATIVE. I did not understand this so I did not follow that advice. I wanted to be creative. I’m a former two-time cook of the year for goodness sake! I quickly found that the sector of food service (management) that I was more suited for was fast casual dining. From an industry stand point, there is no significant difference between fast food and fast casual. They are all dubbed as “food factories” and they all produce standard products. I found that food factories are not going to hire anyone that wants to be “creative.”  I had to change my tactics.

I worked for Cracker Barrel, Sinai Grace Hospital and Boston Market at points over the past ten years. These places all have one thing in common–NO CREATIVITY PERIOD! Henry Ford developed ways to mass produce the Model-T; the food service industry has developed ways to crank out the McDLT. I submitted to this. I can do this. I have done this. No problem right? Wrong! These places do not want people who can think on the fly or that can solve problems. They want employees that can do the one or two functions necessary to get the products out. Minimum skills are necessary for these McJobs. The most valuable skill necessary is to be on time for work, to follow specific guidelines and to work fast– very, very fast. I made good money as a Manager in these places but the job was not very rewarding.  I can name the five major parts of an egg, but that information was useless at these jobs. My employees could care less about the function of chalaza1.

Long ago, I decide that I did not want to work at any of the automobile plants. My Brother has worked as an Assistant Manager for Chrysler’s North Assembly plant for a several years. We never really talked about what goes on at each others jobs until I hired his wife to work for me at Boston Market. As we talked, we both began to realize that we worked at the same place. All of the issues were the same, just the products were different. It’s sad to say but we joked from time to time about how “stupid2“ some of our employees were. Some of these “stupid” employees actually had the capacity to stand in a puddle of water, pick up bare wire and head for an electrical socket. The problem is that these same “stupid” people could complete a shift of hard work with minimum complaints and maximum efficiency. They were also the proudest of how well and how fast they could do their job. The auto and food industries have made it so that minimum skills and education are necessary to make a living.

The questions ask, Do you think that fast food workers are being set up to be structurally unemployed and the answer is let’s see. In my examples above I have described my dealing with what is called fast casual dining. Fast food and fast casual both require minimum skills to do the job. To make Boston Market sweet potato casserole, place bag in steamer for 20 minutes, open the bag, put product in pan. Oh don’t forget the marshmallows and brown-sugar topping. Dropping fries in some grease, pushing a button and waiting for the timer to go off, takes little skill as well. Good grill cooks can always find jobs in someone’s kitchen. Cashiering at McDonalds has been partly automated. These skills you learn at these types of registers don’t exactly transfer to other cashier jobs that require actually counting money back to a customer.  As I remember it 20 years ago a fast food job was the best way to go to get experience counting change back to a customer. Hmmm, times have changed. So I believe that some of these McJobs provide for conditions where unemployment is cyclical but most McJobs provide for structural unemployment. I also feel that they all contribute to maintaining a cycle, where certain groups of people can not get above the poverty level.

1Chalaza is a small white membrane that you see on the side of egg yolk. It serves as an anchor that keep the yolk in the center of the albumen (white.) In culinary arts, specifically pastry making, almost all recipes call for “egg whites minus the chalaza.” Chalaza may be mixed into recipes and unseen until that product dries or is needed to be piped through a pastry bag. This can ruin weeks of work or cause hour of frustration creating your work.

2The “stupid” person example is not and indictment of all fast food workers or all Autoworkers.” The example was just made to describe how an unintelligent person can do very well considering how the automobile industry and the food service industry has simplified the processes to get the desired result.




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