Cooks and Bartenders

I was reading one of the cocktail related discussion boards, and someone made the comment, “Line cooking and bartending are two completely different things.”

As someone who has done a lot of one (line and prep cooking) and a little of the other (bartending), I thought it might be interesting to compare and contrast my current perspectives on both jobs.

Ways in which the jobs are similar:

  • Both are jobs in the Food Service Industry. You’re going to go home sweaty and smelling like the kitchen or bar you work in at the end of the day.
  • Both jobs will likely require you to work when your friends and family are playing: Nights, Holidays, Weekends.
  • Both jobs require standing for the duration of your shift. Invest in good, durable, comfortable shoes.
  • Both jobs require you to be physically able. You’re going to have to lift a 50 Pound bag of beans, a 20 gallon pot of hot soup, a case of vodka, a keg of beer, or a container of ice at some point.
  • To do both jobs you must perform relatively repetitive tasks accurately, quickly, and efficiently.
  • Both jobs require a fair bit of manual dexterity.
  • Both jobs perform time sensitive tasks in concert with a group of coworkers. Communication with your coworkers is key.
  • Both jobs require astute senses of taste and smell.
  • Both jobs require a heightened awareness of your surroundings. Whether it is simultaneously monitoring all six of the saute pans you have on the stove or the various and sundry patrons lined up in front of you at the bar, there’s a certain amount of “spidey sense” involved in both.
  • Most of the training for both jobs is typically social and on the fly. You can read a book or go to school for either, but most of what it is important to know, you will learn by example from your coworkers and supervisors.
  • Aside from certain celebrity examples, the vast majority of practitioners of either profession are not particularly highly regarded nor rewarded by society at large.

Ways in which cooking is not like bartending.

  • Cooking is a lot harder work. Sorry bartenders, and I know you work hard, but it’s just not the same thing.
  • The extent to which you must perform time sensitive tasks in concert with your coworkers is taken to much more of an extreme in cooking. That’s why Kitchens usually have expediters (aka wheel or pass) and few bars have a similar role.
  • There is a much greater danger of physical injury in cooking.
  • Many kitchen tasks are performed behind closed doors. For better or for worse.

Ways in which bartending is not like cooking.

  • Bartending is a Service profession. That is, you must engage and interact with members of the public for most transactions and are often rewarded in some fashion for the customers’ perceptions of how well you do your job or connect with those same customers.
  • Bartending often pays a bit better than cooking.
  • Bartenders must handle money.
  • Bartender responsibilities and roles are often less specialized than those of cooks.
  • Bartenders serve intoxicating beverages and have a whole host of legal and/or ethical responsibilities related to that fact.

To me, those are the broad strokes. What did I miss?

7 thoughts on “Cooks and Bartenders

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  2. This was an interesting post Erik. Look to me like you are on the spot, i cannot come up with anything more right now.

    I do agree 100% that cooking is harder work..and when you go home sometimes you aren´t just sweaty and tired to the point of exhaustion, you feel like you`ve been through a washing machine and drier at the same time.I have only done some occasional bartending but i know at least that cooking is much heavier and in my case it destroyed my back, that`s why i left it.Probably even the heel-spur problems i know have in my left foot is caused by those years of hard floors. But one thing i still miss is the kitchen ambiance…those times when the heat is up, the music loud, the speed fast and concentration is total, its a special feeling, provided that you work with some nice and fun people. Anyway, now i find cocktails more fun than cooking.

  3. Great post!

    Anytime I tell one of the chefs at work that I’ve had a tough day, we pretty much cover all the points you do above. Bartending isn’t easier or harder, it’s just different although it’s probably a good thing that the majority of chefs I know aren’t involved in front-line customer service.

    Waiters, though. Now they’ve got it easy… ;)

  4. “it’s probably a good thing that the majority of chefs I know aren’t involved in front-line customer service”
    Heh, Jon, yeah, you’re probably right about that!
    When I said, “Cooking is a lot harder work,” I was referring specifically to the physical demands of the job, not to any other relative sense of the job people do. Obviously, bartenders, cooks, and, yes, wait staff, all work hard. But cooking, to me, is often the most physically demanding role of any in the food service industry.

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