In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Zagat Stories asked AAPI professionals in restaurants and hospitality about positive change they’ve observed or experienced in the past year—as well as where they think the industry still needs to do more work. In particular for these conversations, we focused on the perspectives of AAPI women in the industry. Here’s what they have to say.
Executive chef, Kumi , New York
Due to COVID, we’ve really seen a shift in terms of the fragility of the human body as well as the importance of family. There’s been a significant shift in the necessity of time off in the hospitality industry. As a cook, I was surrounded by and fell victim to doing the 15-hour work days for shift pay, one day off a week, pushing your body to its breaking point regardless of being sick or having a bad back or whatever the case might be. And while as a leader and chef, I have made it a point to make sure my team is able to have their days off and be able to rest if they’re ill, I’ve noticed a huge shift as well with colleagues and others in this industry towards this end. As a whole, managers and employees are handling more reasonable work hours, being given their personal days without the eye rolls, and are more comfortable being able to say “hey, I feel sick and will be unable to make it into work” without there being such a stigma attached to it.
I personally used to feel crushing guilt for having to take time off work, and would still make it a point to be connected to my team while I should’ve been resting. I recall taking two weeks off for radiation treatment while I maintained regular meetings with my team and kept the group texts going the entire time, feeling guilty that I wasn’t there with them to offer both physical support as well as in-person leadership. I felt like I was failing my team by taking any time off for treatment and regularly checked in every hour or two to get updates on staff and service. Rationally, I know that it was ludicrous to feel this way, but the idea of a chef having that time off, even to treat or heal, was something that throughout my career was something of a myth.
Just a few weeks ago, I had a concussion and was encouraged by my bosses to go home and rest. In the past year, I’ve been very kindly “kicked out of work” to rest and have been encouraged to make sure I take time for myself, which has been weird but very pleasant. More and more, especially in the past year, I’ve seen as friends and colleagues are taking their PTO, sick days, paternity/maternity leave, or vacation time to ensure they can heal physically and mentally or spend time with their families. And they’re doing this without the guilt that follows as well as detaching themselves from their kitchens.
Owner, Poi Dog , Philadelphia
I was cooking for an event for the Nationalities Service Center , an organization that supports immigrants and refugees, and they properly listed my company Poi Dog on signage as being “From Hawaii.” I had noted to them that there is a distinction between “from Hawaii,” which I am, and “Hawai’ian” the ethnicity, a term that often is misused to refer to anything with a connection to Hawai’i. I was really happy to see that they honored this distinction. I’ve noticed an overall awareness from individuals in food media on how workers are treated at restaurants. I know there’s a discrepancy between media and the general public, but I hope that after seeing restaurants suffer through the pandemic and reading about their survival stories, diners are more aware of what goes on beyond their own experiences, and hold restaurants as workplaces and ecosystems to higher standards. It’s often said that we vote with our dollars, and I hope diners support small businesses in more interactions. This can be done in an accumulation of little steps, such as frequenting independently owned restaurants that you want to continue to survive, thrive, and have the ability to properly compensate their workers.
Chef-owner, Little Chef Little Café , New York
There is a lot more support and collaboration happening between businesses. Whether it’s pop-ups or cross-promotion or more frequent visits to […]
source 40 AAPI Women On The State Of The Hospitality Industry