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  • Stephan Busch

BLACK & WHITE - Who won the fight?

More Ritual then fight

Working in a restaurant we are all aware of the legendary fight between the White brigade – kitchen - and the Black brigade – service. It’s less a fight and more a stress relief ritual where everybody behind the scene can shout, scream and get rid of some emotions. And after the service have a beer together. ( Okay I have also seen the ones that got out of hand). Professional cooks and professional service staff could fight on a level that did not injure anyone but helped to get steam out. The cook had to survive in the hot kitchen long shifts while the server had to face guest and cook with totally different faces. We needed each other and a good restaurant needs good cooks and good waiters. One alone is nothing a guest will ever return to.

White looks in front – but it is an illusion.

With the celebrity chefs the boom in cooking shows and cooking schools you might think the white brigade is up in front. Ever heard of a famous waiter? Looking at the industry today the reality is more that both sides lost.

Working long hours, unpaid overtime and work through all holidays and weekends we hardly find young people who want to do that to themselves. We worked regular 12hrs to 16 hrs. and often you hear from the old boys: “ Did that harm us?” Well – it harmed the whole industry.

Service staff mutated

The black service brigade has disappeared or mutated into low paid employees who need to make a fast buck and hope they never have to do this job again. There are a few exceptions but not many. With them gone the white brigade – the cooks - have lost their ambassadors. The ones that organized the orders, influenced the guest, apologized for the kitchen when needed and cleaned up long after the cooks went home. They were actors on behave of the kitchen and for the restaurant and hotel. We knew our job – we worked for each other and respect was what we lived.

Where long ago a Chef could have a good argument with a waiter he can now feel only pity for the clueless one who picks up the plates today.

Now we mostly outsource the service which doesn’t make a big difference as standards of service can hardly be lower and deliver in many hotels pre cooked meals that the microwave can deal with. Robots are cooking in some places already and its of no sense to fight with them or try a joke. Pull the plug is also counter productive.

We should have thought more of us – fought more for us and our working conditions. Hard to believe that we could have won against the big international companies that standardized everything, took the fun and motivation out, lowered the guest expectations and just kept the bad working conditions.

Still a chance?

Seems we lost. Maybe there is a come back. Lets support the last good surviving ones and hope the whole industry, the big masses will also improve one day. At the end it’s the guest that looses too.

Author: Stephan Busch, Academic Director at the State University for the Humanities Moscow RGGU, Faculty of Tourism & Hospitality earned his Master Certificate in Hospitality Management from Cornell University, USA. He has a diverse experience in launching operations, business development and service training- for hotel and cruise companies in Asia, Europe, Canada and,

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