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So You Want to Date a Line Cook?

Chill Clinton's girlfriend dumped him while he was a line cook in a nationally lauded restaurant.

Dating a line cook can be as difficult as it is delicious.

Dating a line cook can be as difficult as it is delicious.

Dating a Line Cook

You may have stumbled upon this article because a local line cook has caught your eye or because you're starting to have problems balancing your life with that of your special culinarian. Well, have no fear (or maybe do, I don't know how you're going to take this article) because I will lay out the three major factors that you will need to consider before dating, or getting more serious with, a line cook!

1. Time

A line cook's job requires not only a significant degree of focus and attention while on the clock, but it also requires an unusually significant time commitment. Not only may your significant other be unavailable to speak or text with you for the entirety of their 10–12-hour shifts, but you may also strain to see them as much as you'd like because they will almost always work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, as well as most holidays.

Many times, highly competitive kitchens create a culture that discourages cooks from requesting time off, using the possibility of career advancement and higher pay as a means to command complete loyalty to the kitchen above all other aspects of their lives. This may mean that the cruise you were hoping to go on this Summer with your significant other may only be possible if he/she takes a contract with a cruise line (and then again, cruise ships are notorious for putting cooks through relentless schedules), or if they are willing to incur the wrath of their head chef, the disapproval of their coworkers, and can handle going a week without pay.

If you choose to date a line cook, you must understand that their schedules are unusual and that their work culture is significantly more demanding than most. If your line cook finds a way to make a lot of time to spend with you, that is great. But if you sometimes feel like your line cook prioritizes their job above your relationship, remember that a lot of the factors that seem to keep you apart are outside of their control. If you choose to date a line cook, you will have to be content with Monday night dates, Wednesday "daycations," and not being able to bring your significant other home to spend Thanksgiving with your folks.

Be ready to pinch some pennies with your significant other.

Be ready to pinch some pennies with your significant other.

2. Money

Despite often working in high-end, expensive establishments, line cooks do not live lives of luxury. Even while working 50 or more hours per week, many American line cooks struggle to make ends meet, often earning wages that amount to an annual salary in the low to mid twenty thousand dollar range. More senior line cooks can make up to thirty thousand dollars a year, but oftentimes, the salaries cap around there until line cooks can break into a chef role, which can take up to a decade and is never guaranteed to happen.

Most line cooks who make enough to support themselves and who are wise enough to live within their means will not have the same standard of living as some of their peers in other lines of work. Often times making just at or just below a "living wage" means that your line cook will likely have roommates, might drive a beat-up car, won't don the most stylish fashions, and won't always be able to do all of the things that you might want or expect out of a partner. Frequent dinner dates out might not be a possibility. Your birthday gift might be a home-cooked meal and a night out at the movies.

If you are comfortable dating someone who may make significantly less money than you, then this won't be too much of a concern. But do keep in mind that advancement and pay increases are rarities in the restaurant industry. You may be comfortable having a partner now who makes 23K per year, but will you be okay if that partner is still making that three years from now?

It may seem shallow, but financial disagreements can be a significant source of tension within relationships: whether you're making decisions about housing, vacations, or birthdays, the fact that your partner will have little to no expendable income will eventually matter. It's up to you to decide whether you are comfortable living in a way that is considerate of their means.

3. Stress

Professional kitchens, especially within high-volume, high-profile restaurants, are extremely stressful places to work. Line cooks are regularly subject to aggressive behavior from managers, chefs, servers, and fellow cooks. There's fire, sharp objects, and slippery floors. A million things can cut, burn, and bruise them.

This level of sustained stress, coupled with the reminder every two weeks of how little they are being paid to endure it all, can have a big impact on a person's emotional health. Many line cooks are notorious for venting. You may be awoken at 3 am to your significant other coming back from a bad shift, only to talk him/her down while they complain about the garde manger cook dragging, the ticket printer running out of ink, or how a faulty pipe in the dish pit had everyone staying late to squeegee the floor.

Of course, not every line cook is as affected by the stress, but many are. On a more serious note, you should also be conscious of your tolerance for the use of illicit substances since drug and alcohol abuse is extremely common among line cooks. While not every cook uses substances excessively, drinking and drug use, unfortunately, play a major role in the culture of which your significant other is a part. Very few other jobs have work days that end with the boss cracking open a case of beers and handing them out to their employees as they shuffle out together to catch the last call at the bar around the corner. Self-medication as a mode of stress management is a terrible reality in the culinary world, but it is a reality. You may either have to accept that your significant other is engaging in this behavior or trust in the ability of your line cook to act responsibly.

Many line cooks finish off a dinner shift with a few beers. Will you want to be hanging around for last call?

Many line cooks finish off a dinner shift with a few beers. Will you want to be hanging around for last call?

Why You Should Date a Line Cook

Okay, so I know I've spent all of this time talking about the difficulties of dating someone who works as a line cook, but there are plenty of upsides too.

In my experience, line cooks are exceptionally adventurous people. Many cooks are attracted to the kitchen because they want to be where the action is. They like the noise, adrenaline, and challenge of pushing out hundreds, if not a thousand, meals in one evening. The people I've worked with are extremely passionate, fun, and sincere. They do what they do every day, not because they make money or earn prestige. They do it because they love the craft, the sense of camaraderie, and the ability to push themselves every day.

Line cooks are diligent and hard-working. Many cooks I have met through restaurants have gone on to obtain master's degrees, open their own businesses, or start successful careers in the arts. They are people who are accustomed to being present and working hard, which is a life skill that they carry with them regardless of whether they remain in the culinary world or not.

So you still may be asking yourself whether or not dating a line cook is for you, and I can't give you a good answer. The best piece of advice I can offer is to know your expectations, communicate them to your line cook, and do your best to hold them to whatever standard they agree to while still maintaining a keen understanding that their lifestyle may have certain demands and pressures may not be apparent to you. The best thing you can do is be patient while remaining firm with what you need from your partner to be happy.

Best of luck!

© 2019 Chill Clinton