The Heart of America's Kitchens
I recently went behind the kitchen at a famous Chicago restaurant, Berghoff, to document the magic that happens behind the scenes. The purpose was to showcase the incredible staff and the process of making their food. The heart and soul of this restaurant is truly the staff that shows up each day. It was part of a new social media project, and the goal was to tell the story of the people and the important work that happens behind the kitchen.
I met some of the hardest working people doing not-so glamorous jobs. Some of the staff had been there for 10ish years, some 20 years. They were gracious enough to let me film them and it was fascinating to witness the work that goes into this restaurant. With four kitchens and three main dining areas, the place is huge! Overall it was crazy cool - and the staff displayed diligence, thoroughness, and passion for the work. I watched the blending of art and science that goes into preparing a high quality experience for diners and patrons.
Most of the staff are Mexican, which is pretty typical in a restaurant in the U.S. While race/ethnicity wasn't part of the shoot, it becomes apparent in a time when immigrants are being demeaned, Mexicans are being disrespected, and the current administration presents certain cultures as threats to the white race.
I was supposed to return to Berghoff to shoot again this past week but because of the national immigration protest, Berghoff was closed. It makes sense since most of their staff is Mexican or Hispanic immigrants. Although bad for business, I 100% respect the solidarity to this cause. Until we have more respect for immigrants, Mexicans, and people who do service-sector work, there needs to be more awareness and support for these marginalized groups.
Watching people take their service-sector job seriously is admirable and should be celebrated. While many Americans would see kitchen jobs as menial or low-level, many immigrants take these jobs seriously because not only is it important work, but it's an incredible opportunity that wasn't provided for them in their country of origin. It's honest, respectful work that allows them to provide for their families. Immigrants deserve more respect for working these jobs and I couldn't be more supportive of people who take service jobs without complaining.
Rather than taking a negative stance on immigrants, I believe we should respect the work they do and take seriously because many American born people would never happily and thoroughly do service jobs or the "dirty work."