Off The Menu: The lack of line chefs persists

Long before the pandemic turned the labor market upside down, the catering industry was struggling with a persistent staffing problem – a chronic shortage of line chefs.

The journeymen (and women) of the cooking profession, line chefs, are the ones who actually prepare and serve most of the food on a restaurant’s menu. Your job title reflects the fact that you are “work the line”, a collection of cooking equipment and workstations that serve as the assembly line of a large kitchen. “Line Cook” is a middle position in the kitchen; The job is one level higher than “Prep Cook”, but does not have the status of “Chef”.

In a large kitchen, a row cooker can be a bit of a specialist just working the sauté station or the broiler. In a smaller establishment, he or she will most likely do everything and try to consistently translate a chef or owner’s menu vision into the intended dining experience.

Successful line chefs require good organizational skills, knowledge of hygiene and the ability to work in an intense, energetic work environment. You need to be able to learn quickly and work in a team with others.

Unfortunately, line chefs are traditionally not paid very well; Before the pandemic, the typical hourly rate could have been between $ 12 and $ 15. Factor in evening and weekend hours, standing work, and a generous level of physical discomfort, and it’s not hard to understand how difficult it has been to attract and retain good chefs.

As part of its mission to support the area’s hospitality industry, the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute in downtown Holyoke is offering a “Line Cook Certification” short course.

The program is aimed at people who are already in the hospitality industry and want to improve their skills, as well as unemployed / underemployed people who want to start a new career in hospitality in the hospitality industry. Taught in two parts – one online and the rest in the kitchen at the HCC MGM Culinary Arts Institute – the program focuses on the essential skills a successful line chef needs.

This includes chef knife skills, the basics of measurements and culinary math, and certifications in food safety practices. Program participants also receive extensive hands-on training in a range of food preparation and production techniques.

The Line Cook certification course is offered as part of Holyoke Community College’s workforce development efforts and is free to qualified applicants. The next certification program starts on October 5th.

For more information, call (413) 552-2500 or email [email protected]

The HighBrow Wood Fired Kitchen + Bar in Northampton is celebrating its two year anniversary with a “2 Year Anniversary Party” on October 1st.

The restaurant serves $ 10 worth of pizzas all evening (dinner only) and has beer, wine, and cocktail specials for the occasion.

The celebration starts at 4:30 p.m., the Beau Sasser Trio will perform after 10 p.m. that evening.

For more information on HighBrow Wood Fired Kitchen + Bar, please visit their social media feed at

The German restaurant München Haus in Chicopee is again holding a series of Oktoberfest celebrations on two weekends in October.

Every Oktoberfest offers an all-you-care-to-eat buffet with traditional specialties – pretzel-crusted chicken, sauerbraten, meatballs, sausages and various schnitzel – accompanied by a selection of side dishes such as spaetzle, sauerkraut, red cabbage and more.

The culinary finale will be a Viennese-style dessert station.

Live music is part of every Oktoberfest evening. On Friday, October 15th, the Bavarian Brothers entertain from 6pm to 9pm, while on Saturday the guests enjoy the traditional Oom-Pah sounds of the vagabonds.

Doors open at 6 p.m. on both evenings; Tickets are $ 35 and exclude taxes and gratuities.

Reservations can be made by phone at the Münchner Haus at (413) 594-8788. Tickets can also be ordered online at

The Shortstop Bar & Grill in Westfield is celebrating this year’s return of the Big E with a “fair food” offering.

Main courses offered as part of this “Little E” Tribute Menu include a Glazed Donut Burger, Sausage Sub with Peppers and Onions, Foot Long Chili Cheese Hot Dog, and Big Baked Stuffed Potatoes with a variety of topping combinations.

The dessert keyword is “Fried” with choices such as Fried OREOS, Fried Cookie Dough, and Fried Dough on offer.

The Shortstop Bar & Grill answers at (413) 642-6370; their web address is

The Student Prince Cafe and Fort Restaurant in Springfield will also continue its Oktoberfest tradition and celebrate the return of the “Mighty Oktoberfest” on October 8th.

The festivities begin at 5 p.m. with the Berkshire Mountain Wanderers providing the personal soundtrack for the event. The ceremonial tapping of the barrel takes place shortly afterwards.

In October, the restaurant supplements its regular menu with seasonal German specialties and offers live entertainment every weekend evening.

Tickets for the October 8 “kickoff” event are $ 20 ($ 25 after October 1). For more information, visit or call (413) 734-7475.

With the closure of Coco and The Cellar Bar in Easthampton in late summer, Western Massachusetts lost one of its most notable dining experiences. The closure also meant a loss of jobs and community for a small but dedicated workforce.

To fill the financial void created by the establishment’s closure, friends of Coco have put together a GoFundMe call, the proceeds of which will be fairly distributed to former employees. Originally set for a donation goal of $ 7,500, the appeal has exceeded that amount by a large margin, a testament to the loyalty of former customers and a tribute to the appreciation shown for the now-defunct restaurant.

The link to the Coco GoFundMe call is

After the National Restaurant Association (NRA) had to cancel its characteristic national trade fair in 2020 and 2021, the planning for its NRA Show 2022 is already in full swing. The 2022 edition of the show, according to the association, “will be the comeback event that the industry deserves”.

Scheduled May 21-24, 2022 at its traditional venue, McCormick Place Exhibition Center in Chicago, NRA Show 2022 is already accepting attendee registrations, with an early bird fee of $ 75 available through November 21 .

Information on the NRA Show 2022, including links to online registration, can be found at

Champney’s Restaurant at the Deerfield Inn in Deerfield is partnering with West County Cider in Colraine to host adult cider and food pairing with live music on October 1st. The evening lasts from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and includes a four-course menu with each segment of it accompanied by “flavors” of two adult cider wines.

The dishes on offer include cider and butternut bisque, scallops with apple salad, Merquez sausage with warm greens and pork knuckle braised in cider. Apple bread pudding is served as dessert.

Attendance costs $ 75 per person, plus taxes and tips. Local hero John Corbett is responsible for the musical part of the evening.

Reservations can be made by calling the Deerfield Inn at (413) 774-5587.

Children’s menus in restaurants are changing, according to trending data collected by Technomic, a consumer behavior consultancy specializing in hospitality.

Child-friendly classics such as chicken nuggets, hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches no longer appear as often on children’s menus as they did in the past, according to their latest menu research. Instead, such options are being replaced with more “adult” foods like grilled salmon and five-cheese tortellini.

Millennials now entering their child-rearing years seem to be driving this change. Millennials have exposed their offspring to “healthy food” and more sophisticated flavors at home, creating an audience for children’s dining in restaurants that echoes the contemporary experiences of a family meal.

Hugh Robert is a faculty member of Holyoke Community College’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts program and has nearly 45 years of dining and education experience. Robert can be reached online at [email protected].

About Gloria Skelton

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