Photo by Katherine Harris
Remember how happy we were last week when Time magazine voted Pig Ate My Pizza one of the top 10 pizzerias in the nation?
But no one saw this coming. This week our beloved Robbinsdale pizza parlor is suddenly reducing service down to four days a week.
If you’ve been reading restaurant news lately you know that there’s a cook shortage rocking the whole country.
If you’ve been talking to local restaurant owners, like I do all the time, you know that everyone’s been saying for months: There aren’t enough good cooks to staff all these new restaurants, the wheels are going to come off this train.
Well it looks like the first car is heading off the tracks, so to speak, and it’s at Pig Ate My Pizza. “Pig is for sure going down to four days a week, immediately,” co-owner and founder Mike Brown told me. “There’s no way we can keep it open five days a week and keep the standard.” The problem, Brown told me, is: No young cooks want to work long hours. They’ve been trying to hire cooks for Pig Ate My Pizza and its sister restaurant Travail all year, and when they explain to those walking in the door that it’s a salary job of 50-60 hours a week with no health insurance (but with tips) the typical applicant is replying, in Brown’s words: “No, I want to work at Papa John’s part time.” But, he says, the main problem is: “There’s no one applying. It’s on Craigslist all day every day. No one wants to do the work to become a cook.”
Alright. But, as a journalist, I had to ask: Why no health insurance? The answer surprised me: The owners have been trying to offer it, Brown told me, but most of their staff is under 26, and, with the Affordable Care Act, all the young ones are on their parents’ insurance, so they can’t get enough of the staff to agree to purchase insurance to be able to make it work. Why can’t they pay cooks more? I asked. There just isn’t enough money coming in to make it work, Brown explained. So, I continued: What exactly are you offering young cooks beside the chance to work a heck of a lot of hours for typically low cook’s pay in a nationally significant set of restaurants?
Plenty, Brown says. “The whole company is one entity, the people who work at Pig are the same people who work at Travail. If someone wants to mix cocktails, we’ll get them in the bar. If they want to learn bread, we’ll get them on the bread program. We have a butchery program, pastries, pizza making, serving. Our goal here is to get every cook to understand everything. You’ll know what it means to be a server—at a casual place like Pig or at [a fancy tasting menu spot like] Travail. What it means to cook on the hot line.”
What if someone wants to use this opportunity to leave, say, small town rural Minnesota or South Dakota and try their hand in the big city? “Come,” Brown says. “We’ll help you figure out a place to live, while you’re finding a spot we’ll let you crash at one of our places. But honestly people just don’t want to learn how to be cooks anymore. It takes 50 hours a week and years of experience to learn how to cook.”
Welp. Those are the facts, people. Spread this around social media and maybe we’ll flush some young cooks out of Pierre, South Dakota, and Grand Rapids, Minnesota and the like. If you want a job at Travail and Pig, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or check out their Facebook page.
Till then: Pig Ate My Pizza looks to be the first Twin Cities restaurant hamstrung by the cook shortage—but it probably won’t be the last.
Pig Ate My Pizza new hours begin September 2; Wed-Saturday lunch noon-2pm, dinner from 5pm.
4154 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale, 763-535-1131