Monday, August 31, 2015

Would a $15 Minimum Wage Have Helped Me? Absolutely Not.

By Mirta Gutierrez

Living in poverty in Argentina was not easy. Like many Argentinians trapped at the bottom of the economy, I was determined to make something of myself. I pursued a degree in accounting, but I quickly discovered that even with an education in my country, I was on a path to a dead end.

I knew that I needed to find my path elsewhere. With the help of family, I came to the United States — literally with the clothes on my back and an eye on making something better of my life.

After arriving in Washington, I learned at a job fair that an Angelo & Maxie’s restaurant was opening and hiring 300 people. I met the chef, and in very broken English I asked for an opportunity to prove myself. He agreed, reluctantly, to hire me as a dishwasher at $5.50 an hour. It was 2001. I watched everything, took mental notes and looked for every opportunity to try something new in the back of the house.

One day, I learned how to open clams. Before long I was preparing shrimp scampi and other dishes. On the job, I learned English — and everything about the kitchen and food prep. One day, I asked my boss about the business end of running a restaurant. He was stunned that I had a background in accounting. “Numbers are numbers,” I explained to him.

When Angelo & Maxie’s closed, I went to work at District ChopHouse near Verizon Center. In nine years, the general manager and executive chef taught me everything he knew about the restaurant business. Then, in a bittersweet moment, he told me, “It’s time for you to fly.”

I was hired as the executive sous chef at Rosa Mexicano, where I was able to apply the skills that I had learned over the years. Before long, restaurant executive Spike Mendelsohn asked for my help with kitchen management and bookkeeping for one of his restaurant concepts, Good Stuff Eatery, on Capitol Hill. Soon, I was recruited to be executive chef at Tortilla Coast, where I am today.

I am an immigrant who started at the bottom with nothing. I became an executive chef who understands the kitchen and an accountant who understands the numbers of running a business.

Read the rest here.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting and so true. Even more interesting would be some discussion on why the opportunities in Agentina are so miserable. The source of the problem should be obvious to anyone with an understanding of the impact of government policy, but it never hurts to lay it out in black and white.