August 31st, 2013
02:26 PM ET

The Not So Glamorous Reality of the Restaurant Industry

It used to be that Zagat was for snobs and Julia Child’s The French Chef was your grandma’s cooking show. Over time, beloved reality shows like Bravo's Top Chef and Food Network’s Iron Chef America brought high-end cooks like Tom Colicchio and Mario Batali to living rooms across America and not only turned chefs into celebrities but made haute cuisine accessible to the masses. These days, food is not merely meant for sustenance. It's deconstructed and documented. It's a challenge to sit down for dinner at a restaurant and not see someone whip out a smart phone to chronicle their meal on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. People are even logging on to share their coffee shop visits. Starbucks, for instance, leads a new MomentFeed Restaurant report that found patrons took and tagged 109,054 photos over the course of just four months.

What we're having for dinner suddenly matters, whether we're dining in or out - and it shows. Restaurant industry job growth outpaced the overall economy every year from 2000 to 2012. Sales are projected to hit $661 billion in 2013 - equal to four percent of U.S. GDP. That's up from $379 billion 13 years ago. Restaurants are raking it in, so you would think the people carefully layering your truffle burger behind the scenes would be too. But they make next to nothing and spend almost all of their time at work. Just ask Chris Reynolds. This line cook at a top New York City restaurant has a reality check for those romanticizing the life of a culinary artiste.

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Filed under: Business • Food • Living