Jordi Cruz fell short with his free scholarship recipients

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The summer snakes It is those dirty news that the newspapers publish in the hot months, when the political class is on vacation and it seems that nothing ever happens. Thanks to that we can know events as relevant as the harvesting of an 80-kilo watermelon.

Those summer snakes that were the private preserve of traditional media also began to meander through social networks. In them, if it can be in the form of a recycled controversy, the better. Just happened with Jordi Cruz, which has become a ‘Trending topic’ on Twitter again due to the clumsy statements he made in May 2017. At the time, a tremendous mess was already involved after the cook defended that scholars do not get paid (‘stagiers’) because working in the kitchen of a star-studded restaurant is a privilege. Also, that if everyone were on staff and with payroll, those businesses would not be viable.

The anger of the famous Catalan chef was supine. He clarified that it had all been a filthy lie and that he bought the palace for three million to house his scholarship recipients. I do not doubt that those of Cruz live in a big case, but I know that in Spain there are several restaurants with stars that put their ‘stagiers’ in a kind of barracks. I know this because I know very well several who have slept in those bunks. They had a roof, breakfast and dinner insured and none of them charged a penny for their marathon days. That this roof is a mansion instead of a barracks is a detail that may serve to ease the conscience, but not the bank account of the scholarship recipients or their dignity.

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He said that this summer snake is recycled, to this has contributed the article of Pilar Velarde, owner of several restaurants. Velarde, in addition to saying that Jordi Cruz is handsome, goes further in his plea in favor of the exploitation of scholarship holders: considers that they would have to pay to work in those galactic kitchens. The kids would have to reward the chef with euros for letting them peel tons of potatoes and other foods; and for cleaning the kitchen at hell temperature. After the day is over, of course, they should say thank you.

We speak of apprentices, of people in training. Of course, they do not perform the tasks of the chef, but they dedicate themselves during the same hours to those ungrateful and fundamental jobs in a kitchen.

Succeeding should not be an excuse to despise the one who is now at the beginning of his career. On the contrary, knowing how hard everything is should make us more empathetic. A good leader (and a chef is above all that, a leader in his kitchen) must be generous. I’ve written it many times, but I never tire of saying it: generosity is essential to be a good cookor, and it should always start behind the kitchen door. Stinginess, greed and selfishness end up souring everything.

The radical problem is that in Spain, internships in restaurants are not regulated. I counted it four years ago and I take the opportunity to remember it now: in France, when the ‘stagiers’ are more than two months old, it is mandatory to pay them a salary ranging from 500 to 600 euros per month. Those with fewer than 20 employees can only have three. Those who exceed that number of workers on the payroll can only have 15% of the workforce as stagiers; all, in addition to that salary, have a roof and meals included. Another example: in Germany, culinary school students work in restaurants while still studying. They have a minimum salary of 500 euros per month, but there are cases in which they get to receive 1,000.

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Being able to have, as in this country, all the free scholarship holders that you want is, in addition to exploitation and arrogance, a privilege that gives you an advantage when it comes to running your business. If practices were regulated in Spain, it is easy to guess that many of these restaurants would be unable to maintain their stars.

I have great loves in great kitchens. I know that passion closely, that exaggerated delivery, that Sacrifice that is often forgotten when so much hard work becomes glamorous. There are exploited scholarship holders in many sectors, we also know that, but it is summer and the snake is hungry. Although the one this July wants Michelin stars instead of giant watermelons.

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