Saru Jayaraman is the co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) and the director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Behind the Kitchen Door, forthcoming from Cornell University Press.
People are eating out more than ever before—the average American adult eats out at least five times a week, significantly more than our parents or grandparents. This means that the impact of restaurant workers on our everyday lives—their role in nourishing our friends and families—is becoming increasingly important.
Now, while Americans have become more and more concerned with the quality of their food—organic, locally sourced, hormone-free, grass-fed—it appears as if the labor conditions of the workers who grow, transport, cook and serve that very food are not critical to enjoying a healthy and ethical meal.
Over the last year I have been working on a book that challenges this notion—Behind The Kitchen Door. In the book, which will be released Feb. 13, 2013, I follow the lives of ten restaurant workers in cities across the country—from New York City to Houston to Miami to New Orleans—and show that the quality of the food that arrives at our restaurant tables is not just a product of raw ingredients: it’s the product of the hands that chop, grill, sauté and serve it.