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Grana Padano
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Italians, carrying cardboard suitcases tied close with string, leaving their families and their country head off crying. They go off to live in lands in which they are barely tolerated and where they accept the most menial of jobs.

Some time ago, that is the way we were. But the world has changed and we have changed, too.

We no longer emigrate out of need or for fame; we emigrate out of choice. Many would disagree, but that is the way it is.

The restaurant industry is the sector we ‘export’ the most. Italian chefs and restaurant managers are in high demand. And other than independent restaurants, almost all luxury hotels have an Italian restaurant. This market sector is thriving, so Italian chefs are in constant movement. However, the cardboard suitcases and sad voyages into the unknown are gone.

We leave with the tools of the trade and the rest of the things we need; often fiancées or, wives and children are taken along and the biggest problem is not leaving one’s country but rather the baggage excess. We make sure that nothing is missing.

In a contract as chef on the Maldives, I recently included the condition of taking my cat along. There was an impasse for a couple of weeks until the authorisation arrived, signed by non other than the President of the Republic of the Maldives. The astonished faces of the islanders when they saw a chef arrive with a cat hid nothing of what they thought of me; I am sure that they still talk about it.

Other than the touch of colour, Italians who still emigrate still are no longer simply manpower; chefs and restaurant managers are requested these days for their professionalism, and for their unique skills and characteristics.

Periodically on our forum, there are hot debates about what is a reasonable salary for an Italian chef abroad. While it is true that we no longer travel with our cardboard suitcase and that we often stay in beautiful places with every comfort, it is also true that we have to work hard and that we are highly qualified specifically for that work.

But what is the right price for emigrating?

Should we really have the pretention of earning more than in Italy for moving abroad?

Well, let’s speak a bit about figures. Generally, a chef of an Italian restaurant of a five-starred hotel earns between $ 3,000 and $ 4,000 a month. Such contracts are pretty standard; they provide for bonuses and are very often tax-free. Often, on our forum appear considerably lower offers, which spark off the indignation of many colleagues.

It has to be said, that many hotel companies are in search of young employees to place in an already established structure more to ‘exhibit’ an Italian chef rather than to really desire to have one; so they offer pay which in Italy is offered to novice and which many consider to be directly offensive.

Also I consider that offers that are too low should not be accepted in order to hinder this tendency to the lowering of earnings. An Italian chef should be assumed exclusively because of his professional skills, and not simply because he is Italian. This said, it is clear that work offers are determined by the market, by demand and offer; we are all free to accept or refuse them. The only thing that we owe to our colleagues is to behave as professionals at all moments; when we choose work, when we are working, and when we terminate a work relationship. This will make our sector and our reputation grow, and indirectly will raise our salaries.


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