There has been a lot of talk about immigrants and immigration in this country lately and no matter how you feel about our current president’s views, I am pretty sure that all of us in the restaurant industry can agree on one thing: without immigrants our restaurants would be in a sorry state. I challenge you to find one restaurant that doesn’t have at least one employee that was born in a country other than the United States. Legal or illegal, every restaurant I have ever worked in has had an employee, usually a dishwasher or busser, who was new to this country and they were just thankful to have a job. After all, it’s not like anyone at the Houlihan’s I worked in was dying to have Keebee’s position. He was from Africa and spoke very broken English, but he busted his ass in that dish room and always had a smile on his face. It says a lot about him that I haven’t worked there in almost twenty years, but I still remember him. He was a hard worker and I hope he’s doing well now.
A restaurant in Brooklyn recently made a stir when the owner had a message printed at the bottom of the receipt. Unlike most places that simply say “have a nice day” or “thank you for coming in,” this restaurant receipt said “Immigrants make America great (they also cooked your food and served you today). The restaurant is called Kiwiana and is owned by Chef Mark Simmons, himself an immigrant from New Zealand. A photo of the receipt was tweeted out by NBC News contributor Mary Emily O’Hara and quickly received over 90,000 retweets and 245,000 likes. That amount of interaction tells me that plenty of people fully agree with the sentiment of the receipt.
I don’t have any desire to get political on this blog. This is a place for us to share our common feelings about this job we have taken upon ourselves. However, I hope that we can all applaud this restaurant owner for reminding so many people that the vast majority of immigrants in this country are here striving for the same things that those of us who were born here strive for: success, happiness and a job that will give us the opportunity to reach our goals. At my restaurant, if we only kept the people who were born in this country, we would lose two thirds of our staff. We would have no one in the kitchen and there would only be two servers and one bartender left. The owner of the restaurant is Chinese and I’m not sure if he was born here, but I’m sure that his parents weren’t.
This country relies on immigrants and our restaurants rely on them even more. I’m all for making America great, but I feel that it’s already pretty great to begin with. And we owe a lot of that greatness to those who came from other countries.
Breakfast in Brooklyn pic.twitter.com/JHEtfJhqPO
— Mary Emily O’Hara (@MaryEmilyOHara) February 5, 2017