Workforce Profiles look at the people behind Workforce WindsorEssex’s 76 In-Demand Jobs. Each week, we talk to a different professional for an inside look into their work.
Joshua Fraser is the owner and head cook at the award-winning Rino’s Kitchen. Located downtown Windsor, the restaurant features a seasonal, locally sourced menu.
Joshua has been cooking for over 15 years, with the last 6 years at Rino’s Kitchen. Like many cooks, he learned on the job and has worked his way to the top of the kitchen. To learn more about the profession, take a look at our Career Profile for Cooks in Windsor-Essex.
We joined Joshua in his kitchen recently to ask him about cooking and work:
What does an average day look like?
I usually leave my house around 9:45 or 10:00 AM. I go do all the grocery shopping, liquor store, running around. I get here pretty much right at 11:00 AM for open and take care of the lunch rush. In the afternoon, I try to take care of any of the behind-the-scenes paperwork. I stick around through dinner and then head home. I have a couple staff members, but I would say I take care of the lion’s share of the kitchen hours.
What got you into cooking?
To be honest, when I was younger, I was a pretty colourful person. The restaurant industry seemed to be the only business that suited my lifestyle. I was a big drinker. I don’t drink at all anymore. I enjoy the work and it was always a fun environment. Even after I stopped drinking, cooking was all I knew, so I put my head down and kept going. I always enjoyed it and still enjoyed it after the job wasn’t strictly for my lifestyle anymore.
What is the best and worst part of your job?
The best part is being able to taste delicious food all the time and doing something I’m passionate about. The worst part is the time away from my family. With the nature of the business, I’m lucky if I get to have dinner with my family two nights out of the week — and that’s only because we’re closed on Sunday and Monday.
Did you know anyone who cooked when you were younger?
Back in my old days, when I was having trouble finding jobs and keeping jobs, my roommate was working at the Beach downtown. My other roommate’s mom owned and ran the kitchen in the Windsor Sportsmen’s Club. Between the two of them giving me a chance, that was my introduction into the world of restaurants.
What’s the difference between a cook and a chef?
I have no schooling behind me, just the school of life. That’s the difference between the two. A chef goes through a culinary program, does a full apprenticeship, and then writes a test at the end. They become a certified tradesman.
Whereas, I don’t have any kind of qualifications. The very first job I had was washing dishes and prepping french fries. From there, I bounced around every couple of years, trying to learn as much as I could so I could make a little more money and have a better position at the next restaurant.
Is it easy or hard to find a cooking job in Windsor?
I would say that’s the number one thing going for restaurants. If you have any amount of skill in a kitchen and you’re willing to go hit the pavement and talk to kitchen managers, you will find a job that day.
What’s the advice you would give to someone starting out?
The biggest thing you want to keep in mind moving into this career is: “Are you passionate about it?” If you don’t have passion for food and for cooking, you’re not going to make it. It’s not very well paying and the hours are long. The hours are when all of your friends are out having a good time. As long as you’re aware of those realities going into it, it can be rewarding and it can be fun.
Do you see yourself long term in this career?
I have never really been one to make long term plans, as far as my career goes. I’m not certain. I was a cook for many years and now I own the business and I’ve been learning about that. In the future, I might take what I’ve learned here and apply it to a different business venture.
Why is Windsor a unique place to work in restaurants?
I’ve heard the former owner of the restaurant say that Windsor per capita has some of the best restaurants around. It’s a little strange that a smaller city would have such high caliber restaurants. It’s a good place to live working on a restaurant salary.
What is changing in the restaurant industry?
It’s cool to be a cook these days. There is not as much stigma around it now. When I first started cooking, you might be embarrassed to tell people that’s what you did for a living. Now people have respect for cooking.