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Forked: A New Standard for American Dining

3.29  ·  Rating details ·  147 ratings  ·  38 reviews
A restaurant critic can tell you about the chef. A menu can tell you about the farm-sourced ingredients. Now who's going to tell you about the people preparing your meal?

From James Beard Leadership Award winner Saru Jayaraman, Forked is an enlightening examination of what we don't talk about when we talk about restaurants: Is the line cook working through a case of stomach
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published February 1st 2015 by Oxford University Press
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Jan 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I requested this book a while ago, and somehow between being approved for it and actually starting to read it I had convinced myself that this was a book about the history of the fork. As in the dining utensil.

Yeah, let me go ahead and disappoint everyone by telling you that no... Not even close. My bad.

This book was written by Saru Jayaraman who is the Co-Founder/Co-Director for ROC (aka Restaurant Opportunities Centers United) which is an organization promoting fair and equal treatment, living
Aug 06, 2016 rated it liked it
A book club colleague mentioned that the book could have used some more editing. I exclaimed "You too? I'm not the only one? I thought someone would proofread? A friend? A family member? An editor?!" The introduction states that a restaurant that meets three criteria out of four will get one star, and one that meets four criteria out of four will get two stars, however, when I saw the first table (and this is true for all of the tables throughout), restaurants that met two criteria got one star ...more
Vince Darcangelo
Feb 23, 2016 rated it really liked it

Having spent nearly half of my working life in restaurants, I was excited to read Jayaraman’s defense of the American service worker — especially since I was once employed by two of what she considers to be two of the worst employers in the biz: Olive Garden and Red Lobster.

Many of the back-of-the-house anecdotes in Forked are all too familiar to me, but Jayaraman, through her research and foundation, Restaurant Opportunities Center, augments these tales w
Oct 31, 2015 rated it liked it
This book captured my attention and I was able to read it fairly quickly. There are parts of it that made me think, but probably not in the way the author would hope that I would. I have never worked in the restaurant business, and I am probably naive about what happens in restaurant, but I felt like this was more of the authors platform to promote the agenda of her organization than anything else.
Feb 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: foodie
While the book was very effective in highlighting the appalling working conditions and pay practices for workers in the food service industry, I'm not sure there's much value in comparing a fast food chain to artisanal stand-alone (for the most part) restaurants. Congratulations to chains like Chipotle for proving that the cause is not hopeless, though. I wish there could have been a few more of those discussed, but the sad truth is that there probably aren't very many. This book will make you t ...more
Margaret Sankey
Oct 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Jayaraman uses case studies to show that treating restaurant employees decently and paying them more than the long-frozen tipped minimum wage saves money on turnover and training, and that not making subsistence workers dependent on tolerating the horrendous behavior of bad customers is good for everyone.
Aug 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: cooking-food
There are TONS of books about the evils of industrial food production, but Forked looks as another evil in the food industry - how cooks and wait staff are mistreated and underpaid. I think people expect that in the fast food industry, but in many mid-level and higher-end restaurants the wait staff are barely getting by and your food might be prepared by someone with the flu because most restaurant staff don't get paid sick leave and can't afford to not come in to work. I liked how the author br ...more
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, netgalley
Oxford University Press and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of Forked, in exchange for an honest review.

As the founder of Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), dedicated to raising wages and working conditions within the restaurant community, author Saru Jayaraman gives an insider view to the not so pretty parts of the industry. From low pay, to inadequate benefits, to lack of promotion opportunities, and to gender inequality, the author does an excellent job of bringing these imp
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
In the ever-growing interest in ethical consumerism (an oxymoron, I know), here is a book to help the average person "vote with their wallet" by becoming informed on the restaurant industry. The most interesting statistics and insights are given away in the introduction: 43 states have legislated for a $2.13 minimum wage for tipped workers, the National Restaurant Association is a corporate lobbying monster and 70% of all traceable stomach viruses can be directly linked to a sick food handler on ...more
Feb 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Important book but there are some major factual errors/over simplifications that their editor should have caught.
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really like the idea behind this book and read it because I do believe that restaurant workers should not be paid by the customer and was interested in hearing the stories of individuals who appear throughout the book. However, when I got to the section about Mexican restaurants my opinion about the book and the author changed drastically. This is the chapter that the editing lapses really started to show themselves. I am very familiar with the town of Laporte, Indiana. Yes, Laporte with an "e ...more
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book raises important points about how the restaurant industry (through the National Restaurant Association, which the author refers to as the "Other NRA") lobbies Congress to create legislation that enables them to treat restaurant workers terribly. The main issue is wages--did you know that the federal minimum wage for tipped workers has been $2.13 / hours for almost 25 years? Seven states (California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Alaska, Nevada, and Minnesota) have addressed this by impl ...more
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5- whew, this one took some time to read. I had to read it in small chunks because there are so many names and facts. I hadn’t heard of many of the restaurants listed (lots of national chains not present in the upper Midwest and restaurants in big cities). I found much of the information repetitive. If you’re short on time, just read the intro; it has a general summary of the rest of the book.

The book is broken down into chapters divided by restaurant type, each chapter talking about the indu
Jul 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Not the most engrossing book at all times but informative and reminds you to think about the people who work in the restaurants you eat at. I don’t think anyone was under the assumption that you could live on a McDonalds or Starbucks wage but what I did not know was how many who are trying to. Part of me assumed that those who work there are students who don’t need it to pay for food and housing. Wrong. And I didn’t think about some of the small towns that might only have chain/fast food places ...more
Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition
May 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very well researched and a thoughtful presentation of the history of the restaurant service industry and the treatment of employees - I found it interesting because I was a food server and cocktail waitress for a few years during college and afterwards. I found the chapter on Chipotle especially interesting because my son was a kitchen manager and service manager for over 2 years there and he confirmed what was written was accurate.
Mandi Miller
Dec 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Highlights the injustices and inequities that exist for workers in the restaurant industry although some of their high road/low road comparisons didn't seem entirely equal or fair. Also, it was difficult to read with so many typos. I expected better editors from a book published by Oxford University Press. Meh. ...more
Sarah Logan-Reynolds
May 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
If anything in this book surprises you, then you have never worked in the food industry. The moral of the story is to always tip for good service. Also I hated the footnotes at the end of every chapter. Why not put them in one spot at the back of the book? It almost reads as a commercial for the website/app.
Budd Margolis
Aug 31, 2018 rated it liked it
A good initial look at the sordid practices of the American fast food industry. Slavery, corporate greed, unhealthy practices and lack of concern for one's fellow citizens who have to be subsidised with welfare to survive while in Europe, McDonald's may cost more but the workers get real wages, vacations and medical cover for .80 cents a burger more. ...more
Mar 30, 2021 rated it it was ok
This book was not what I expected. More anecdotal than survey and data, it left me wanting more. I was also disappointed that much of it was dedicated to a directory with few, if any, Midwestern locations identified as “high-road” restaurants. Only five years old, I wondered still how current the information was.
Russell Horton
Feb 26, 2021 rated it did not like it
A tome of misinformation. Dehumanizes the very people who built the black middle class and the first black labor leaders. Pretty much racism disguised as anti racism. Pure bigotry polished with virtue signaling.
Aug 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Good book that illuminates the low-paid workers that help run restaurants of all types.
Gretchen Stoeltje
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read!
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
A well written, fairly easy to read book on a topic I wouldn't have guessed interested me, but ended up having a big impact on how I view the restaurant industry. ...more
Sep 28, 2016 rated it liked it
You have probably heard of the "Fight for 15" and the fight to raise the minimum wage. Discussions about tipping (how much, when, the stories of people living off of tips). Why the changing nature of service positions like in food have been under a lot of scrutiny.

Author Jayaraman has a fascinating look at various restaurants/eateries for the various aspects of the food service industry. Everything from wages to sick days to sexual harassment to mobility within the eatery itself. There are case
Rayfes Mondal
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I appreciate this book giving me more information about how restaurant workers are treated. Sexual harassment, lack of upward mobility, needing to work when sick, and pay so low that many workers are one government assistance problems is sad but not surprising.

The personal stories didn't influence me as much since any corporation with a huge number of employees is going to have some bad things happen but there's clearly bad culture at many of these large chains.
Daniel Christensen
An interesting mix of social activism and journalism, presenting the case for reforms within the American service industry. The author uses a nice mix of interviews (qualitative) and data (quantitative) in each chapter to build her case. Each chapter highlights a low-road and a high-road approach. Unfortunately the low-road seems to comprise the vast numerical lead, with the high-road, progressive employers seemingly always quite small.
Points to some appalling abuses and inequalities, and one ca
William Nist
Apr 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Although I agree completely with the recommendations of this book on wages and working conditions in the Restaurant Industry, I am not sure why this is a book instead of an article. The author makes the case for eliminating the Federal $2.13 hourly wage for servers and the case for granting sick days to employees to help reduce cross contamination. Examples and case studies are presented to illustrate restaurants that do not practice these advances or do not. There are several charts that list s ...more
Jan 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Saru Jayaraman is a heroine in the fair food service labor world, and this book is mostly an expanded version of the rating system that she and her nonprofit, Restaurant Opportunities Centers, have developed to discern between "high road" and "low road" restaurants/companies (hint: the division is exactly what you would expect). She profiles a few select operations, including one with the Paul Saginaw, founder of Michigan-based deli Zingerman's. If I've seen you in the last week or so, I've alre ...more
Rajesh Kurup
Nov 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Solid reporting and background on Jayaraman's book. She makes a convincing case that restaurant workers deserve more; pay, stable hours, benefits; than they currently receive. She has set up a non-profit ROC, to address the issues addressed in her book. ROC has also created an app to highlight restaurants that follow the basic principles of a good employer. The book also highlights good and bad restaurants from a cross-section of genres. I do wish that there were more rest ...more
Polly Krize
Oct 11, 2015 rated it liked it
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

While I worked only briefly in the kitchen of a pizza restaurant, I can definitely identify with the many overworked and underpaid employees in the food preparation industry. This author is definitely promoting the ROC (Restaurant Opportunities Centers), an organization which looks to increase wages and sick leave for food service workers, as well as promote fair and equal treatment for them. An eye opener as to the treatment of wai
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Saru Jayaraman is Director of the Food Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, President of One Fair Wage, cofounder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), and author of Behind the Kitchen Door and Forked: A New Standard for American Dining.

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