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Cooking Eggs in the Morning and Shucking Oysters at Night, Thanks to an App



As he wrapped up a brunch shift at the Australian Cafe Two Hands in the Little Italy section of Manhattan, Christopher Mortenson saw his phone light up. All afternoon, ABC Cocina, an upscale Latin American restaurant in the Flatiron district, needed a line cook. He had an hour to get there.

When the shift ended, Mr. Mortenson started sprinting uptown. On his way to the restaurant, he ducked into a supply store to pick up a white chef's jacket, which he threw over his T-shirt. He arrived at ABC Cocina just before 5 and spent the evening charring peppers with a blowtorch and stuffing pork into pillowy tortillas.

In December, Mr. Mortenson tired of working 50 hours a week for low pay, quit his job as a cook at a vegetarian restaurant in Manhattan and became a full-time member of the gig economy. Now he races around New York, working shifts at a rotating cast of restaurants that use the hospitality staffing app Pared. They are far, cooked in more than 70 kitchens, including Osteria Morini and Soho and Riverpark in Kips Bay.

“I have to turn the notifications off at night – I keep sleeping,” said Mr. Mortenson, 51, who has worked full time at restaurants in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Austin, Tex. “They send me so many jobs I don't even look at my app right now without 10 jobs being on there.”

Founded in San Francisco in 2015, Pared has more than 100,000 people signed up to its platform, along with several thousand restaurants in the Bay Area and New York. The company said it plans to expand to Washington, Boston and Philadelphia in the coming months.

"We try our best not to talk about money in front of other employees that are employed full time at the restaurant," said Zia Sheikh, a New York chef who picks up gigs through Pared. "You don't want to go up for a $ 17 an hour cook line and say, 'Hey, I'm here doing a shift for $ 25. ' That's not good for them."

"As they work on our platform, they gain skills and experience," he said. “They get exposed to better and nicer and nicer restaurants, different environments and different cuisines.”

For chefs hoping to advance their careers, however, short stints through Instawork and Pared may not provide the kind of sustained experience they will need. .

"Not only is turnover high," said Victor Fernandez, an industry analyst at TDn2K, "but employees are quickly deciding that there are better options somewhere else and taking those options. ”

Among them is Mr. Mortenson, who said he couldn't imagine going back to a full-time restaurant job. “Continuing to make more money than I have ever made in this industry,” he said. "This is crazy." .

"It doesn't make me a better cook," he said. “But it seems amazing to go into a new restaurant every day.”


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