Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has some strong words for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who espouses some pretty xenophobic immigration policy plans: “Every restaurant in America would shut down” without the undocumented immigrant population.
During an appearance on SiriusXM’s StandUp with Pete Dominick on Wednesday prior to the third GOP presidential debate, Bourdain — who worked in the restaurant business for 30 years — described restaurant workers, mainly from Mexican or Central America, as the “backbone of the industry,” according to Eater, which transcribed the discussion:
I rolled out of a prestigious culinary institute and went to work in real restaurants. I walked into restaurants and always, the person who had been there the longest, who took the time to show me how it was done, was always Mexican or Central American. The backbone of the industry — meaning most of the people in my experience cooking, preparing your food. Twenty of those years in this business I was an employer, I was a manager employer. Never, in any of those years, not once, did anyone walk into my restaurant — any American-born kid — walk into my restaurant and say I’d like a job as a night porter or a dishwasher. Even a prep cook — few and far between. Just not willing to start at the bottom like that.
“If Mr. Trump deports 11 million people or whatever he’s talking about right now, every restaurant would shut down,” Bourdain said.
Bourdain added that he’s seen hundreds of Mexicans and Central Americans who arrive in the Hamptons, a posh New York neighborhood, to begin working on lawns and raising kids at 7 a.m. He also said that while there should be border security, there should also be a resolution for the immigrants who are already here.
Bourdain is not the only restaurateur to criticize Trump’s proposal to deporting the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Washington-based chef José Andrés is currently in a court battle with the Republican candidate after pulling out from opening a flagship restaurant in Trump’s latest hotel development at the Old Post Office Pavillion in the nation’s capital. Celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian also pulled out opening a restaurant at the Trump International Hotel in July, stating at the time that Trump’s statements “do not in any way align with my personal core values.”
Bourdain’s comment has been borne out in reality at Trump’s own real estate ventures. Ricardo Aca, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, came out as a busser at the only restaurant inside Trump’s Soho building in New York City. And undocumented construction workers are helping to build up Trump’s International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Beyond Trump, a 2008 Pew Hispanic Center report found that about 20 percent of the nearly 2.6 million chefs, head cooks, and cooks are undocumented. The same survey also found that 28 percent of the estimated 360,000 dishwashers are also undocumented. Those figures might be underreported. As with many restaurant workers, the very low wages means that a lot of these workers are likely living in poverty or near-poverty.