On Sundays, after dinner service, chef Michael Zito grabs a few cookbooks off the shelf behind the sushi bar at Uki Uki to peruse on his day off. Zito says he’s been working 90 hours a week since he opened Uki Uki, his first restaurant, in January. And he’s spent more than 50 hours a week in kitchens since he got his first restaurant job when he was 15.
So his day off, which has been Monday for most of the last 18 years, is precious.
On Mondays, Zito sleeps in. He reads cookbooks. He goes out to eat with his wife and Uki Uki co-owner Sofie Dixon. And he watches serial killer shows on Netflix.
Monday is a slow night for restaurants, so many smaller businesses take the day off to give kitchen staff time to rest. It’s many chefs’ only day off, their only opportunity to do things for themselves.
Another Michael, Michael Landsberg, co-owner of Noisette Pastry Kitchen, says Zito’s busy schedule isn’t uncommon for chefs.
“In this industry, there’s no such thing as not-crazy hours,” he says. “A chef’s average week is 60 hours-plus.”
Landsberg has been the executive chef at King Estate Winery, Marché Restaurant and Oregon Electric Station. He’s been working in kitchens for about 30 years and now teaches culinary arts classes at Lane Community College.
Michael Lawrence, co-owner of Black Wolf Supper Club, says he works 75 to 80 hours a week, from about 9 am to 10:30 pm every day.
“That’s not uncommon in this industry, especially when you’re a chef-owner,” Lawrence says.
He spends his one day off, Sunday, reading cookbooks and chilling out. But in his younger, rowdier days, he’d often go out drinking with Zito.
Zito says he and Lawrence used to get food together, go skateboarding and then get “extra wasted” on their day off — typical Monday pastimes for people in the service industry, he says.
Zito notes that he’s hung out with chefs, bartenders and exotic dancers most of his life because they have the same schedules. But he’s gotten especially tight with the people he’s cooked with, like Lawrence, who used to work at the same sushi restaurants as Zito.
Lawrence shares these sentiments.
“We’re all ridiculously close. We’re like cellmates,” he says about his kitchen staff of five at Black Wolf Supper Club.
Noisette Pastry Kitchen’s Landsberg isn’t working as a restaurant chef now, so he has more flexibility in his schedule. On his days off, he forages for mushrooms, does yoga and tries new restaurants.
“Chefs, on their one or two days off, typically go out to eat because they’re usually cooking the other five nights a week,” Landsberg says.
Landsberg says chefs like having Mondays off because they can run errands unhindered by normal people who work normal hours.
While nine-to-fivers cherish their weekends off, the three Michaels treasure Sundays and Mondays.