I, like just about every other college student, have spent my fair share of time in the food industry. It's no secret that restaurant work is a staple of income for many of us broke young things just trying to pay off student loans, save up for grad school, or justify our Amazon binges. 

Working my way up from chain restaurants, slinging greasy patties at a mom & pop diner, until finally reaching what most people call "fine dining" (otherwise known as those places you can only afford to go when your parents visit), I was exposed to the whole spectrum of culinary environments. 

After many years, kitchens, stains, and late night dinner rushes, I began to notice the similarities and differences between the five star (and three figure) restaurants and the average greasy spoon. Hopefully, this article will help demystify the white napkin dining experience for any 20-something year old who has ever felt intimidated by low lighting, fancy plating, and a wine list the length of my last final. So, here are five possibly surprising, hopefully interesting, but definitely true facts of the kitchen.

1. Bread Is Everything

wheat, bread
Evan Vehslage

If you've been to any sit-down (read: semi-nice) restaurant ever in your life, you were probably given a little basket of bread for the table. I can't tell you how many loaves of bread I have seen baked, sliced, and eaten in my time as a server. It's enough to make anyone realize why the average American diet contains about 40% more grains than the USDA recommends. I have never held a food service job outside of a chain that did not require me, at some point in my shift, to slice bread for the goddam table.

2. Stains Are Universal

Evan Vehslage

Anyone who has worked in a restaurant can appreciate the struggle of losing several shirts and pairs of pants to food splatter. To anyone working in a lower-class joint that has an image in their head of more expensive places employing servers in spotless aprons and pressed uniforms: sorry, but no. Just no. The stains never go away — they just smell more like escargot butter instead of reeking like hamburger grease. By the way, this goes for the familiar aching feet and ruined clothing as well: at nicer places, your feet just ache in nicer shoes, and the clothing you ruin gets more expensive to replace.

3. Throw Your Job Description Out the Window

This one isn't as universal, since restaurants differ in the way they run their floor staff, but in my experience nicer places mean way more jumping around. A 24 hour grill might have a waiter, a busboy, a fry cook, and dish washer, but a sit-down will probably have someone like me, who got hired as a bar-back or a food runner, but whose actual job is just...whatever needs to be done.

In an average night I might run food, take and deliver orders, bus and wash the dishes, help with plating, do tomorrow's food prep, tend the bar, or even help the hostess if things get really crazy. The point is, when you start a job at a fancy restaurant, don't expect to just do whatever you got hired to do. The bulk of your time will be spent sliding down a learning curve steeper than the curve on my economics exam.

4. Drugs

coffee, tea
Anna Arteaga

Yep, you heard me, the nicer the place, the more likely you are to find someone using. This has exceptions, too, and I don't want to paint all fine restaurants as secret drug dens. In general, though, higher class restaurants do have a higher amount of drug use. The major drugs I've run into tend to be "uppers," (think cocaine, adderall, etc.), but weed is also very common, and all of this is on top of the caffeine addiction that the industry breeds.

Really, it's not surprising that the chefs who have to churn out a few hundred plates of perfectly cooked and seasoned steak in a night may need that "extra bump" more than the fry cook flipping patties at your local dive. It shocked me too at first, but apart from making for a few really interesting conversations with tripped out chefs, you'd be surprised at how little you notice it.

5. Welcome to the Family

wine, beer
Mira Nguyen

At the end of the day, whether you're working in a small town eatery or a Michelin-starred restaurant, you'll find a second family in the kitchen. Bartenders, waitstaff, and cooks all share the special bond that comes from working close together in a billion degrees, exposed to more smells than the cologne section of an Abercrombie store. It's a loud, crazy, fast-paced world that exists in every single restaurant, and I love every minute of it. 

So, the next time you eat out, before the linen and spotless plates psych you out, or you launch into a tirade because your meal is late to the table, please remember this article. Remember that your meal is coming from a tiny, airless room, prepared by a possibly high chef, carried by someone like yours truly who has aching feet, who was probably never trained to wait tables, and who is just trying to make it to closing. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience...free bread included.