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Difficult owners. Or well intentioned GM's.

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
How do you deal with them?
I like mine personally, but as the Chef, I am supposed to be nominally in charge. IMO this means not having my prices questioned, being forbidden to do business with certain purveyors, having my menu choices or portion sizes interfered with, nor having my instructions to subordinates countermanded.

I try to give the best advice I can, sound and proactive, and it's in one ear and out the other. I rely heavily on the advice of chefs with more experience. I try not to make guesses, instead relying on my 2 confidants with 55+ years of combind experience in the business.

I deliver on the food, I havn't had a complaint in months and have not comped a single meal since last summer.
In fact, Iv'e done everthing I have said I was going to do, that I was allowed to do. I feel like my views should be respected and acted upon.

I'm thinking more and more that there is no room in this world for an easygoing and non-assertive chef, and am considering becoming a total b@stard in order to regain control of my kitchen. I am considering an all hands meeting to spell it all out to the staff.
I can do this, and there WILL be some very ruffled feathers. But at this point my relaxed style has failed to establish me as a leader I think.

As far as the owners and GM, I don't do ultimatums. Ultimateums are cheap and sleazy, and smack of ego. If I decide to take this course, I'm just going to do it and take the fallout, even if it means my job.

post #2 of 21
Thread Starter 
23 views 0 replys.
Looks like nobody wants to touch this one.

Heh, I don't blame you one bit.

I'll let you know how things turn out.
post #3 of 21
I'll touch it, because I have been there too. Ultimately it ended up being that the owner ran me off, and didnt even know why. I just had enough of trying to undermine my ideas, so I moved on. Since then I have realized that the only good boss you are ever going to have is yourself! Really I am not saying there isnt good bosses out there, because I try to be one, but never will there be a time when an owner and a chef agree on everything.

I understand what you are saying completely, but what you have to remember is that this is their money, and untill it is YOUR money, then they will have a say in it. Simple as that.

Good luck to you. Be smart learn from their mistakes, then open your own place ;)
post #4 of 21
You should listen to the GM. It's not you vs. GM, it's both of you getting together and running a successful operation. When I say listen, I don't mean obey. He (she?) has concerns as well and voices them in the only way he knows how. Your job is to ease his concerns and that can only be done by working together.

Everyone's different, and believe it or not, you can even get along with micromanagers. When you distill it down, it's likely that the both of you have the same concerns. Nobody is stepping on each others' toes. You just haven't been quite successful in getting through to your GM, and he's still a little apprehensive and being a GM. Trust is one thing, but he has to verify as well. (the one useful thing I learned from Ronald Reagan)

It's gonna be difficult but extremely important to be able to see things from a GM perspective. Try to trade places for a bit. And talk. Always talk. If you don't have the words, tell him you don't have the words and try to work through it together.
post #5 of 21
Thread Starter 
I suppose the real issues boild down to how certain aspects of the business needs to run.
I'm the outsider here, and while that disadvantages me in some ways, I feel like it allows me to see problems they cannot because they have operated the same way for years.

I was supposedly brought in as an agent of change, yet the status quo is still in force and argued for at every turn.

I have a great deal of responsibility and nearly no authority.

I am simply trying to use industry standard methods and am being stymied.

For example, food cost.
I am ultimatly responsible right?

The place has never done inventory.
I offered to install a complete inventory control and tracking system, accurate and nimble.


The owner calculates food cost via a method I am not privy too. I have zero control over what goes out at breakfast and lunch. I Costed out my entire dinner menu and every item meets the target; in fact my highest priced entree is right at the target with my most popular 2 items being 10 to 15 points below respectively.

I have only one major purveyor. I tell them we need at least two or we have no pricing clout.


As food costs drop, labor costs tend to go up, due to additional prep and cooking. When I took over, I immediatly got rid of many pre-made and pre- portion controlled items, prepping everything in house, which dropped the FC about 4% almost immediatly. But this put me in a labor bind, and now I am doing most of my own prep. We could bring in labor and still probably come out ahead, but my request was, you guessed it....


Spoilage logs?

Order sheets?
Pars? Rack locations? Pantry management?

In my State, the health dept is now enforcing HACCP guidlines. We are out of compliance in almost every area to varying degrees. I wish to act proactively to bring us into compliance before we get slapped down. I wish to install the equipment. systems, and proceedures asap.


By now, most of you have seen my other thread on equipment issues. Last year we spent 21K paving the parking lot. Total spent on kitchen other than emergency maintainance?
Less than $300 total.

I don't want to make it sound too much like we are a backwater operation. The folks here are good people if stubborn, and hard working.
But if they want a chef, then they need to start heeding my warnings and requests, or formally absolve me of the responsibility of the outcome.

Honestly, I'm trying my best to help the business be sucessful. And I still have control of the plates. I am very proud of what I have done. But other than that, things are spinning out of control. I cooked valentine's day night. Solo. That hurt.

Maybe I need to take Henry Rollin's advice:

"You say your job is a pain
It's pullin' you down the drain
I think you'd rather complain
Than quit it" :D
post #6 of 21
Ooh shoot I forgot that was you about the equipment.

Forget about it. If a place has shown no real history of change then it probably never will. It's like people you know, when they have 20 years in as a line cook and still fish spaghetti out of a tub of cold water you know they'll never change.

See it from his point of view though...

Forget about inventory. You don't take inventory to the bank. He's not doing food cost. He's estimating.

One purveyor for a small place may be OK if you have it contracted. Sometimes the cost of getting $350 worth of canned goods costs more than it's worth to the supplier.

The costs you don't see with labor are the various taxes and compliance requirements. Once you're big enough, you need to comply with certain laws.

Spoilage logs? Forget it. It could be he expects little to no spoilage and that you take care of the problem right there.

Order sheets? Forget it also. No inventory means no order sheets means no paperwork.

HAACP? We'll deal with it when they come knocking.

Been there before brother. :)
post #7 of 21
Thread Starter 
Man, you have them down to a tee.
I guess I'll just do my thing, smile, and nod a lot.
post #8 of 21
What is it that you ultimately want out of your professional situation? I am very fortunate in that at various establishments I have been employee, chef, gm, owner. So I have been able to see the business from all points of view. Earlier in my career I used to get all worked up because I knew how to do things better than the people doing them. Now I just ask myself, do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy. I pick my battles these days. I don't need to fight them all.
"am considering becoming a total b@stard in order to regain control of my kitchen"
You can possibly regain control of your kitchen, but the total b@stard part will permeate your personal life as well. Is this a price you are willing to pay? What is the ultimate goal? What is really important to you?
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
post #9 of 21
No way dude. My advice, for what it's worth, is to leave. It sounds as if this place and the powers that be are happy with running it the way they are. If your ok with smiling and nodding alot, well stick it out as long as you can. But ultimately, when things go bad they'll need a scapegoat. And brother, you'll be it. With no authority or respect what kind of a chef are you there. I'm sure this isn't who you are or who you want to be. Never compromise your principles for anyone. No job is worth sacrificing your self respect and dignety.
post #10 of 21
First, as an owner, if you want to make all those decisions, I suggest you put together a few hundred thousand $ and open your own place!

Second, as a Chef, you have to fight the battles you can win to get your food out, to get your team in sync, get the equipment you need, etc.

Third, personally, if an owner or GM doesn;t compromise on any issue or area, as in your case, it's time to leave.

" I hate people who do not take their meals seriously" Oscar Wilde
" I hate people who do not take their meals seriously" Oscar Wilde
post #11 of 21
Thread Starter 
I'll probably wait and stick it out awhile, and try to gently illustrate my points with hard data.
Whats most important to me?
The food.
The sucess or failure of the establishment is relevant to me to the degree to which the food is well recieved, and my staff stays employed. The offshoot of which is that the business must survive.
post #12 of 21
My biggest thing lately is this; At the end of the day did I try my hardest to accomplish the most I could and make things better than they were the day before? If I can say the answer is yes, I stick around. When the answer is no to many days in a row, I bail. If you think you can be happy with some effort, stick it out, if not.....
post #13 of 21
Thread Starter 
I put in 13 hours on the line and in prep yesterday.
I feel like Iv'e been run over by a truck.
Did I try my hardest? Yessir.

And it does feel pretty good.

I'm just trying to eliminate the unnecessary painful bits.
post #14 of 21
I may just be sick in the head, but aren't 13 hour days fun? You can actually get things done! I worked a long day too, and I'm the owner :D 8 in the morning to 11 or 12 at night just about every day, and I love it.

It seems like there are ALWAYS going to be pains, happiness is all that really matters. For me happiness is learning, when I am learning working somewhere then I am happy, but when I am done learning, I move on. That's really all you can ask for.
post #15 of 21
Thread Starter 
I have mixed feelings about my long days.
I am on salary for one,(VERY small for chef work, but it's one reason I have the job, I work cheap). I get no overtime and a little balance might help keep me both healthy and married.

My problem is that the avalanche of tasks is never ending, so much so that working a ten hour stint is often done without a break. Constant movement from the time I hit the door. Trips to the restroom get put off unless matters are critical.

But I have worked many professions in my time, I came to this one very late in life. Many of those jobs were heavy manual labor type jobs.

I can say without qualification, That except for being an army infantryman for a few years, this is the most physically demanding work I have ever done, and certainly the the most intellectually challenging. I love it on many levels, but I can see burnout down the road, So staying where I am at for more than a couple more years is probably not in the cards.

I'll never work a job where I don't get to spend some time on the line, but I suppose I'll need one that spends more time on the dreaded managerial/admin side.

I did get the owner to loosen up a couple hundred bucks for some ergonomic improvments to the kitchen. I know that sounds like small potatoes to many of you, but that small sum is princely to me, and a lot will get done with it.

And lest I sound cranky, I still do adore my restaurant. Where else could I go, and pick my own herbs and tomatoes in the summer? Catch my own trout for dinner service? Go out the backdoor leaving for home at night, and be greeted by an 8 point buck deer or a rouges gallery of raccoons begging for a heel of bread?

Good days and bad. :rolleyes:
post #16 of 21
I read your posts and both smiled and frowned. Being a bastard brings you no more authority it just makes you a bastard. Bring on the heart attack, raise that blood pressure etc. While many of your thoughts and ideas have merit ultimetly, it's your bosses place, money etc. In taking a snap shot inventory/foodcost they find they are in a range they are comfortable with. If a large problem arose maybe then they would do a full inventory. Who knows. I'll do over 1mil. this year in F&B and use 1 major purveyor. I don't have time to check prices every week. That is not to say that I don't. I have a good understanding w/ my supplier,They will make alot more money off me over 20 yrs than they will by trying to nickle and dime me. It truely seems to me that the biggest problem is communication. Maybe you haven't been there long enough for them to be truely comfortable w/ you yet. I don't know. Maybe they have a deal w/ the supplier maybe the min. order from the other company is to high. Maybe they get better terms from their supplier who knows.
Life is too short to be unhappy, unfulfilled. A job is just that a job. Change is hard for alot of people and sometimes the ideas need to stew for a while to make sence. I always respond better when an idea can be presented in a way that proves what's in it for me. Not just added paper work. what are the benefits and how is it going to make me money.
Good luck to you. Mike

P.S. I liked the call out of your fellow posters... made me smile :D
Enjoy Life ~ Eat out more often
Enjoy Life ~ Eat out more often
post #17 of 21
Thread Starter 
Precisely why I never became a yeller of plate thrower. I don't want to keel over at 55.

But I'm struggling to be effective with my status quo staff.

I suppose the angst is due to being hired with a set of objectives or goals, and then finding out that those objectives or goals given me were not really what was desired. Iv'e spent a lot of time and effort being stymied and suprised.

For now, I'm going back to concentrating on the food. I'm confident that I could put systems in place to make things run better and cheaper, but if they don't want that, so be it.

I'm not fighting anymore.

"Do the best you can
with what you have
where you are"

Theodore Roosevelt.
post #18 of 21
Any improvement? I am interested in your tale. It sounds wrenching, what kind of restuarant is it?
Chef John
We must be strong in the broken places--Ernest Hemingway
We must be strong in the broken places--Ernest Hemingway
post #19 of 21
Thread Starter 
Improvement. Hmm. Well, not at the moment. Worse in fact, as my second has left for greener pastures, and was the one person I could trust implicitly to watch my back.

I need to hire 2 new cooks for the season. This is not going to be easy as they will have a long commute, a low wage, a heavy workload, and wind up unemployed again in october.

Hiring another local is out of the question. Everybody here is way too far into everybody else's business. Gossip is THE hobby in this town, and I don't have time for it, nor hurt feelings.

Our restaurant is a tourist oriented business.
It is part of a 12 room hotel in a 100 year old structure on the main road to a very large tourist destination. The emphasis is on outdoor activities for those inclined, and peace and quiet for those not. The rooms have no radios, no TV's, no internet, no phones, and Cell phone coverage is blocked by mountains. It's quite charming really.

We can seat 70 and can turn 120 covers a night in the summer. Most coming in a 3 hour period.

What kind of restaurant are we? Therein lies a problem.

My owner has a distict fine dining orientation, with an inclination to set prices accordingly. This strategy, IMO, blew up in our faces last year. Houseguests would eat cheaper elsewhere. Walk-ins would look at our prices and leave.

Those that did dine with us were quite satisfied though.

I have to be all things at all times to all people. Oh yes, rack of lamb and a cheeseburger on the same menu.

Beef Bourguignon and and lasagna on the same menu.

I struggle constantly with an owner who wants fine dining at low costs, while most of our walk in business is casual dining. Our houseguests run the gamut of tastes as well.

An entree that I can barely keep enough of on hand one weekend, will net zero sales the next.
The game of how much to prep, how much to buy, how much to keep on hand is a never ending guessing game.

I battle spoilage furiously.

My staff is locals ( im the only employee who is not a townie), and while experienced, they definately lack polish. I like them very much, but, frankly they are as puzzeld by me as I am of them. My authority over them is stymied by the status quo.

My kitchen is tiny and basically decrepit (see my "equipment problems" thread).

Shortly, I will submit my equipment requirments and summer menu.
It will be the very best I can do for them, and as such, not really open for negotiation.
There will be a fight.

There will be because my owner is detached. He wants revenue, but also wants to market high priced cuisine that scares off customers. And he believes it can all be done wit a six burner and a flat top, in volume.

Actual conversation:

Chef Rivit:
"XXX, our kitchen is extraordinary poorly equipped for baking. We have no deck ovens, and no mixer, Our one non-convection oven is miscalibrated 50 degrees off the thermostat, and loses 50 degrees in temp when you put a single item in it, and takes a half hour to recover. We can buy in cheaper and better desserts than we can make in this kitchen".

Owner XXX:

"I'm not buying that. Make desserts."

That being said, I would be dishonest if I portrayed myself as the all knowing pro, so here is my background:

I spent most of my life in manual labor, the machine trades and am a licenced aircraft mechanic. After 13 years and 2 layoffs at the Boeing company, I decided to pursue what I always felt I should, cooking. I have some college though I never took a degree home.

Worker retraining funds being available, I enrolled in culinary school at age 43. I finished the 22 month course in 14 months and was graduated based on merit. I worked my arse off to achive that.

I worked some hours at a local event facility doing banquet work and had 3 job offers when I took the one as second cook at my current employer. With a summer season of heavy traffic and a 120 degree kitchen awaiting, the chef of five years balked, and cut his own hours. Then quit.

My first saturday night on the line alone (with my cranky townie side cook at the time plating starch and veg) I did 92 covers off of 22 tables in 3 hours. In mid july. After service I had to sit outside for half an hour, pouring water over my head. I could barely speak and was incoherant.

I was basically the last man standing, but had I not proven I could do the job, I wouldn't have it. ( I work cheap as well).

If I don't show the restaurant is screwed. I can't be late, and I can't call in sick. Ever. I get paid what a good lead cook does in the area, no bennes whatsoever. I'm on salary so I get no OT.

I am anything but overconfident (but have to exhibit some in public), and under normal circumstances would not feel in over my head at all. But this place run dramatically differently from any place I have seen or heard about.

I am both very lucky and hard up against it at the same time. I feel like I have risen to the challenge, raised the level of the food, and deliverd on customer satisfaction, while recieving little in the way of guidance, equipment, or labor hours in support.

I only consider my name in the same breath as the word 'chef' as that plate that goes out is mine. My recipe. My presentation.

So when I come here asking questions and soliciting views, it really is an honest plea for knowledge on the way things should be.

That being said, I do have some good advisors, both CIA trained with over 55 years of experience in hotels, restaurants, corporate dining rooms etc. I lean on the for advice extensively. So when I show them my menu and tell them my FC is 35% and they say that's not bad, and the owner says it IS bad, I am in quite the quandry.

I went into this business eyes wide open. But this place is weird, and different, and non-standard. I am just trying to apply standard kitchen practices and methods.

The problem is attitudes, entrenched thinking and fear of change.

So far, I've met every commitment, and done everything I have said I was going to do, exceeding that most of the time. I don't think I have anything to prove. I say I'm going to get it done? It gets done.

Yet this constant questioning of my ideas and decisions is an annoying distraction that also undermines my authority.
post #20 of 21
dude, only you know what you gotta do. we've all been down that path-it's all a matter of compromise(which i, unfortunately, am very bad at). On the flip side, i've mellowed a bit...;) and a job is a job-if you can justify it to yourself. Burnout is brutal, and very real.
post #21 of 21
Thread Starter 
Yeah, I know. And compromise in this situation isn't really an answer. Compromise is going to mean much pain and probable physical damage. There isn't really any more room for compromise on my part. I've used up the quota for my side of the arguement, the other sides purse is still full of chips.

I have a plan, a workable plan. A do-able plan, and yes, it's a relatively cheap plan devoid mostly of luxury (for the kitchen). It's 100% realistic.

They can go with it or not.
Not just the owners and the GM, but the entire staff.
I'm a good cook, and under most circumstances, would be a good chef. If not here, somewhere else.
I'm highly competitive, and HATE to lose, so letting go is tough. But if I crash and burn I won't be cooking for anyone.
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