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.
"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".
"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.