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Maybe you can help to shed some light

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
In some of my troubles with work, and having to relay the situation as it happened to my husband and mother, the same reoccurring question came up. Why is it common place for Chef’s to treat employees they way they do.
Now I know it is never acceptable, obviously….to berate, or cuss at or threaten anyone, especially those we work for and those who work for us. However the question was posed that if this were almost any other work setting it wouldn’t be tolerated, period. So why is it tolerated in the kitchen?
I tired to explain that because as a Chef, it’s your *** on the line to the public (not your line cooks name going through the mud) it’s understandable why they would get so heated if things weren’t produced just so.
My husband stated that if he spoke to me the way I have been spoken to at work our relationship would be over in almost an instant, and I agreed. It made me think about the relationship characteristics of Chef with line cook, and to be quite honest it can be very emotionally or mentally abusive in some situations. So what is it? Why is it this way, why do so many cooks stay when we could find another job somewhere else that maybe wouldn’t be so abusive? Is what there is to learn so much more valuable than our self esteem or dignity?
I also relayed to my family in both instances that the business is changing, slowly. Because of the increase in formally trained cooks/chefs (increase in culinary arts schools and programs) things are becoming more professional and those types of Chef’s (yellers/screamers/tyrant types) will retire/die out and a new breed of (hopefully) more professional Chef’s are ushering in a new era.
-Aside- I am no longer staying in this horrid environment as I have just fulfilled my co-op requirements. I am currently seeking a management job, and will be out ASAP. OH and I graduate on Saturday!! I am sooo stoked!
What’s your thought, we’d like to know.
Frizbee
Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
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Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
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post #2 of 9
Friz, first... congratulations on graduation!!! :bounce:

Second to address:
Well, perhaps, that isn't always an option. I remember reading in a newspaper in New Mexico that food service is the only place where you can be "the star in your own 1-man play every night." To some extent, that is true. Often folks who enter the food service industry have little to no formal education in the field or lack the mental wherewithall to meet the intellectual demands of another industry. As a result, there is always a 'calling.'

Before everybody screams that I am tagging all restaurant folks 'dummies,' I am not. I am merely commenting on the perception of folks in our industry. While this image is one we have long since tried to abandon, we have not been successful. As a result, many cooks, waitstaff, etc stay in the business because they can make decent wages and not have to risk failure in otherwise abuse-free environment. So the trade-off is a little anger for the opportunity to pay the bills. Ever wonder why the substance abuse rate among cooks is so high?

Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

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Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

My Author Page

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post #3 of 9
;) I worked in a place or two with "abusive" Chefs. I did so because they happened to be very good at what they did. I was rarely at the wrong end of their wrath. I whatched my sh&t and did my job well. I learned alot and got out while the getting was good. As I moved up the ranks I took note to not manage my kitchen using those tactics. Every once in a while a cook would come through and see this as a sign of weakness. That cook and I would sit down and talk about my world and if there was room in it for them. ;)
I'm not saying I've never freaked out...
When your lead cook over cooks the Hotel's GM's filet mignon TWICE in the same night you know you are gonna hear it from the top and well, it runs down hill. :)
Running a kitchen is like running a ship. When the captain barks to tie off that line you do it as fast and well as you can. When the chef barks that the salad course is taking too long to get out you get it out faster. You do not question the captain. You do not question the chef.
I agree that there are a large number of chefs that practice poor managing skills. And I also agree that a new chef is coming into play. One that knows how to get the best out of his / her cooks without berating them, without making them cry, without physical violence, without etc...
post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
I always figured that it was a substance-abuse conducive environment and the long hours. Meaning that some/most of us get off work between midnight and 2 am, and you know your gonna be up another 3-4 hours after that because of the adrenaline. I know personally back in the day before marriage and children, smoking pot or having several beers/shots was a way to wind down, and ensure I would at least get to sleep before 6am. And I simply couldn’t find anyone up playing scrabble at 4am? Dastardly deeds occur between midnight and 5 am...so it just fit with the lifestyle...LOL
Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
Reply
Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
Reply
post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
I guess what I am asking is at times is what one learns worth more than dignity?

I tired the military angle as well, but they countered that we don't sign a contract, nor are we committed to the job legally.

Mind you I, in my guts understand why I have stayed in some situations when clearly I had a choice, and I inherently understand, somehow, some way it is different, this kitchen environment. I guess in my situation, what didn't kill me made me stronger and better...but when you take a step back from the culinary field, and analyze it from a psychological perspective, it is highly abusive, and counter productive to good self esteem, and self worth.
Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
Reply
Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
Reply
post #6 of 9

Abusive chefs

I dare so most of us have worked with these kinds of idiots who rant and rave and abuse their staff. All I can say to these people is that it's only food at the end of the day, not life and death! If they think their life is stressed tell them to try working in an accident and emergency department where decisions are really life and death, see if they could cope then. I think not!
post #7 of 9
The really abusive Chef is slowly dissapearing, as better pay, hours, and working conditions slowly bleed in. (very slowly).

Still, abusive behaivior in kitchens generally spawns from the fundamental disrespect most office/management types seem to have towards kitchen staff. A good chunk of this is born out of total ignorance of the incredibly hard labor kitchen work usually is. They don't see what we do as being very difficult at all.

This, in my experience, leads to the totally non sympathetic attitude towards cooks and chefs. They really don't care if you stuff three hours work into one, half your equipment is broken, or how many hours you work (unless it blows the overtime budget). Since what you do is so easy, you often get no paid vacation, sick leave, or health care.

Thus, you have what we have. A lot of pressure/ resentment/ and anger, which we counter with macho/anger/bravado/grim pride.
Different folks react differently to pressure, but I know even I get agressive in the face of it. It's war.

I have yet to run into one of the abusive artist types. I'd put up with it i suppose based on how much I was learning.

What really counts to me though, is when the day is done, and the kitchen is clean, is chef Bastardo a different person? Was it really just the job and not personal? If he's all of a sudden Mr. Normal guy, then I'll cut him a lot of slack.
post #8 of 9
Totally agree with you there, dude. I've been working as chef in a small hotel kitchen for about a year now, and it has been a real eye opener: I had no idea just how much contempt accountants and administrative workers have for chefs/cooks, as well as the waiting staff. They regard themselves as intrinsically superior, and I find this completely unjustified. Most of them are a **** of a lot dumber than any restaurant worker I have met, and they have absolutely no conception of what is involved in our industry. I guess the way I have learned to cope with this attitude is to focus on generating respect from my peers in the industry. It doesn't matter if the ignorant idiots in suits think you are a fool, as long as you have the respect of other chefs.
You say potato, I say Solanum tuberosum.
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You say potato, I say Solanum tuberosum.
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post #9 of 9
Something I have learned, it took a while, was that if you respect yourself and hold yourself accordingly, than other people tend to follow your lead. Yes, I have worked with abusive chefs but it usually didn't take long before they stopped abusing me. I either was extremley professional or started pulling more than just my own weight. I was always respectful and humble to whatever knowledge they could offer me. In the end they became colleges, not friends but mutual peers. To this day Im not really sure how I managed to gain their respect but I did and that seemed to make my life in the kitchen easier. Of course, it doesn't always work that way but that's what I have done with my situation.
It's all about how you view yourself and what's important to you.
Whenever we cook we become practical chemists, drawing on the accumulated knowledge of generations, and transforming what the Earth offers us into more concentrated forms of pleasure and nourishment.
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Whenever we cook we become practical chemists, drawing on the accumulated knowledge of generations, and transforming what the Earth offers us into more concentrated forms of pleasure and nourishment.
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