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My boss is crazy

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I have an unsolvable problem, but I want your advice or whatever anyway.

My boss is crazy. I've been in the industry for 10 years and I've managed a Deli for 5 and had a hand at managing a restaurant and now I've been the Lead Day Cook, or AM Sous Chef, or something of that nature for 1 1/2 years at a small 60 seat cafe. The reason I don't know what I am is that my boss refuses to give any staff members any titles.

When I started I was shocked and appalled at everything. I decided to give it a few months to see if I could organize and clean up the kitchen, with complete misgivings. Everything was a madhouse. Everything was covered in grease. There was a three burner range/oven and a small fryer and a small pizza oven for service. The hood didn't seem to work. Sweat dripped in my eyes and I was dehydrated all the time. There was no air movement. The space in the kitchen was a little bit bigger then my kitchen at home and I live in an apartment!

The staff didn't give a **** about anything. The bottles were always greasy, everything was covered in mouse **** and various crusts of food. The walls were falling apart, and we had no walk-in, only a bunch of PACKED TO THE BRIM reach-ins.

Meat was cut on the small 6 foot line, and sometimes staff forgot to bleach the surface. Pans were set on the line and sometimes I burned my hand badly. I got a plethora of burns and cuts in my first few months there and destroyed a number of clothes. I would come home with a searing unhappiness and blisters.

All the under twenty year old staff stuck around because my boss paid well. Sometimes we would have a person get hired and they would come in, look around in horror, get burned badly, and never show up again. Nobody ever sticks around. I don't know why I have, except the job market is tight.

Then there is the emotional insanity.

My boss and her husband fight almost constantly. They work 13 hour shifts seven days a week and I think they have gone around the bend. My boss screams and cries all the time, about things like forgetting to rotate the basil, or not stirring the mashed potatoes, or not telling her what inventory you ran out of so she can order it. I don't know about you but every time I was in charge of ordering inventory I would go through my list every order and check everything physically. Isn't that your job as manager??

There is a lot of mind games going on, and I'm sick of dealing with this. I only have one life, you know. Anybody have any similar experiences?
post #2 of 16
Your bosses are owners, and as you correctly stated they work 13 hrs, 7 days, 54 weeks. Remember that old Jimi Hendrix song that went like "... there must be some kind of way Out of here, said the joker to the thief..." But there ain't. Business probably isn't making enough to show up on the books as turning a profit, and if the kitchen is a mess, then the restaurant will be a hard thing to sell. And it is a most soul-destroying thing to sell your business to some a-hole who knows he's got you over a barrel and pays you 10 cents on the dollar with a sh** -eating grin on his face as he's doing it. So your owners stick to their guns, pay the staff enough so they'll stay so they themselves won't have to work 20 hr shifts, but don't have enough money to pay for a real manager so they can actually have a day or two off a month. They have no social life--how can they when they work those kind of hours? Nothing to look forward to except for that day when the fog lifts, the place makes money, and they can either sell or hire a manager.

They don't see what you see, the filth, the grease, the hood not working, the mouse crap. What they see is rent to make, salaries to make, suppliers to pay, customers to watch out for, and always that nagging feeling at the back of their head that if something breaks down or someone quits, times will be even more tougher.

What do you do? Do what you can. Get what little staff there is to clean up, ask for $100 to spend on mouse traps, steel wool, sticky pads, and cleaning materials, and get to work. If you've been there this long pride yourself that you will eventually leave the place in a better condition than when you came there--bragging rights for your resume.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 

Thanks for reminding me

Yes. Foodpump, you have good points and obviously a good perspective, and I agree with all of them. But you reminded me of a couple things....

My boss is a millionaire, more then once (or at least that's what she says).

The business turns a tidy proifit of around 100 to 200K per year.

They want to open another place.

So my question is, what is their excuse?
post #4 of 16
My first question to you would be : Is there any presence other than you in the kitchen who has authority like a Head chef or Exec? If not then someone has to step up to plate. I have been in a couple of kitchens where there was very little direction given and the only authority was an owner who didn't know his ***** from a hole about running one. My advice to you would be to address the rants and raves with a plan of some system to avoid repetition of the problems. Ex. provide a sheet on a clipboard with a pen next to the coolers or storeroom so there is a means of loging things you are out of. Devise some sort of a better system in the coolers so that things aren't just thrown in and will be rotated properly. Try to put the same things in the same spots all the time to get a better idea of what IS there. Make suggestions to the managers/owners and they will appreciate your efforts more and maybe lay off on the constant yelling.

As far as the hot pans on the line, i'm not really sure how your getting burned? My philosophy is that there are 2 safe assumptions you can make in a professional kitchen (1) anticipate your day will suck, that way you won't be let down when it does. (2) assume everything is hot! NEVER ever grab a skillet or pan on the line without a double folded towel or your tongs.

With the heat factor, don't even go there. Last place i worked it was 130 degress on the line during summer months. I cook my prime rib to 120 degrees!!! I drank 2 gallons of gatorade per day and still layed in bed at night with muscle cramps. Get used to it. Most kitchens do not have air conditioning and even if they do, you will still sweat you ***** off.

Overall it sounds like a pretty crappy place to work, and trust me I can relate. Need more advice, I'll be around all night.

Peace,

Chef Mike
post #5 of 16
Foodpump, that was a very understanding and sympathetic response. My hat is off to you. It sounds Pizzaordie has described a pair who are under immense stress, the way out fogged by business concerns and utter bone melting tiredness. You can make a difference P. Use every spare minute to attack one part of the kitchen at a time. You tell us it is not very big. Attack every shelf, and its utensils one by one. This activity on your part might stir hope in their hearts, Maybe you will even find a space in the day for the Mrs. to take a walk in the sun, and have her hair done. Or something like that. This will make the Mr. feel better to. Maybe you can save more than a very hard situation, maybe you can save a marriage. Sometime in all our lives we throw pecuniary basics to the wind and just get going for someone else. It is to the advantage of all. Sometimes we are not paid with money, but by the certainty of doing the right thing. Something as simple as a bunch of spring flowers can turn the tide.
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
Diane you are right. Sometimes some flowers really does make a difference. But honestly if I brought some in tomorrow and gave them to my boss, what would happen is this: Already there is a problem from last night, somebody didn't do something right or did something in a stupid way, and she's never, NEVER, seen any staff so pathetic, she would be fired if she was so negligent. So I'll get that tirade, and then she'll find something I did that was wrong and even though I am her most trusted and relied upon employee she will treat me like I am retarded.

And honestly I feel like it isn't my job every day to make someone else feel better about themselves. I am a Buddhist, but the different paths toward empathy and loving kindness sometimes seem like a joke.

Ironchefin: I agree. Attack all the little areas one by one, clean, and purge, adn try to get things in order. I've been doing that little by little I think. But if nobody else is, usually, what do you think happens?
post #7 of 16
Well P, I understand the frustration and it's easy for me to say because I have had three Executive Chef positions. If someone wasn't doing what I asked and repeatedly did not follow procedures, I fired them. That simple.
It can be very easy to fall in the rut of taking the position that if every one else doesn't then why should I? It seems to me you are not that kind of person, so that basically leaves you 2 options. Either present yourself as the right person to take the place in the right direction or start looking for other employment. Ask to sit down with them at a good time and plead your case. It sounds to me like they need someone to step up and take some of the daily pressures off. Ask for one or two months to show them what you can do and what you'll need to do it (cleaning products, more reliable staff, whatever you think). Also ask for a title whether it is Kitchen Manager, Working Chef, Head chef, whatever capacity you want to be in. After your trial period, depending on the results you then need to ask for more compensation or say it's not working out and move on. Don't be afraid to lay your cards on the table. It shows ambition, dedication and assertivness, all things that will dictate where you go in your career.

Peace,

Chef Mike
post #8 of 16
what ironchef said.... If she is a serial screamer, I suppose it makes things very hard. Can you not seize her by the sleeve cuff to get her attention? Make a speech....

"Ma'am you are a good cook, but a lousy manager, you drive everyone from you with you incessant bellowing and snivelling. A lot of your complaints are absolutely invalid, but you thrive on them because you, yourself, are not coping. So get off your bandwagon of self pitying, self indulgent, abusive and destructive behaviour, and join the real world. I want no part of yours, I do not approve of such behavior, it is no more than a whining regressive three year olds".

It would be a really good idea to have your letter of resignation in your pocket to wack on her the minute you finish your sayso. So she can't fire you. Depending on how she reacts. But you might have to be quick. If your choice is fight or flight, what have you to loose?

Last thought, if anyone tells you they are a + millionaire don't believe them. It is rubbish. Boasting about money never happens with people who have it.
post #9 of 16
pizzaordie,
You are privy to what life is like in small family business. First off, theyt are not millionares. 100-200 profit is not something a couple work their buts off for if they have millions. Second, If they did have millions, they wouldn't tell you. This is there way of making you fell longgevity in a job.
Everybody posting to this has insight because they have been there. They know you can get so deep into the forest you can't see the trees. They are depending on you if you are the trusted one. Setting personal goals is the best advice given. Give yourself a week to get a 5'X5' area clean. Leave the boundries for your boss to see. Tell her you would feel much better working in section a than b.
Ween yourself out of the every day politics. You must be the outside eyes.
It's a tribute to you, not them, that you've stayed so long.
I spend 24/7 with my wife running the bakery. It's so easy to absorb someone like you into the family. They won't tell you but They probably absolutely adore you. Sometimes when somebody is deficient is management skills they feel they have to manage by pointing out all the negetives. They feel it's the job to manage you.
Being frustrated and being unhappy are two different things. I hear frustration. You need to let some of those fantastic beliefs assimilate into you daily work. Set your goals, break the kitchen down to 20 parts and make a timeline to accomplish each 5 percent. Post it somewhere, not to be cocky but to let those know what you are doing in down time or time allotted for other things.
If you are unhappy, then certainly make a move.
I hope things work out and you have received some very strong feedback with experience to back it up.
Great thread
pan

Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
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Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
Paninicakes.com

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post #10 of 16
Mmm. Well that puts a different slant on things. Of course, if they're millionaires, why are they working like dogs? Should be using their money for investing, something that doesn't get their hands dirty. Doesn't add up.

Turning a profit of 100 to 200 k/yr. Mmm... that's a 100% increase. That much profit they could afford a manager, even pest control. You sure about those figures? Profit or gross income? Seen the books?

Wanting to open a second location. Oooh boy, they got restaurantitis. If the place is a chaotic as you describe then there's no way it could be a role model for a new place. If the staff is textbook "warm body syndrome" like you describe, then there's no way they could pull key employees out to train at the new place; if they don't have a manager now, then there's no way they could leave the place to oversee the construction and opening of the new place. 'Course, if they were multi-millionaires pulling in 200 k sheer profit they could just throw money at a hole in the ground and watch it become a restaurant overnight. IF they had the money. Think they've been feeding you a line.

Work on the mice first. Thier droppings are posion and get easily caught in the treads of shoes and wheels. Stuff holes and cracks with alumimunm foil and steel wool or even worn out pot scrubbers. Be like trapper John and check your traps every day and give the poor little critters "the royal swirly" in the Men's. Store anything edible that doesn't come in a tin can in those rubbermaid bins or even icecream tubs. And remember, mice don't move more than 50 ft away from their nests, check under the fridges and stove: Nice and warm there, with plenty of grease to lick up. Couple of 99cent traps with a smudge of peanut butter 'll do the trick. Oh, and mice don't believe in incest or "alternative living" either: One pregneant mommy, and you've got trouble in a few weeks.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #11 of 16
This is so funny. Those of us that have been there are busy typing the same thing:talk:

Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
Paninicakes.com

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Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
Paninicakes.com

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post #12 of 16
Ill keep it simple, i was in a similar situation.......RUN AWAY, AS FAST AS YOU CAN!

I worked for a guy who was exactly as you described. I hadd to get the heck outta there because I didn't want MY name involved when the crap hit the fan. NOT worth selling yourself short for someone who obviously does'nt care about there own establishment.

Kudos for the effort though, I know first hand how hard it can be when you are the only one who seems to give a rats pitute.
Like all good meals, this too shall pass
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Like all good meals, this too shall pass
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post #13 of 16
This is worse than Rivitman's situation ever was! :)
post #14 of 16
Hard to add anything to what a Pan and foodpump l said so I'll just say Yep! Couldn't agree more!:D
post #15 of 16
There is only one thing to do to a place like that , set it on fire.


I worked on an island for 4 years, i was first at a private fine dining club, then went to the lil place nextdoor on the beach. The kitchen was so gross, the walk in door handle was encrusted, and the "reach in" side that butted against the end of the cutting board where they cut fish to order was crusted with at lease a year of ramdom fish flecks, i had to scrape the side of the "reach in" with a puddy knife before i scrubed it. Well, then hurricane charlie tore the place apart & We got all new equiptment & the place was cleaned up, well a year & a half latter the place was almost back to to the way i found it, i had given up & didn't get on people to keep things right the last 2 months.
post #16 of 16
Noooo, don't set it on fire, or you'll see even worse kitchens at your local Penitatary. (we call 'em "Corrections centers" here!)
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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