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Long vent...Bad kitchens...bad bad kitchens

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

This CAN'T be the norm.
I can understand reducing waste and all but...Whatever happened to doing things right?
I'm not currently in a "big" city. We're in a 30k population ”town” about 60 mi W of LV.
In the past 3 gigs I've had here in the past year I have run into:
The first cafe had about 10 tables and one cafe manager that was also running half of the town as well. (A small privately owned tourist town on the way to Death Valley) Somehow everyone in the kitchen seemed to think the 3 second rule is perfectly fine. On numerous occassions I would observe both the cook that was showing me the specs on the various menu options and servers serve items that they dropped on the floor? I brought up the problem with the manager. You would think they would want to know? Nope, I got 'fired' when I had the stomach flu for a couple of days a few days later. It's too bad too. I understand I was the first person in months that passed the drug test. (yes, I checked but wrongful termination is a pain in the *** to push)
Next. My disfunctional kitchen. There was a HUGE MIL/SIL conflict going on. They both had no restaurant experience. She 'ran' the breakfast and he ran the lunch/dinner. He was the primary renter of the restaurant and didn't want the breakfast fare in the first place and making her life miserable on a family standpoint and mine from leaving the kitchen appliances as dirty as possible. In the meantime I was trying to solve numerous idiotic problems every stinking day...making breakfast fare on inadequate dirty equipment, (It literally was like they were grilling engine blocks on it). I had a small very used electric griddle for about 2 pancakes at a time. Couldn't use the large flat grill because the SIL refused to let me clean it. “It was seasoned”...Uh, no...IT'S DIRTY. It had about a 1/4” layer of crusted mung that was flaking off in many places...so I couldn't make hash browns or pancakes on that either. The prep table didn't hold below 50 degrees, making eggs was a nightmare...scratched pans over the burger grill...complaints that since we started doing breakfast the propane bill doubled and this was my fault? I'm sure you can do the math. 4 hours in the morning using half the equipment compared to 9 hours and it doubled?
One bleeding ulcer and half my hair left from pulling it out she let me go the day before Thanksgiving because she couldn't stand the family conflict any more.
Get this: He didn't want to own a restaurant in the first place (no duh!) and has since gone on to RE.
Now...my third little venture...I started about a week ago. An 8 table establishment with plans to expand in the immediate future and has only been open about a month and a half. THIS time it's a <Jewish> son/mom thing going on. I'm not being stereotypical, my BIL is Jewish and I had a Jewish BF for many years. But they have certain ways of doing things?
“Mom” is a sullen, bitter, bitchy 74yo. Never smiles, hangs in the dining area and <so I've heard> is scaring the customers. Son is actually fairly nice, enthusiastic, knowledgeable but frazzled. He's invested everything into this place. They'd been doing catering for about 15 years (so they say...but it doesn't mean they're good at it). Apparently it's just an understanding with all of the other people that work there, well, my server and the other cook, that she will periodically start screaming at you for pretty much nothing.
I've been yelled at twice so far. Once the first day because I was subbing as a server and she decided I wasn't staring at the door hard enough or something. There wasn't anyone there anyway. That one I smiled politely and sloughed off.
Today I brought my 16 yo daughter as per the Son's request to help do some yard cleaning and whatnot. He wasn't there but we were there about 2 minutes when MOM called me into the little tiny office right next to the front door WITH CUSTOMERS in the dining area and proceeds to loudly start bitching me out for bringing her. I explained the son said to bring her, MOM said, well I just spoke to him and he said not to...(this is after we were there) I emphasized that he said that she was supposed to do some property work, like sprinkling the new gravel in the drive and explained that it would have been nice to know yesterday (but he wasn't there) but she wouldn't stop bitching.
Losing my patience fairly quickly I told her to lose the attitude and that she needed to speak to people with more respect and that I would not tolerate her speaking to me that way.
I fully expected to not have a job by that evening and to be honest if she had even cleared her throat my direction I would have walked out. Of course the other employees there just tell me to speak with the Son when ever I have a question or need something. Can't do that if he's not there.
...and from another 'eyeeeeewwwww' issue:
In addition...the first day as a cook the entire reach in was a huge mess. Raw unwrapped meat on the racks, blood and chicken juice puddles everywhere, unmarked and undated everything, wafty ingredients...plus literally every day I've been there NOTHING is in the same place that it was the day before so there's a lot of wasted time trying to find the unmarked container of coleslaw in the bottom in the back...yeah, it's special.
Anyway, on that particular first day son and MOM get into a huge row about it. Waste, dirty, why aren't they cleaning or...and somehow since I was there SHE was trying to blame me? <as in: well I told HER> I'm thinking uh, no friggin way. I just got here.
So the kicker is...they do the same thing as my first gig. The owners will pick up dropped items, no matter how little the amount is and put them back, will buy WAY expired anything, produce, (just peel the gooey stuff off), pies, cakes, meats. (an ironic note: buying 10 pies for half off <filling up the cooler> and only using 1 then asking if they can re-freeze them <oh, yummy>, or buying a bargain even though it doesn't match anything on the menu?) They used the gray old beef that they found in the bottom of the reach-in for chili, they thaw and re-freeze fish and chicken strips. (thawing defined dropped in one of the dish sinks) Mom made a fish stew that contained every piece of unused fish (yeah some were past due too) and I had to fish out (no pun intended) at least 2 racks of crab claws that were literally nasty gray and a package of claws that she wanted me to put into it smelled like they were rotting pickles. No, they went discretely into the trash.
Mom's friends get almost double portions that regular customers get while there are other customers there. <poor things>
Plus she lurks. The kitchen is tiny and between the grumpy server/disher who keeps trying to intervene in cooking and MOM who is a major road block aimlessly meandering around the middle of the kitchen and blocking traffic from the reach in (seems it's her favorite place to plant herself and the words “Excuse me” tend to not register) it's interfering with my ability to cook. (the server already messed up 2 dishes of mine...turned up the burner under a pan of scampi and torched some chops)
Besides the fact that they have way too much inventory in the first place that doesn't begin to reflect their fairly simple menu or the traffic they have at present. Every jar of spices, (most outdated as well), have a duplicate or triplicate, all with that kind of oily dusty grime on the tops of them like they hadn't been touched forever. I've been trying to determine which ones are stale or not.
Oh, did I mention the two HUGE dogs that they keep in the food storage shed (freezer and dry goods)? <and no they're not housetrained>
I'm sensing food poisoning or worse in the future. ****, I can't even get to the handsink.
Can I pick 'em or not or am I just 'lucky'? <LOL>.
Sorry this is long...just needed to get it off of my chest.
I give this situation about 2 weeks tops. Ah, on to the employment classifieds yet again.

post #2 of 10
Okay April, breath in..............breath out..............breath in ........... breathout....

Have you tried telling them "that you really need this job and you are worried that a surprise visit from the health dept. will have the place shut down for weeks". And offer to help them with a plan, for labeling, cleaning, etc? (Also a good plan limits non- prep/cooking people in kitchen) Sometimes folks are just resistant because they don't understand how or can't figuare out how to do something themselves. I'm not saying it's right, I've just seen a lot of it.
post #3 of 10
Gee April
What a sucky situation! I tend to think that this is not an ethnic thing, but more a problem with you linking up with folks who just have bad personalities and little training in the food service world. Or maybe they thought owning a restaurant might be fun and profitable and didn't do the background research needed to be successful at it. Now they find themselves saddled with an investment that they don't know how to control leading to the aforementioned bad personalities/ attitudes.
I'd cut your losses and start looking again. Don't rely too much on ads in the paper. The best jobs I've had are the ones I got by just going there and convincing the manager that I'm good, reliable and will get the job done. It's kind of amazing what you can talk people into.
In the interim, the most proactive thing you can do is try to sit down with both the MIL and SIL and spell out to them how you can help them reach some long and short term goals. Stress how clear standards and communication take the guess work and stress out of everyone's lives. You might also mention to them that consistency is key to successful food service (sadly, even if consistently bad food is served ie McDonalds) If they can't see the benefits in what you have to offer, screw 'em. Go out and find the better fit for you.


Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!



Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

post #4 of 10
Are you kidding? Run like ****. I understand needing a paycheck but crap, get out of there ASAP. Then call them into the health department once you are no longer employed--not to be mean or get revenge, but if it's even 1/2 as bad as you are describing then something needs to be done.
post #5 of 10
Remind me never to eat between Death Valley and 'Vegas.

Dang that sounds bad.

I agree with the above advise. Get out before YOU get sick, too. When that place goes down, and it will, you don't want to be associated with it.
post #6 of 10
I know this was a vent for you April and its great that you have somewhere to do that, but I have to ask you a question. This situation has been a common trend in your life, now why is that? You obviously need to get out of there and fast. This situation is not going to work unless you are given full control and as an obsessive controlling chef, I speak from experience. So you get out. The world is a big place and people are always looking for experienced Chefs. Now how do you avoid this situation. Make sure that it is what you are looking for. Write down what your idea of a perfect kitchen is. When you go in for a job, look around, if you can make that environment a perfect kitchen, then go for it but if there are unbreachable boundrys, run. Well, maybe not run, they might think you're a little crazy. The other tactic I use is I find someone in the kitchen that wants to learn. I take them under my wing and start giving them responsibilities. Like making sure everything is wrapped up at the end of night. The fridge is organized. FIFO. If the person does not exist, you find them and hire them. By demonstrating to the other crew that this kitchen can move beyond amature, then you can start creating.
I know how you feel, truely I do. If there is one thing that I have learned is that sometimes, you just have to walk away or at least making some vow to yourself that you are leaving very soon and make the appropriate action towards that. Do not stay!!!
You can always go in business for yourself. It's not as hard as you think.
post #7 of 10
There are 3 things you need to do,

Slap the mother, (and probably the son, oh - and also that annoying SOB server),

Call the health inspectors - make sure the dogs are there too!,

Get the **** outa there!!

Good luck Girl!:D
Leading the global ban on cup and spoon measurements in recipes!
Leading the global ban on cup and spoon measurements in recipes!
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

Update - bad bad kitchen...

OK, this is downright funny...

I got fired...not for anything having to do with my job hire. I was fired because the 'son' of my latest gig asked me to bring my 15 yo daughter in to do some yardwork and general cleaning.

He wasn't there when we came in and the MOM began bitching relentlessly at me about bringing my daughter in. Like I brought my 15 yo in just to hang out. Heck, I COULDA left her at home...no biggie. After her yelling at me in front of house (with customers) and then in the kitchen I got fed up and told her flat out she needed to learn to speak to people with respect and I wouldn't tolerate her talking to me like that. A mere "we won't be needing her" would have been sufficient. The next AM she left a message that I would no longer be needed.

This woman has a serious screw loose. The other employees tolerate it because "it's good money". Sorry, but if I wanted to kiss a** for a living I'd work at one of the legal brothels here. Probably pays better.

In answer to some of your comments though, you have casinos, you have the types of situations I've described and you have the fast food restaurants. That's pretty much it. I'm working to get the place together that we're living in to sell so that we can get to someplace more firmly based in reality.

And yeah...I would seriously suggest skipping any of the venues in Pahrump. You've got nowhere, the middle of nowhere and Pahrump is after that. I guess the saving grace is there's now a hospital here. <what happened to the puking icon?> How often would the Health Inspector head out this way? A couple of the major casinos (small but big fish in small ponds) have recently changed hands. They're trying to re-vamp what has been offered here for decades and at least two have improved dramatically. BUT they still don't pay much above min wage. Go figure.

It's unfortunate but "here" is an odd blend of snowbirds, retirees, LV commuters because property is less than half of what you'd pay in LV and trailer dwellers that have owned land here for ages when it was really cheap.

Points of irony:
The other cook for the psycho gig is supposedly good friends with the Nye Co. Health Inspector. He left an EC position "because he couldn't stand the politics". Um, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't major brown-nosing kinda considered...uh...oh, well...

I also found out that the disfunctional kitchen has now hired on a new breakfast cook "that can flip eggs all day using the existing equpment". Why am I feeling like a crash test dummy? Of course she's brilliant after coming in after all of the problems I had to deal with and complained about have now been corrected plus she's not being badmouthed by the family feud thing going on.

Right now I don't feel like this bs is worth it but I know I'll change my mind in about an hour.


(I am totally shaking my head in disbelief)
post #9 of 10

Get out Now

I am at a loss for words, however when you leave, not if you leave make a copy of this article and give it to the son it might wake him up.


Good luck
post #10 of 10
April- I know unemployment sucks....but I bet your stress level just took a BIG drop!!! You former employer is very lucky they aren't in Sacramento, CA- the new year brought a new program here- red, yellow, and green placards issued by the Health Dept. prominently displayed at the front of each food establishment! Red is temporarily shut down, yellow- customer's to proceed with caution, no critical violations- but problems to be addressed. Green- eat here! Needless to say that red tagged restaurants are being listed in the newpaper each day, along with those that received or cleaned up a yellow. Talk about airing dirty laundry. But customer's have already learned to look for green placards. The County is working diligently to inspect as many restaurants as possible each day. Perhaps this type of system will catch on other places..... and if your looking for a job, you could move here - I bet there is openings in the inspectors' office...LOL
Good luck!!
Bon Vive' !
Bon Vive' !
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