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Harassment - what do you do?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
In light of the popularity of Gordon Ramsay's tirades and the seemingly 'accepted' misconduct in many kitchens, what do you do as a supervisor, manager, chef to monitor or otherwise keep harassment (verbal, sexual, etc) in check in your operation? 'Blue' language has almost been accepted as an effective method for communication in contemporary kitchens; does that make it okay? What about changing the face of our industry - is there room for this in foodservice or is it 'just the way it goes?'

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

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post #2 of 23
It starts in the schools Jim. WHen I was in college, I learned that stealing from your employer and your peers was ok, that if you're a drunk, don't worry about, so is the rest of your crew, and that girls should stick to gentle work in a cooler environment. Some of the teachers were bullying the students, using all kinds of racial slurs and still do from what I hear, and can't help cursing in the classroom.

I worked for a chef who professed to be different and in theory believed in teaching by example, but when it came down to it, he couldn't help himself. Slammed door, burned bridge. It was almost worse with him than with the others because I thought he was different.

I've somewhat lost hope and I stay away from the scene somewhat, trying instead to make a difference in the colleges. This is an important thread. Thanks for bringing it up.
post #3 of 23
I have always tried to lead by example. This includes stopping this behavior each and every time I have encountered it. I treat my employees with respect; expect them to treat both me and all of their coworkers with equal respect. In today's litigious society to do otherwise is just begging to be sued.
post #4 of 23
It is so not ok. I'm assuming that Gordon (nitwit) is that chef from hells kitchen..When all my friends( non chef ) told me I should watch that show, then told me about it, him. I would never watch it! He sounds like a jackoff. I would love for someone to raise their voice to me, like that..To me this is a respectable industry. I treat everyone with respect. There is no need for harrasment of any kind. The women I've worked for and with are awsome and definetly didn't come to work to be messed with, they come to help support their families and their lives..

The best chef I ever worked for was a women named Moira from Boston, she rocked. It was in "93" in Hanover, Ma..
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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post #5 of 23
Thats a real toughie.....even in the best kitchens....there is a tremendous amount of foul language and lewd behavior.....from my experience....it helps to have a kitchen staff thats pretty diverse in age, gender, and race....

If your in a large property...you forever find yourself saying "I want you to know...that kind of language or behavior is inappropriate"....almost as if it will save you a trip to human rescources.....

These days there seems to be a big sense of entitlement....grab someone by the arm......your in HR......ask someone their age....your in HR.....discipline one and not the other....your in HR....

I truly love working in the kitchen.....I've had chefs flip plates back at me...I had chefs tell me how sorry they were they had to work with me. That was the great thing about kitchens....nothing was off limits.....To this day....I truly can't believe my ears when I hear someone say...."They can't speak with me that way...I am a human being".....I don't suppose how I really feel is correct, and,
I must say, I am straight as an arrow when working.....fair to a fault, non-threatening, honest, and open....I do expect some degree of the same from the people who work with me.....but, let me tell you....many people will take you for a ride...just for a simple slip up.....seen it happen, had it happen.....

"if its to hot in the kitchen for ya...get out"

ps: My thoughts on this are a true sign I've been in kitchen way to long
post #6 of 23
This is a dual edge knife.
Whenever you combine passionate, competitive, stressed out and young people together it is a volatile mixture. I personally cuss like a sailor in everyday conversation. I am not proud of it and I try to temper it in my kitchen. I tell everyone who works for me that I will be insanely critical of them. It will never be a personal attack. I remind them that the root of critical is critique and if they can shed ego for a honest assessment of performance and skill every day than they will only get better. In today's work place the kids coming in have never been challenged and they can not handle criticism. I push them extremely hard in the first 90 days to see if they last. I have no problem pulling one of them into my office or a cooler and dressing them down. They need to be prepared for when a customer is belligerent or is not happy. My staff knows I will go to the mat for them every time. They get the accolades and I take the screw ups. As for blue talk my people are adults. If something is said that bothers them they handle it.
post #7 of 23
Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.

Blue Talk.

Indecent conversation, from the French, Bibliothèque Bleu. (Harlots are called “Blues” from the blue gown they were once compelled to wear in the House of Correction.)


Had really never heard of blue talk......
post #8 of 23
Thread Starter 
Interesting opinions, thus far. I bring this up because I am rather torn.

On one hand, yes, the kitchen can be a cut-throat, down 'n dirty, swearin' flurry of irreverant acitvity, all for the sake of 'passionate cooking.' On the other hand, in the name of moving the industry to a more professional level, that type of behavior is not acceptable. Do I accept the flagrant use of profanity swirled with contemptuous insults or do I make the environment that much more ripe with more G-rated conduct?

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 #9 of 23
You are a culinary instructor....a teacher....G-rated is a must....were you
in a private setting as a chef....do as you like......if your in a large company or a school....you must guard against even inferring anything inappropriate.
Its all about how your employees percieve what you do and say.....very thin
line to walk these days......
post #10 of 23
I don't care how busy we are, how many orders are in the window or being made, I don't care how well people know each other, I have my rules and those rules are:
1. No inappropriate dress.
2. Please and thank you really are the magic words.
3. We work in an open kitchen. So anything you want to say to me or the other staff should be worded such that the couple on the closest table wouldn't be offended either.
4. In my experience people who are unable to keep there keep their cool while under pressure, regardless of who they are or how famous they are are just a bunch of poseurs, That goes for Mr. Ramsey also. He needs to find a field that he is more comfortable around. That, or tell people hes' just playing a character.

My experience is that I have never ever solved a problem or correctly managed a crisis by losing my cool and blaming it on someone else. I feel if an employee doesn't understand their job or lacks the ability to perform said job its a reflection on my hiring and training. Ever think of that?
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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post #11 of 23
I think there is a difference between swearing while talking, but not swearing at someone. i normally work in closed kitchens. I don't care what people talk about or what people say, as long as their not directing towards me or anyone else.
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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post #12 of 23
Chef Ramsay is always the poster child for these types of discussions and he probably is showing a side of himself at times (Anyone remember the Boiling Point tapes when he was trying to earn his 3 stars at an earlier age than MPW? I don't think that was acting, definitely not all of it.). He's made his mark now and I'd be willing to bet pints against pennies that 99.35% of it that you see on ****'s Kitchen is staged. It's made for the primetime tv "Oooh did you see that chewin' Ramsay gave that guy?" crowd to discuss at work the next day. I could be wrong, I'm not home when it's on, that's just my guess.
That aside, it's a tough call. Everybody has their own lines drawn. I personally can take it. I've dealt with it (in the kitchen and from construction bosses in my younger years) and it didn't hurt me. Could I live with a ****'s Kitchen-esque Chef to learn what a Ramsay, Blumenthal, Keller, Achatz (just examples, I'm not suggesting any of them are that way in their kitchens), etc. could teach me? Yes, definitely. I'd be glad to. Should anybody have to live with that? Nobody has to, the option to not work there always exists. I'm not saying it's necessary for anyone to deal with their staff that way but I figure their kitchen, their rules. Find a kitchen/job where you're comfy with the rules/atmosphere. Should a Chef that's run his/her kitchen a certain way all along without problems suddenly have to change the way the entire place operates because the new Sensitive Sam/Sally doesn't like it when he/she yells? I try to stay calm and reasonable with staff and mostly succeed but sometimes a verbal kick in the pants is the only message that gets through.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.
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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.
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post #13 of 23
Some chefs are perfectionists. What is easy for them is very hard for other people, but since it's easy for them they become frustrated that the worker cannot replicate their product. Like someone else said, add the pressure of the waitress badgering for their dish along with the never ending growth of orders on the rack and tempers fly. There is no room in the kitchen for emotional babies who cannot take verbal punishment. If the victim is serious about furthering their career in cooking then rather than cry or get angry about it they will strive to not mess up and do it right the next time so they don't ever get a verbal bashing again. Anyway, if the chef wants to keep his or her employees then he will discuss the problem with the employee later in a calm and caring manner. Even Ramsay does that on his show.
post #14 of 23
I disagree and stick by what I said. Its up to me, the person who hired and believed that the person what either knowledgable or capable of learning. If someone I hire isn't up to the work and fails when you need them the most then its my problem not theirs. I should yell and get angry at myself for hiring a person and being incapable of seeing their inability. I personally never ever want to be put in a position where I feel somehow justified to be able to scream or lose it on a person just because I felt the need to enter into a voluntary employment agreement. I never should ever need to know whether an employee is an emotional baby or not.
This is just another aspect of the foodservice myth that a person has to put up with no money, poor working conditions, long hours, verbal and sexual abuse to make a life in a culinary field. As long as the belief that this sort of atmosphere is condoned or even celebrated shows just how far we haven't come.
My restaurant is like my house, and the people working for me are like roommates. At this point in my life since I have the power to control my own environment, professional courtesy, professional work ethic and professional attitude are all very big parts of my set of expectations. Oh, and the last time I had to hire to replace a person who quit? 2 1/2 years ago. So I also believe that a professional working environment significantly lowers our turnover rate.
What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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What a relief! To find out after all these years that I'm not crazy. I'm just culinarily divergent...
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post #15 of 23
gordon ramsay is your standard english bloke who doesnt dull it down for the cameras... i dont know where you guys come from where swearing isnt ok... but where i come from, its just a word and if you cant take it... tell the person swearing and shouting to either chill and speak quietly or to **** themselves backwards in the bacon slicer



btw... that last insult is tried tested and gets laughs everytime
post #16 of 23
The word Seraphim means: an angel of the highest order.( just saying )

As I stated before. I have no problem with people swearing, just not at one another..

I don't need to talk down to people to make myself feel important! :cool:
Sorry to hear that it is acceptable to you, seraphim.
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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post #17 of 23
Precisely why I have been unable to formulate a reply until now.

The kitchen by nature is a rough place otherwise we never would have needed the phrase....."Can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen". What someone deems as foul/unacceptable another might not. For me it about time and place. It also reaches the point of foul/unacceptable when it moves from stressing urgency, making a point, release of tension, etc to becoming personal or abusive toward co-workers and/or subordinates. Cussing only becomes truly unprofessional when it's no-longer directed at the action or situation and is directed at the individual person.

In it's true form cuss words are words that convey a certain punctuation like no other can. When someone has just messed up a 400.00 batch of sauce (that's production cost not sales loss) or the kitchen is throwing plates of schwag into the window......
I mean compared to Oh you guy's! Sassafras, sassafras, sassafras. Gee golly wiz! What's gonna get more attention and deliver better results plus make you feel a whole he11 of a lot better in the moment. ;)

With all that said I have a couples rules of thought so........ for what it's worth and IMHPO an open kitchen means a closed mouth since it is never appropriate in-front of or within an earshot of the guest. While language in and of itself is not unprofessional, how it is applied can be and that's where I try to draw the line. But I have to say....being the type of business we have chosen sure stretches the limits of self control at times.

As far as Harassment, I think we've become waaaayyyyyy to sensitive a culture almost to the point of being a culture of "whiners". With that said true harassment has no place in any setting. Yet because of heightened sensitivity I say fun is fun. The trouble is setting the bar where it actually moves from fun to harassment. But when it moves from that point, usually when the person placed in the spotlight has objected to it and/or when it impairs everyones ability to complete the job at hand that's when I take objection to it continuing.
post #18 of 23
Oldschool your like the Zen/Budda Master of this forum, you always have a great way to get your point across.

I learned my lesson at an early age.
I was Head Chef at 18 years old ( huge ego) Things were going wrong, I took one of the plates a line cook put in the window and threw it across the kitchen an SCREAMED at everyone. Well all at once the three line cooks walked out on a Thursday. I had to have the owner and dining room manager come cook on the line. The owner had me call the cooks and aolagize and ask them to come back ( my ego was not happy with this ). Two days later I got fired. I had to learn how to treat people the hard way. Granted I know I was right for removing the plate out of the window, I just go about it differently now.

I agree you have to be thick skinned in the kitchen. The language and actions were the attraction for me when I first started, loved it and still do. I just think we work in the hardest industry and we work extreamely hard. for me now if it gets to the point were I feel I have to scream at someone I bring them in the office to have a sit down and if nothing changes send them home for good.
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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post #19 of 23
That's where the problem comes in. Once you've hired someone, you have to be extremely careful about how you get rid of them if you don't want it to come back and bite you on the butt. However, if you can make this useless, non-working waste of space miserable enought ot quit (without violating any rules/laws) they solve the problem for you.
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.
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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.
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post #20 of 23
or make budget cuts and offer them a position deep out of state:bounce:..I've seen that done a few times.. :roll:
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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post #21 of 23
Thanks chef ESG. :blush:

I have one last opinion to offer. Sensitivity to me was at one time the foot notes that you put on a recipe giving the person who produces it a point of reference to the taste, texture, look, feel, etc of a product once made. It definitely was never what it has become. I think it's almost purely the fault of the HR department (AKA Huge Roid). The creation of this form of management and the policies that spew forth from them in their self-righteous and self serving way is why things have become so "touchy feely" in regards to sensitivity. I mean compassion and common sense are probably the key to it but there never seems to be any of the latter and too much of the prior handcuffing Management and preventing the whole practice of discipline, responsibility and consequences in the work place all the while seeming to reward and protect the useless. (My favorite nickname for these folks was "Ulysses")

It's great if the person has "potential" but... My Gawd!!!!!!!!! Some of these folks are definitely candidates for ..........;)
post #22 of 23
I believe in treating everyone with respect.
I will make the effort to correct a situation calmly, and a couple of times.
Depending on the response I get, I may choose a different tactic.
I am not above walking up to a problem employee with a smile on my face, and telling them to follow me, and head to the walk-in.
I swear, sometimes it looks like they think I'm going to give them candy.
Once in the walk-in, I turn around and yell "what the (expletive deleted) is your problem?"
This usually has the desired effect.
Of course, you have to have a pretty good idea that it will work, based on your knowledge of the particular employee.

Swearing in general isn't a problem.
When I refer to something as the %$#@! sauce and get a questioning look, I tell them that it's an industry term.
But like mentioned above, swearing near someone, and swearing at someone, are completely different things.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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post #23 of 23
Ya, years ago you could just say beat it, screw go home your fired..Now a days the whole 3 write up plus verbal warning ( are you kidn me ) fax the paper work to HR and get their aproaval is crazy now. By the time all that paper work is done, the staff member figures out what your doing and just happens to slip on the floor, and claims he's hurt. :mad::eek::suprise:
When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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When I stop loving what I do, I will do something else: Clint Eastwood http://NewDreamCatering.comCharleston, SC
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