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some advice please: am i being unreasonable?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
i recently earned the position of sous chef at a brand new restaurant whose kitchen is run by a chef i worked with at my previous job.

i've been working hard to make my way up the ladder in kitchens for over five years now, but i've never been in a position like this before and i need some insight as to whether i'm getting a taste of what it's really like, or if i'm just getting royally shat upon.

my chef had me give notice at my last job in time to have about a week and a half off before we began. construction fell behind and i ended up being out of work for a month and a half, but worked for the new restaurant for free; costing out food with chef, putting together recipes, cleaning, unpacking wares, painting, etc. we finally got into the kitchen with about a week to execute everything. we make everything from scratch from the stocks to the pasta to the bread. our meat for sandwiches is from chickens and turkeys that we roast in the kitchen. all in all, it's very involved.

we were to have over two weeks but ended up with less than one and i worked all morning and all night with no break and no day off through opening for twelve days. we had one prep girl hired to work with us, but she has no idea what she's doing. she cuts herself on a regular basis, can't follow a recipe, can't make a soup, etc.

in short, i've worked twelve days straight, no days off, no breaks, way over 90 hours a week (i'm scheduled for 55) and routinely whored out by chef in front of my subordinates. we've been tweaking menu items and if she doesn't like my ideas she makes faces when i talk, calls me stupid under her breath, speaks about me instead of to me when i'm two feet away, and insults me to the owner's children, all while yelling at me about the importance of professionalism. when i took the job i was assured that we would have a ticket line, shelves for plates for when we served (they're in stacks on the prep tables), stations, a kitchen staff, a big enough char broiler, a meat slicer and other vital tools. we have none of these things.

i came down with the stomach flu and showed up to work anyway, only to vomit all morning in the bathroom. when i surfaced she asked if i could take something for it and i told her that i couldn't keep anything down. she yelled "****" in my face and stormed past me into the kitchen. she was a vegetarian for a long time and subsequently says she doesn't know how to cook meat and needs me for that. we have no one else who knows how to cook meat. so if i'm sick, they're ****ed. but i can't hardly be throwing up the entire time that i'm preparing food.

am i being difficult? a baby? or is this just what it's like? i'm not in a city by any means, so i haven't had an experience like this-- this is a first for the area. but i don't sleep, i don't eat, i don't take breaks-- i just show up to work to bust out as much food as i can and be berated in front of other employees all the while.

i understand that the sous chef is middle management, and therefore thankless work, but i was also under the impression that chef and sous chef are to appear as a united front, and that no one should ever be aware if there is stormy weather.

somebody help me out, here.

ps: i have tried to talk to chef about my concerns and she refuses to allow me to speak and walks away.
post #2 of 22
Regarding the hours, that's pretty much a given when you are opening up a new place.
You'll feel like you live there.
I think they should've put you on the payroll sooner, instead of having you donate your time.
Sous Chef = Executive Chef's Main B!tch.
You should be irreplaceable.

All that being said, you are in a horrible situation.
I have no problem doing all that has been required of you, but do have a problem with the lack of respect.
Yes, you should present a united front, and your opinion, while not always taken, should at least be valued.

My recommendation is to chalk this up as a learning experience, and find something else.
Leave on the best terms you can, but don't look back.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
post #3 of 22
Put your notice in.......unless you enjoy that type of treatment.....don't think
you can learn much from a chef who can't cook meat......sounds like a pretty
sad situation.....sounds like the place won't be around long....or the Chef won't. If you think you can hang on till they replace her....stick with it....if not.....bolt! I would however hand-deliver my notice to the owner or owners, as the Chef doesn't deserve the courtesy....good luck....there are a lot of options for someone who sound as committed as you.....
post #4 of 22
ya poor thing, you shouldnt be going to work when you have a stomach virus sweetheart , thats the quickest way to get the restaurant shut down.

If your chef refuses to cook meat then what the **** is she doing in a meat restaurant if she doesnt want to cook meat then she should be working in a vegetarian restuarant. It never really pays to work with freinds as it screws you up

i think you should findyour self another job before this one kills you with the stress , good luck with what ever you do
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires
post #5 of 22
Having opened 1 of my own restaurants and a corp trainer in a past life I will say that you should have been on the payroll while doing all the paper work involved, its work no matter how you look at it. As for the way you have been treated, a united front is very important, what happens behind closed doors is another story but you need to be able to trust each other and without that its a failed "marriage" fight off the bat. Take what you can from this experience good/bad or indifferent and look to move on.
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
post #6 of 22
Time for you to do the same. Find another place to work. The place you are currently employed most likely won't last long anyways.
post #7 of 22
Don't walk away before making a claim to the labor board for back pay. If you are unpacking boxes, costing recipes etc. etc. that work directly benefits the business establishment and you should be paid for it.
If the restaurant management objects, too bad, let them complain to the department of labor.

Stick to your guns. You deserve more respectful and professional treatment than what you're getting there.

The chef sounds achingly familiar and very much like someone I know.

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 #8 of 22
Thread Starter 
thank you so much for your feedback. i had just been made to feel as though my displeasure at the situation was a sign of my own weakness in the field, my own inability to do my job. it's not that i didn't want to work hard and do a good job, but after so many hours and no sleep, i really couldn't. my eyes couldn't focus on the small print of the recipes or the tickets, i would confuse words without realizing it, like when i was butchering and accidentally asked chef what to weigh the filet cut instead of the salmon i was handling. i just felt really guilty about it because i thought it was just my own lack of dedication to what i was doing.

thank you again for your thoughtful responses.
post #9 of 22
Ive been promoted twice to Sous but still consider myself a line cook. The hours are long, mine in both cases were 70-75 avg, the work is usually never ending unless you have good help. But in my opinion you should find a new job and use this one as a good cautionary story later down the road when you've established yourself and are trying to HELP out one of YOUR line cooks progress up the ladder. It sounds like your chef just wants to power trip and delegate all the work. Sous chefs and line cooks do, do almost all of the actual cooking but she should be
cultivating your support and not talking down or disrespecting either you personally or the position. Chefs ALWAYS need the sous chef more than a sous chef needs the chef, and it sounds like this chef neither cares about you personally or professionally and just wanted to drag you along with her because you were a known quantity and knew what kind of work you would do to help her out. And by not following thru with the support you were told (i.e. equipment and personnel) would be there, unless she explained later, she isnt trustworthy. Good luck, next time.
post #10 of 22
Get out, she is useing you, In fact find something else and leave , NO NOTICE dont depend on her for reference because from what you say she does she wont give you one anyway. SHE DESERVES TO GET THROWN INTO THE WEEDS BIG TIME. I normaly dont say to do this, but it this case and based on if you are telling all the truth then do it. Also do you have a timecard? if so save it and go to labor board re. OT^

Also you are not working for a Chef by any means, regardless if she or he cant cook meat. A chef in this day and age would never act like this. nd if nothing else would take you out for a beer and thank you for your dedication. AGAIN GET OUT:rolleyes: :roll:
post #11 of 22
Sounds pretty unanimous alishah.

Good luck
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
post #12 of 22
I am sorry that the executive chef won't talk to you. Have you approached the chef during a non-critical time? I would hope that you would not try initiating a discussion during lunch or dinner service.

With this being said, I'm sorry to say that there are chefs who take advantage of their staff. I was once in a situation much like yours. Since I was under contract, the executive chef had no qualms about having me work an 84 hour week. I was essentially saving him the cost of labor as we were perpetually short staffed.

Every time I approached the chef with questions about why we had so many shortages, I was given an ambiguous, "I'm working on it," and nothing would happen.

I eventually gave notice and quit. This is incidentally how I became a high school culinary arts teacher. I used my industry experience to apply for a Career and Technical Education teaching certificate and had no problems with finding a job.

Although I can't speak for all states in general, in Arizona, there is a growing trend for high schools to hire teachers with industry experience instead of teachers who came up through home economics. As the state standards, (which specify what we have to teach), continue to evolve, more emphasis is being put upon preparing students to work in the food service industry. Instructors with industry experience appear to have an increasing advantage over those who don't.

Although my salary is lower, I only work a 40-50 hour week. In addition to weekends and holidays, I also have a glorious three month summer vacation. My stress level is down and I'm thoroughly enjoying my 2nd year on the job as a culinary arts teacher.
post #13 of 22
Ask yourself if you believe in the restaurant's concept. If so, is it good enough to overshadow the abuse?

When the chef dismisses your ideas, are they honestly viable menu items?

Please listen to your body. You likely got sick from this overwhelming schedule. There has to be time to eat (vegetables) and drink water. By being fueled, you will be more productive. Its a win-win situation.

Anger is like a gift. She can offer it to you, but you Don't have to accept it. Your state of mind doesn't have to be influenced by her negativity.

post #14 of 22
If they cant afford two weeks salary, what is the chance they will have enough money to stay open for a year?
post #15 of 22
find another job as quickly as you can, and get quickly away from this disfunctional restaurant and "chef".
post #16 of 22
How can anyone get to ex chef position and not be able to cook meat?
Claim emotional damage caused by her berating and insulting you. You should be able to find a law firm that needs the work. Complain to the labor board and file a complaint
and if you really want to screw with her. go down to the court house and file a suite in superior court yourself if you win or lose it wont matter she will get the message and with a little research down at the law libary you will be surprised what you can sue for.The law libarian will be your best friend you be surprised what they know.then again some people like to be abused it turns them out lol
post #17 of 22
Many people have posted and much of the advice is good.

However, I have one question:

Is the Chef working the same hours as you?

If the answer is No, then get out of there as fast as you can, and throw every legal and State law at her.

If the answer is Yes, then you have to stop and think a bit.

The Chef is NOT responsible for infrastructure/construction delays (unless he/she is a o/o)

The Chef may have an pre-opening budget to follow.
You've made no mention about the owners or superior of the Chef, and I don't know how honest, how realistic, or how financially strapped they are. Other factors may include city permit/licensing issues or financial lenders backing out at the last minute

If the Chef is working just as hard or even harder than you, then look at that as a strength.

Yes, you have been taken advantage of./ Then again, so has your Chef, and many of us have been in the same situation as you (no stomach flu for me, I had plantar facsitis and tennis elbow) Opening a place is not easy and now you know what it involves. Should you ever find yourself in the same situation again, I have one piece of advice for you: Negotiate terms before leaving your previous job.

I realize this may sound harsh or unrealistic. But believe me, I've been there, got the T-shirt, and not only survived, but advanced myself a bit too.

And yes, I've worked for vegetarian Chefs, it kinda/sorta works. I've also worked for Chefs of 500 room hotels who go away for a weekend and come back with a new name--all legally changed, and, at the same Hotel, the F&B who would "borrow" 5 or 6 cooks to work for his private side business--on company time!. But those are stories for another time....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #18 of 22

Do it with class, but walk. No job is worth that kind of crap.

I don't know what the job market is like there, but if you're a qualified sous, there should be plenty of openings for you.
post #19 of 22
So when you said you worked for free?! little light bulbs exploded in my head.
1) Any establishment that allowed that (free labor) is breaking federal labor laws, and likely will just use and abuse you.
2) Opening is a b%tch, you do what you have to.
3) The "chef" can't make the restaurants dishes on her own!!!

I would print out 100 copies of your resume and go to every restaurant that interests you. But when you sit down for an interview remember you are interviewing them also. If you don't fit their its just as bad for them.

And find somewhere you actually like being, or life will be miserable.
post #20 of 22
I'm still trying to figure how the "Chef" is the "Chef" if she doesn't know how to cook meat??? :suprise:
post #21 of 22

Way late chiming in but.....

.......if someone is consistently undermining you in such an abusive way then it is one of two things that is making her do so. 1) You could be an idiot, which I think we can all agree is NOT the case! 2) She perceives you as a threat. Oooh - do I hear a collective "BINGO!""? Puh-uh-leeeeeee-zah! She can't cook MEAT but calls you stupid?

First of all, she's the chef, not the owner, right? Can you play a little dirty and make it clear to the owner where the problems lie? She isn't going to last - all of us with experience can see that. It's just a matter of whether or not you can last longer with her crap than she can in her own.

Keep us posted, K? Good luck!

And I'd hire you in a heartbeat!
post #22 of 22
Been there...

The difference was I was an 18 year old and learning from a "white hair", my term for an OLD Chef. I was learning so much I stuck with it. This does not appear to be the case with your situation.

The only reason to tolerate a high level of abuse, in all its forms, is if you are doing some serious learning in the process.

Good luck and go find a Chef position.
Have fun!

Don't take my word for it! I wouldn't trust me either!
Have fun!

Don't take my word for it! I wouldn't trust me either!
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