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Need help/advice on dead end job.

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I was laid off last year in February from my position as private chef for a couple who owned a mortgage company. I probably don't need to explain why.

After being unemployed for eight months, I accepted a position as Chef of a neighborhood cafe, ostensibly to overhaul their THIRTY YEAR OLD menu and drag the place (kicking and screaming) into the 21st century. The new owners, who by their own admission, are not restaurateurs, asked me to assume the responsibility of creating a breakfast menu and new breakfast service as well as a brand-spanking new lunch menu. We began our adventure in October of last year, right before the worst winter weather Seattle has seen in decades. Snow for weeks kept the city crippled and business was down by 40%.

I unwittingly inherited a "cook" along with the job who turned out to be a raging alcoholic with a temper problem. After six weeks of working with him, he had to be fired for his absenteeism. Here we are, FOUR dysfunctional cooks later, and I am still working seven days a week - salaried.

The new menu was deemed too "sophisticated" for our clientele and the owner is returning to the original items that were microwaved to order. The signature salad prior to my menu change was comprised of iceberg lettuce and canned three bean salad. Since I banished it five months ago, the owner has insisited that we've lost considerable business because we no longer offer the favorite salad. Although our sales have increased slowly and steadily, she continues to cling to the belief that reinstating the salad from **** will turn the business around, bring about world peace, and cure cancer. I finally stopped fighting her but I go to work now with agita every day and dream about iceberg lettuce every night.

I know you are all going to advise I bite the bullet and continue in this soul-sucking job until I find another, but here I am, down another cook again (the last one was hauled off to jail outside the cafe this morning) and back to working 12 hours a day, seven days a week. I am considering flatly refusing to work beyond my contracted work week and see if she fires me. I may be able to collect unemployment in this situation.

In any event, I welcome any and all feedback as I have currently taken leave of my senses and am filled with rage and hate. I don't want to do anything rash but I am depleted on every level from this rotten job.

post #2 of 14
I feel your pain. Been there. Done that. Although not quite as bad as what you are dealing with. At one place I told the owners up front that I wasn't interested in working more than 40 hours per week. IMO if the top management needs to be there any more than 40 hours there are problems. Thats fine if its occasional but to have to be there 50 to 80 or 90 hours per week for months or years on end to deal with problems is a clear indication that management is screwed up, again thats my opinion of things.

When the owners really pushed me to work more like the 50 to 60 hours per week, 7 days per week thing I gave them my conditions to do so.
$1,000 cash in my pocket per day after all tax withholdings etc and I would do the job for 100 days and then quit. Obviously they were somewhat astonished. I explained to them that such a schedule required me to give up my life and to do so, it had to be worth it.

If you have a contract that stipulates hours per week I would stick to it and see what happens. In the meantime be looking for another job.
post #3 of 14
Sounds like to me you are working in a Gin Mill and your boss is not concerned with quality. However she is signing your check, and if she wants 3 bean salad give it to her. I can just imagine the clientel that missis this salad. If you have not started to look around START. As far as hours over 40 hours is OT I dont care who you are. Only you can determine if the salary is good or bad. Divide hours worked into salary. You may find you can make more money with 2 jobs as a garbage collector in the same hours time frame.
post #4 of 14
Actually, you are in a better position than the owners, you just don't know it, that's all.

See, running a restaurant is easy, you let the cook cook, and you just sit in front of the cash register, rake in the cash and smile. Right?

Look, the owner is scared crapless of walking into the kitchen. Cooking is for someone else--icky people, not for restaurant owners. What she doesn't realize is that by hiring walking sacks of shite for cooks and denying you a day off she's jeapordizing her business-- it would be a no-brainer for any other restaurant owner to assume that a Chef would walk out under these circumstances, AND she has no back up staff to take the Chef's place when/if he walks out, AND she can't/won't work in the kitchen. If she did, you'd be complaining that she's in your hair in the kitchen, but you're not, right?

In all my years in this business I have never seen a owner/manager NOT give a second thought to throwing on apron and cooking when the kitchen is short handed, or behind the bar, or waiting on tables. Your Boss won't.

Suppose a bus ran you over tommorow, what would the owner do?

So what do you do?

You can quit, call in sick, scream blue murder about missed days off and the State Labour board and it's rules, or...


Or you can walk in to work one day, sit down in front of her and tell her what you want to do. If you do it this way, you still have your self respect, a job, (for what it's worth) and the satisfaction of taking a lousy situation and turning it around to your advantage.

Monetary compensation for missed days off, compensation for work over, say, 50 hrs per week. But the reason why you're in this mess is because the owner keeps on hiring sacks of shite instead of cooks. You have to have a say in the hiring process. If she can't agree to this point then it's only best that you walk.

That being said you should have seen the fecal matter impact the impellor back when the 2nd or 3rd walking sack of shite got turfed and "had a little talk" with the owner back then. Meh, hindsight is always 20-20

Worst winter in Seattle has seen in decades?
What would a guy from Vancouver know about that?
...."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 #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much for this little nugget of support. After five months of this absurdity, and the exhaustion and absolute frustration, I've begun to feel it's ME that's at fault. She, of course, feeds this neurosis by making sure I know what EVERYTHING costs, from the grill she "had" to buy to cook our pancakes from the new breakfast menu to the bill she had to pay for an electrician to come in and re-wire the circuitry so the grill would not blow the fuses. Is this my problem? I think not.
post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
Not exactly a Gin Mill - more like the dining lounge at an assisted living facility. At least that is what it looked like a few months ago. Now, with new young blood steadily finding their way to our very adorable breakfast/lunch spot, it was starting to look more like a happenin' place to be. Interestingly, the "quality" of her menu prior to my hiring was like the love child of a Denny's salad bar and a Subway sandwich shop. After I pulled all the pre-made deli meats out of he walk-in and starting roasting REAL meat and poultry, suddenly she became an expert on quality. :cool:

Here is a precious anecdote - I made a lovely beef stew with carrots, potatoes and parsnips. Her comment after she tried it? "Some of the potatoes were odd tasting".

Oh, I've been looking - 25 resumes out in the last four weeks. I am happy to report I have an interview this Wednesday. :bounce:
post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 
You are correct on all counts. However, I HAVE spoken to her - over and over again. We've had countless meetings that usually end in stalemate. The last "meeting" ended with her saying these words - "This is me and I'm not going to change". That was four weeks ago and since then, I don't do meetings with her anymore. In a way, I was grateful that she finally laid the cards on the table and basically told me I was in the "shite". At least my denial about the job was shattered and I could start to regroup and redirect my energy into my job search.

Here is a precious anecdote - the last loser she insisted we hire was arressted outside the restaurant on Friday. I'm pretty certain he stole my wallet three weeks ago at work and she, at the time, agreed it was likely he who was the thief. Of course, she refused to fire him. Today, some of the servers told me he had been asking them for money the whole time he was working there. When I told the owner this today, she said "the waitresses already told me this. I told them to just take the money from the till and give it to him". She has money for thieves, incompetents, and losers (she also took him shopping for new shoes and slacks before he started working there) but when I told her today that I won't work another overtime hour without just compensation, she told me I had her "backed up against the wall". Astonishing. I'm really not making this up!

I am not making this assertion lightly, but after much thought, I have concluded that it's a power/competition issue for her with me - both of us women, both of us around the same age. All of her previous and current employees (except for servers) have been troubled, dysfunctional, or down-on-their-luck men. I am a strong, stable and very direct former Jersey girl and I don't think she knows how to interact professionally with women like me.

Thanks to everyone for the tremendously helpful feedback. I'm feeling less and less like poking skewers into my eyes. Hopefully I can report that I've landed the new job this week!
post #8 of 14
Best of luck in getting a new job

I understand wanting to get the whole deal off your chest, but-tum, ah..well...they say a lion only roars once before it pounces.

Your manager did tell you that she won't change, and you're a smart girl.

There's only two ways for your manager to change, irregardless if it's a power/competition thingee.

The first way is that one of these lonely Wednesday nights when no guests are around, one of her S.O.S.'s (sacks of shite) will uh..."approach'' her and demand money or valuables. Either that or one of the S.O.S.'s friends/dealers will. If she's lucky and unharmed after the ordeal, I doubt if she'll come out of her locked bedroom for a couple of weeks. Of course I could be wrong and maybe her past carreer was a social worker or maybe a warden in a medium security facility.

The second way is when you make her agent an offer only on fixtures, chattels, and inventory--no money for goodwill because it isn't worth anything. Even then she won't openly admit that you might have had some good points about how to run a business.

Good luck
...."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 #9 of 14
A Big Hello from the other side of the Mountain. I would't look for just another Job, I would look for happiness. This job isn't worth it and the people your working arn't worth your time. Right now because of the economy, I would take anything just to be happy. This job is knocking you and your pride to new lows and you don't need that................take care Bill............P.S Iceberg lettuce three beans, Got ta love umm
post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Greetings to you from the very, very south end of Seattle!

You hit the nail on the head with that astute pride-knocking observation. I keep wondering why I am so frickin' depressed and then it dawns on me - after five months of this irrational and unwarranted abuse, I'm questioning my own competency. Never mind that I've been in this biz for twenty years longer than she has. Never mind the fact that I've run my own business successfully and manned (or wo-manned) the helm of several other establishments. She's at this for 13 months and she knows better. When I was hired, she claimed they were bringing in $300.00 a day, with lunch service only. Now, we're averaging 700.00 daily (in four months) but she's still not happy.

Mostly, I feel tricked and bamboozled. I had a four part interview with her before I accepted the position, and made crystal clear what I would and wouldn't do, what I promised to achieve WITH her full support, and what I considered my responsibilities as head chef and HER part as owner. We were in FULL agreement and my biggest regret is that I didn't get this all down in a contract of some kind. I'm also enormously dissappointed in my character and integrity radar detector. I should have had better instincts about her. Live and learn, yes?

Job interview in three days. It scares me what I'm prepared to do to get this position!
post #11 of 14
You don't have a job interview, you have a position in waiting.........Good Luck,,,Bill
post #12 of 14
Best of luck.....and always try and get it in writing
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
post #13 of 14
My current job was a lot like this until about a year ago. Country club with a menu that hadn't been updated since the 1970's, half of the staff came to work drunk or high, and the ownership was concerned mostly with the golf business and either neglected or mismanaged the food service business. The executive chef was completely unqualified and forced the sous chef at the time and myself to do all the work (his way of course) and fought change tooth and nail because he benefited from the situation.

Quitting wasn't really an option for me, but I was looking for a job. What ended up happening was that the business began to fail and the club sold the food service to someone competent. The executive chef was canned and the rest of us were not only promoted but allowed to work with the new owner in reshaping the kitchen.

Unfortunately, I think most restaurants will be run into the ground and close completely before anyone will buy it from failing owners. I was probably uncommonly lucky, but in my case waiting it out worked out for the best. In any event, I wouldn't quit a job without a backup plan these days.
post #14 of 14
Thread Starter 
Deliriously happy to report that I got the job!

The pay is significantly less BUT the opportunity is the stuff of dreams. I am enormously relieved to be set free from the **** I was in.

Thanks again for all the support and advice. Hopefully, my future forum contributions will be filled with continued enthusiasm and excitement for what lies ahead.
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