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Line cook Job

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
I took a job as a fry cook in a kitchen where I told the chef that I had four years of experience with prep and expiditing, but no real hotline experience to speak of... The first night I get there and I end up doing more dish washing than anything else, my real complaint was that the dish washer is a tiny little baby dish washer no bigger then a house hold dish machine. I was informed that the kitchen goes to the dining room to get the dishes and I saw the bus boy standing around and 5 waitresses moving like there was nothing to do.
The second night same story, third night I spend half the time frying and half the time washing tonight there was a dedicated dish washer and I got to cook but I was informed that there is no time on any of the dishes and portion size is mostly eyeballed. it is the fourth night there and I watched the owner and the chef get into a screaming match in the kitchen... I understand that everyone does the dishes but it sees like the owner has no experience in managing a business... the food is mostly wings sandwiches and pasta with an occasional steak and or fish.
The placeI was in before I learned a lot more than I thought because I know more of how a kitchen should run than anyone there except the chef and his wife who is also the sous. The place I was in before was a nice nice place most plates were 25 dollars and up, the place I am in now is more of a bar and diner.
I moved to pittsburgh to cook and to become a chef, I start culinary school in september and all I can think is find another job quick... I already hate this place. I know that I am not a chef yet and that that is years down the road but I really thought I was getting into something better than this place.
am I crazy to think that I should find a new job where there is a real kitchen that has a real garde manger, saucier and sou and exec chef or am i being pretentious?
post #2 of 9
Ahh Pittsburgh. I'm born and raised here. It's on the lower end of restaurants, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

A few words of advice... waitresses and busboys standing around while you pick up dishes is something that shouldn't bother you. Basically, it boils down to the fact that whoever is in charge has given you a task, and you should complete that task to the best of your ability with a good attitude. Doing whatever is asked of you and then some is not only a good way to get noticed, but it's expected. If they hired someone to simply sit on the bar stools all day to make sure they weren't faulty, would your job duties change? Just do what you can and don't worry about what other people are doing. It's not your job to worry about what other people are doing.

No time or exact portion size on the dishes? Standard. For one thing, fryer oil will degrade over use and thus items will take longer or shorter depending on how fresh the oil is. And get used to portioning things by eye. It's completely standard.

Don't worry about the owner. I've worked for owners who are very experienced and those who just opened their first restaurant. I've worked for owners that are extremely nice and owners that are looking to nitpick everything whether it's a problem or not. Just remember, they sign the paychecks, and also, they know who is working hard and who isn't. In my current job, the owner is a hardass. Most of the employees think he's a dick. In the first month I was there I thought he was a dick. But the fact is, he has a great attention to detail and demands perfection for his guests, two traits which all but the fewest restaurant employees value. In my first few weeks there, after chef left for the night, I was covering the grill station (which is always run by the exec or sous) and he came up and grilled me (no pun intended) about how I was going to prepare every item, how I would know it was done, how I was going to plate it, etc. I answered his questions honestly and he said "ok" and went upstairs. Since then, I've learned he talked to the exec about me and he hasn't bothered me a bit since. The bottom line is, make the guests happy, chef happy, and the owner happy. Everything else is just bullshit.

To be honest, the fry cook is generally the lowest notch in the hot line around these parts. In previous jobs, I've hired many a cook for the fry position. The only ones that moved up were the ones that fried things to perfection consistently. It's easy to throw things in a fryer and pull them up, it's harder to time them all well enough to make them look perfect. The best fry cooks I ever hired were the ones that asked questions about the other stations while they were slow. Once I had a guy who constantly requested to move to the grill or saute, but every time he was slow, he'd go out and smoke a cig or just stand there. Every moment is a chance to learn something new. Take an interest in the restaurant, and the restaurant will take an interest in you.

As for doing dishes.... yeah it sucks, but do it anyway. It demonstates a work ethic. I once did dishes for 14 hours straight when I was the exec. My sous, who has worked in a lot of places, said after that day, "I've never seen a management type work harder than you do on a day to day basis." That meant a lot to me, and it made me want to work harder.

Bah, I'm rambling.... Here is what you should do. From a completely unemotional place, evaluate the job. Are you gaining some experience? What can you learn here? Is the job that bad or that good? If you really don't like the job, can you get a better job? Are you asked to do unreasonable amounts of work? Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is culinary experience. A positive attitude will go a long way towards that building process, and I'd give it at least 3 months before you make a final decision.
post #3 of 9
As Schuster says, maybe give it a month or two. No-one wants to employ someone who is looking for an easy ride and just leaves because it is a bit tough. Just because you have lots of great experience doesn't necessarily mean you'll be cooking on the front line if the employer is only looking for a fryer/dishwasher. When you applied for the job, he was probably thinking 'this person will be great value for money'. Sounds to me like it's not the job you were looking for, both in position and establishment.
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post #4 of 9
Thread Starter 
it is neither the position nor the establishment I was led to believe it was.
I was told I would be cooking, and asked if I was ok with helping the dish washer if need be, not asked if I would like to wash dishes. the answers to those questions are different. I was led to believe that the sandwiches and things were there only to to placate the bar, and that they made mostly dinners but when I get there its different. I feel like I was led to believe one thing because I know what I am doing in a kitchen and I am the only one besides the chef who even knows how to arrange tickets in a window.... I was led to believe that the place was a nice family restaurant not a dive...
post #5 of 9
Sounds like you are in a pretty rubbish position. I think you know what you want to do. I'm pretty sure there are many of us out there that have taken on different roles than what we thought we were getting into and I'm sure we can all learn from your unfortunate experience. Hope everything pans out ok for you! ;)
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post #6 of 9
I washed dishes for years. That is how I got in this business. I never set out to be a chef. The first place I washed dishes I had to do them by hand. The dish "machine" they had only sprayed hot water on the already clean dishes to sanitize them. I had to wash the dishes in two bus tubs, one soapy water, one rinse.

I cannot count how many places I worked washing dishes. Now I can step into the dish room and keep up with the best of them. And believe me, the folks who are doing that for a living can tell if you are the real deal or if you are just one of those chefs who washed dishes once when someone called in. The dishwashers really respect someone who will jump in and help them out when they are in the weeds. They are some of the most important people on your staff because their number one job is food safety.

Not saying you should stay in the job necessarily, just trying to make the point that you should not underestimate the value of your experience as a "pearl diver".

And by the way, don't let it bother you that the waitstaff and bussers are just standing around doing nothing, because they are still going to be standing there when you are Executive Chef and you are in the weeds!
Michael
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post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 
good point michael, I never thought about it like that with them standing around. and I wash dishes the same way, sink bus tub and machine for sanitizer. I am not NOT not upset that I am doing dishes as much as I am that I was told I would be expected to help out with dishes if need be and then told I was the dishwasher who happened to cook. The "chef" expects me to learn the entire menu in one night and the menu doesn't tell you what the complete dish is... I just feel lied to. I would have kept looking if he had told me the truth, instead I turned down another job that paid less but had me actually cooking... The problem is that I came from a small town and I workied in the one nice restaurant around, I was unaware that this was not only a great kitchen but that I was actually spoiled. There was a real dish area... a real prep area and the kitchen was huge compared to this one. everyone had a job and the job description was clear and you knew who was doing what and where because it was always the same. I hate disorganization, I hate peoples drinks sitting around the stations and I can't stand seeing a waitress eat off a customer plate, I don't care if it is a french fry or a chip I hate it. I think I should have shopped around a little more when it came to taking a job.
post #8 of 9

Learn to handle it or leave

As with everyone else I have washed enough dish's to make an impressive stack. You are maybe being tested to see if you have a good work ethic and will stick with it. I never wanted to spend a lot of time with a young cook if I felt he/she was not going to stick around. It takes a lot of time and effort to train a good line cook and in a small kitchen everyone has to pitch in and help each other. There is no place for a person that is only willing to do one job. Good luck.
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post #9 of 9
Ill be working at a sushi restraunt this weekend for free. I hope they dont treat me like that.
Seafood Master
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