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need to train my chef!

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
hey yo chefs!
i'm siked to find this forum.

here's my story:

i grew up in the business - through the ranks, and just opened a cafe with a childhood friend. I'm front of the house, and she is a young, risky chef who's got talent...

BUT she comes from a catering background......and our kitchen is DYING! i can't caluclate w/o food cost. i free like i'm totally in the dark here.

our operation is small - 4 employees - 1 oven - 1 self contained frier - 1 flat top - 1 freezer - 1 double door fridge - breakfast and lunch only. m-f.

i can't get her to order consistantly from our distributors. she's getting **** from costco or sam's club all the time and i'm watching money fly out the door. i've made inventories, waste trackers....i'm a manager, i think in numbers. i'm the one catching the cooks wasting, throwing out, and burning...but i can't be back there all the time. i'm FOH!

oh chef gods, how do i train a chef to run a kitchen? any advice or tips are welcomed!
post #2 of 33
Sorry to say man, but if she is not up to the job, you might have to look into either replacing her or hiring a sous that has a better handle on this (dont expect him/her to be too happy when they realize the situation). By the time you finally get through to her, she may have already run you bankrupt. Friend or not, business is business.
post #3 of 33

Give her a budget, give her a reasonable food cost of say, 35%, and give her 4 more weeks. If she can't catch on, it's past her bed-time.

In many kitchens I've worked in, the owner ALWAYS had final say in what was purchased, from whom, and at what price. It is your money. However this works both ways, as it was Escoffier who said something along the lines of "The patron who cheats on his ingredients, looses the right to complain about quality to his Chef".

After giving her the budget and foodcost, sit her down and tell her you need at least 3 suppliers for meat, 3 for produce, 3 for drygoods, and at least two for dairy. The idea of relying on only one supplier for any item is about the same as walking through a gay-bar without any clothes on.....

There are a lot of advantages to being a small establishment, and flexibility is one of the biggest. Fresh sheets and daily specials are a valuable tool, you need to show her how to use it to it's best advantage.

If she's smart, she'll catch on quickly. If anything it will give her "bragging rights" on her resume to say that she ran a 30% foodcost.

Hope this helps
...."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 #4 of 33
IMHO, you do not "train a chef", you train a cook to become a "chef"!

A "chef" KNOWS how to run a kitchen, and that includes inventory control, food costing, menu development, purchasing control(s), personnel management, etc.

Apparently, you've hired a "cook" to run your BOH.

Give her two weeks with the guidelines YOU set up for food costs, purchasing, etc. Either she complies or you look for a real "chef"!
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
post #5 of 33
Tell her that salary will be based on food cost percentage. She should be telling you how to order, not you telling her. Start searching around before it is to late.
post #6 of 33
That was going to be my response exactly. I've always been paid, every time I have been in charge, a percentage of the restaurant. When someone is paid in a way that holds them personally accountable, they become much better at cost control and learn where the farmer's market is for grocery store ingredients and what the word "wholesale" means for everything else.

Good luck.
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
post #7 of 33
All the previous responses make sense....but

In your post you said "....opened with...." That implies a partnership situation. If that's the case, and if she's not trainable, then you need to find somebody to either buy her out, or you. If not, as others have mentioned, out of line food costs will destroy you.

I also think the professional caterers here would resent your implication that they're not concerned with food costs.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #8 of 33
Thread Starter 

KY you got it...but

it's not actually a partnership. the skinny is i have worked for them for many years before going off to college and managing a restaurant in chicago.

THEY asked ME to come back and help run the new place. and yes, i feel the catering not giving a **** about cost.

let me elaborate on the set up as is: our cafe location is TINY, as i mentioned before, and we do a lot of our cooking, baking and storing at the huge catering kitchen. which means that product that the cafe orders has gotten used for catering! argh! and it's my boss who's doing the using. ALSO, our daily specials, they come out of catering - extra product etc.

when i ran a restaurant in chicago, it was a tight ship, one walk in, one chef, one food cost. now i'm trying to figure out where everything goes, and where it comes from.

this is a small family buisness....and i'm not techincally family.
post #9 of 33
The first thing you learn in this business is, if you have to fire your Chef you better know how to cook..So I became a Chef............You say your front of the house FOH...Sorry to have to tell you, you are the house..............learn how to cook or get the **** out of the business.................Billl
post #10 of 33
Why were you asked to run the restaurant?

If I understand correctly, the resto is combined with the catering biz, and the catering is the one that makes the money, yes?
...."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 #11 of 33
It sounds like you are in a no win situation. Do you have the authority to fire her? It doesn't sound like it. If she is unwilling to change and you don't have the authority to make her change, I would be seriously looking for somewhere else to go, before you go down with a sinking ship and get blamed for it!
post #12 of 33
Something wrong here. Catering is far more profitable then full service restaurant. Are you watching the back doors, or whats comeing in?? Or could there be deals with purveyors? Is everything coming into the place weighed?, and counted. Are garbage cans checked for waste? She better go before you all have to go.:chef:
post #13 of 33
Maybe she just hasn't been aware of the situation. If she's a creative cook, maybe the thing would be for you to watch the numbers and let her do the creating. That means that you would have control over her, and from what I gather from your posts, you're an outsider in a family operation.

If that's the case, and they are mainly caterers, maybe the cafe isn't top priority with them, but a new avenue for them when they're not busy catering. If the big boss isn't concerned about the numbers, you're blowing into the wind.

I'm the owner in a similar situation. I did mainly catering and then moved to a bigger location where I could have a cafe. It works for me because I can use up everything I buy. For instance, I just did a beautiful antipasti platter for one wedding, used the more of the meats and cheeses for an impromptu platter the next day, and finished off the cheese in today's lunch special of mac and cheese. The soup from the wedding was one of last Monday's specials, and the left over shrimp went into the freezer to be part of a seafood chowder on Friday. And yes, before I get a lecture on food safety, I kept everything cold and didn't reuse anything that had been out on the buffet.:p The only way this would work for you is if the catering and cafe portions of the business worked together.

It took me a long time to think like that, though. I used to do a lot of wasting. Now I'm kind of a biotch when I see waste.
post #14 of 33
lentil, i like the way you think.

soup: run. run far far away.
Bork Bork Bork!
Bork Bork Bork!
post #15 of 33
Why, thank you Bryan....
post #16 of 33

Childhood friends and business don't mix!

:mad:Childhood friends and business mix about like vinegar and water.
Plus I can't believe you grew up in this business and not know the BOH.
That is usually where they start, washing dishes food prepping and cooking.
Then bussing and waiting tables, bartending and hosting.
When I started in this business Chefs got a percentage of sales and a percentage of
net profits and sometimes even a bar profit percentage. He would get a monthly draw on that percentage . Nowadays it's a salary and a bonus if they meet the quota.
Then the Chef was in charge of the kitchen, now it's the GM in most cases.
Then if the Chef did anything to increase the sales or profits he benefited directly.
A Chef was treated more like a partner, nowadays it's more like just another employee. A new Chef coming in could mean a 200+ percent increase in business
because they had a following of customers. Nowadays with all the young Chefs you never know who is in the kitchen . But getting back to your problem, you should have someone to take inventory every month and if sales don't equal 4 times your food cost
it's time for a new Chef. Like someone else said you train cooks to become Chefs, you have either got it or you don't.
post #17 of 33
This is why I always check references, nobody wants to hire someone who can't live up to expectation. I personally would be very careful who I allowed to spend my money, the only exception being my wife whoms references I failed to check! LOL:)
Cooking sous vide at Cambridge's third oldest College
Cooking sous vide at Cambridge's third oldest College
post #18 of 33
ok, as a district chef for a global corp. I deal with this all the time. first you have to get your chef to understand that, "quality food begins with quality ingredience" ...and costco doesen`t carry it. next start a budget system, and put her in charge of it. but keep it simple. show her last weeks numbers, show this weeks excected income, set the food cost. Monetor all spending, all purchases must be aproved BEFORE they are made. if you need to send her to a food math class.
in our corporation, we`re a smaller unit, we do about 1.8m a year, but I share the numbers with all my staff( after all their the ones handeling the product and making things happen). If I have to I micro-manage....but we always beat our targeted f/c%, and usually beat our projected profit margin.
The only real problem you`ll have is if your chef simply doesn`t care.
post #19 of 33

its very simple

dude im gonna make it easy her she either shapes up or ships out!!!!!!!! you cannot carry dead weight in these times make her help u audit suppliers and set ure prices so she knows what its costing and make her responsible for it shes gotta realise that it comes with the job i took over a large 4 star wedding hotel / kitchen and had the problem when i started i was running on a yearly g:p percentage of 63% now in 8 months im running at 71.5% you have got to take a stand here before she cripples you financially ure suppliers know she cant order properly and i can garuntee they are cleanin you out my friend and you dont even realise it . it lay mans terms friends are friends and buisness is buisness dont forget that " one thing has nothing to do with the other "
post #20 of 33
Looking at whats happening, I think that I might be missing the big picture.

Is Your Chef, (a) ordering through the Restaurant/Cafe for stuff, Or is Chef (b) transferring ex function/catering produce for use in the above.

If (a), then yes, a lack of both knowledge and guidelines = Bad for business

If (b), then no, a genuine knowledge of business and guidelines = Good for business.

Bottom line is cost. If the produce being used in the "retail outlet" is ex function, then theoretically has been paid for fully, therefore giving it zero COG (the price previously being factor into the cost of said function), so in simples terms, giving you a product that has the potential to "double earn".

On the other hand, you may not be aware of any approaches between Chef and the owners.

Like I said, big picture scenario.
"Nothing quite like the feeling of something newl"
"Nothing quite like the feeling of something newl"
post #21 of 33

I used to read this topic at human resources box of about.com.

You can use Google to search them.

post #22 of 33

She stated the chef has a catering background

:rolleyes:She stated the chef has a catering background.
In defense of Costco and Sam's Club, I and a lot of others go there for small events
because you can select the quality you want. Which is not the case when ordering from companies like SYSCO or US FOODS. Some times I have had to pick through
some of their produce because there was not enough time to reorder. In the Miami
Area they have a Restaurant Supply Warehouse for just for that purpose.
I also go to fish markets, butcher shops and farmers market for the same reason.
But to be sucessful in this in this business you have to know what going on FOH and BOH even outside of the house to make sure that all that you buy is being sold.:thumb:
post #23 of 33
In Cyprus I bought all my meat, fish and veg in a market; if what I wanted was available then great, if not the menu changed. Cyprus doesn't import much food so the menus HAVE to be seasonal and local. Great learning curve that has stayed with me ever since.
Cooking sous vide at Cambridge's third oldest College
Cooking sous vide at Cambridge's third oldest College
post #24 of 33

The situation seems to have been completely misunderstood by the CT community who are trying to offer advice and help. It's not fair to fault them (us) for the misunderstanding. The fault, dear Soup, is yours.

Since the restaurant is part of a family catering operation, and the young, risky cook in question has only a "catering background," and you are not, "technically family;" we must assume that she is "technically family." We assume, because you don't actually say so. If we assume incorrectly, we so on the bases of the data you selectively and confusingly gave.

If the assumption is true, you have no actual authority over her. In fact, you are, to some extent, her employee. If the assumption is not true, you still don't have any actual authority. In any case, all of the advice to fire her, sit her down and give her a sound talking to, etc., was meaningless. Not because it wouldn't be good advice under other circumstances, but because you neglected to mention the most important aspects of your arrangement.

Let's start out with your relationship with the owners; the chef's relationship with the owners; and the actual nature of your job. Then -- maybe -- we might be able to give you meaningful advice.

Right now what he have is 1) you work for a new operation; 2) it obtains a large percentage of its raw ingredients and pre-cooked food from a related catering business, and this is difficult to account for; 3) it obtains some percentage of its raw ingredients, and possibly some further precentage of prepared food from the chef, who buys it -- apprarently without regard to your budget; and, 4) it obtains more of its ingredients and possibly some further percentage of prepared food from one or more restaurant suppliers.

Finally, 5) you're having trouble keeping accounts; 6) the chef's purchasing does not fall within your proposed guidelines for cost control; 7) and you've decided thats the big fly in the ointment.

At this point, I get the feeling the best thing you can do is keep your mouth shut, your eyes open, and collect the receipts from the chef/daugher's independent shopping. Once the dust has had a few more weeks to settle, you can adjust the menu to reflect actual costs; or, if you have the authority you can adjust the chef's shopping habits to stay within a given budget. For now, the owners seem to have you there to count the money in and out, more than control it. But as I said, that's just a feeling.

If you get the chance, please write back with a coherent description of your actual responsibilities; and why you feel you lack the authority to carry them out. For heaven's sake, don't make us guess.

Sorry to be blunt. That's just how lawyers are. Please give us more information.

Ex owner/operator Predominantly French catering; ex cook at a couple of decent joints

post #25 of 33
It's simple. If she can't do it then you have to do it.

You have two choices. 1) Use raw food cost. COGS vs. sales and that's it, or 2) Use inventory transfer sheets.

My first ever job where I was fully in charge of the kitchen my FnB director did all the purchasing for the first month. He then slowly allowed me to order stuff. At the end of six months he felt confident that I could do it.

Nobody said the job was easy, and in a smaller operation you need to wear more hats.
post #26 of 33
We'll have to wait for Soup to do some 'splainin', but I get the feeling he doesn't have the authority to control her spending one way or the other. Also, I get the feeling he can't actually figure out costs because so much of what the operation is using comes from a related operation and they haven't developed a bookkeeping system for the relationship yet.

They'll probably end up using a mix of both. The owners will have to value the food they transfer from the catering operation to the restaurant.

Of course the books have to balance, but the ultimate valuation will likely favor the tax situation of the dominant catering operation than be a strictly neutral accounting. That doesn't necessarily the restaurant's ability to make purchases from third parties, but since the food supplied by the catering operation will probably come to the restaurant at a discount, it should give some leeway.

Here, Soup is the nominal "F&B Director," and obviously lacks the authority to impose such a relationship on the chef.

That's an excellent point. I think we can add that in a smaller operation you have to learn to roll with the punches. Also, it seems as though Soup's restaurant is not run according to the sort of rules he learned in his last job(s). In this one the chef has more lattitude to make purchases from suppliers other than the one size fits all delivery suppliers like Sysco. Yes, it's more difficult to make an accounting, but it makes for much better food. You can guess where my sympathies lie.

Ex owner/operator Predmoninantly Fench catering; ex cook at a couple of decent joints
post #27 of 33
I see it as working together to figure out the system until chef can take over.

People have trouble in new situations and whether it works or not usually want to stay in their comfort zone. I think in this case it's more about building the relationship together.
post #28 of 33

Let's start with a mild quibble before moving on to the areas of total agreement.

The chef's already taken over.

That said, you are utterly, completely, totally, and devestatingly right. Collaboration is the way to deal with the problem.

Soup and the chef should sit down after final service -- Lunch! Can you believe it? -- and go over the expenses, as well as everything Chef thinks Soup should know, over a beer or whatever else is appropriate. Whatever Soup learned in his previous jobs, he's got to realize that the Chef cannot be restricted to second-best ingredients. A little breakfast/lunch restaurant isn't part of the Red Lobster chain, and shouldn't be managed according to the same, highly limiting restrictions.

One can't help feeling sympathetic. From the various scintillas, iotas, and atoms of information we're getting -- the situation seems to be an accounting and managerial nightmare. Eventually, all will work itself out -- as long as the people involved share their information openly.

Work itself out, yes. But there may never be a way for the restaurant to account for the supplies coming from the catering operation which allows them to accurately cost them out for whatever purpose. At its worst, that could mean the restaurant's posted costs are subject to the whim of the catering operation which isn't exactly ideal for forecasting. Soup, as part of the restaurant, may just have to live with it; as it's so incredibly appealing to the dominant end of the business. Specifically regrading the question raised in the OP, Soup won't ever be able to figure out the meaning of Chef's Costco purchases relative to other expenses -- because the other expenses won't ever be accurately posted.

Oy. I've seen this sort of thing before (as a lawyer). It can work pretty well, but it will drive a manager and/or accountant past pazzo and into meshuggeh.

On the other hand, there are lots of opportunities for a breakfast/lunch operation to inexpensively retail packaged baked goods, dressings, sauces, etc., made by the caterer. You can put almost all the costs at the more generally profitable end of the chain, and the profits at the other -- maximizing the tax benefits to both.


PS. You're an incredibly smart guy, y'know. It isn't about right or wrong. Rather, it's that your ideas breed ideas.

PPS. Will we ever hear from Soup again?
post #29 of 33
If you work for someone who is not concerned about costs, then why should you be concerned? Everyone seems to be giving advice here, and good advice for a problem that does not necessarily exist.

Soupsample you are clearly worried about money 'flying out of the door' but are you taking the rap for it? Have you been told it is your responsibility, or is it troubling you because you are a manager and you think in numbers?
post #30 of 33
He should be concerned about costs because it is the right thing to do. If the place goes under he's out of a job. If the owners aren't concerned about costs then they are either commiting fraud or drowning in gold bullion. If either of the above are really the case then he should be outta there.
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