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At what point do you start refusing to obey an order?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
The other day I was working a 500 person catering job. I've always understood that in a kitchen you should pretty much shut up and do as you're told. Things move fast, and there's no time for arguing. I understand and accept that concept. To an extent.

End of the day, we're breaking down. I decide to take care of the 8 chafer dishes. I have to deal with large hotel pans almost filled to the rim with very, very hot water. The room we're in doesn't have any drains or sinks. I find a big pitcher style container big enough to contain about 1/2 the water in one hotel pan, fill it up, run to the bathroom, come back, fill it up, run... etc.

The sous chef sees me and tells me to take the whole hotel pan and go empty it outside in the planters. Only to go outside I would have to go through the room full of guests. Picture 500 people touching elbows, mingling, moving around half drunk, loud music. I tell him: 
- "Really? You want me to carry a hotel pan full of boiling water in the middle of the crowd?" He gets irritated and starts yelling at me in front of everybody: 
- "Yes, that's what I just told you to do!!"
- "I just don't feel like it's really safe carrying a large hotel pan full of nearly boiling water through a crowd"
. Nevermind probably killing the poor plants in the client's planters (but I did not mention that). He yells back: 
- "And yet that's exactly what I told you to do!".

At that point everybody was looking at me and I had enough, and I said "OK this is the stupidest idea, and I'm just not going to do it". I saw the sous walking away and I don't think he actually heard me, but I really didn't care at that point. I continued filling my container and doing my runs to the bathroom until I took care of all the chafer dishes.

That night I felt really, really good about myself. I just don't believe there's anyway I could have carried that hotel pan through the room full of guests without putting the guests at a pretty high risk, and I feel like I made the right decision.

I'm wondering, you who have more experience, have you ever been in that kind of situation or worse? How have you/would you react? 
post #2 of 16

" Be Careful You Have A Long Way To Go"

I' ve had Sous Chefs tell me to go and put a handful of salt in the soup that I knew the Head Chef had just made. He was jealous of my progress or he wanted the Chefs Job.
It's something you will have to watch out for.
It's just your word against his unless someone else heard him say it.
There's an old saying "The chef may not always be right but he is always the Chef." I've had many cooks tell me to do something but if the Chef told to do it different, I did it the Chef's way regardless right or wrong. It's just something you will have to deal with until you become the Chef.
I would have got another person as witness and have him repeat his "order." 
I would also have another job lined up. It's not the type of guy I would work with.
post #3 of 16
I think in this case, your right. There is a lot going on in a large catering, just understand the pressure that a Chef and Sous have on their backs. Not every decision is right, it may be the only one they had at the time. I would talk with the Sous,  and tell him why you were doing things the way you were. Now that its over he may see your point. The lesson you learned, is to make sure you have 5 gal buckets at the catering, to pour the hot water into, and dispose of easier.I always make sure I have easy outs after a catering, so I don't have to walk through a crowd room, its all in the planning................Chef Bill
post #4 of 16
I think you did what was safest for everyone involved and I have done events where there is alot of alcohol consumption involved and the last thing anyone needs is a pan of near boiling water in a room with people who are less than sober.  I'm with Bill.. talk to the sous and let him know what your reasoning was.  It could be that he was just stressed to the max with running the event and he didn't see the greater picture.
Good luck to you and let us know what comes of it!
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post #5 of 16
I have to agree with ChefBillyB. As for myself, I have in the past done things the chef's way because, after all, they were the chef. I have also politely disagreed (though politeness didn't help any) when it involved a safety issue, like burning your guests with hot water, or in my case, serving beans that smelled "off". In the end, the chef was not happy with me (and I did speak to him later about the incident), but I could go home at the end if the day with a good conscience.
post #6 of 16
 Tough call you definitely have to use your best judgement. I also think it depends who's kitchen your in. When I worked in France if I even thought of questioning the chef or sous chef I would of been asked to leave. I would imagine it is the same if you work at say Charlie trotters you are going to as your told or you won't be there very long.

My advice would of been to take the time to get a proper container such as a 5 gallon bucket and move the water in a more efficient manner. It is a red flag for a sous chef or chef if they perceive you are doing something in an inefficient manner. Maybe a five gallon bucket wasn't an option to you but that is what I would of done.
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Nicko 
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post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks a lot for all the answers!

I think ChefBillyB hit it right on the nail: lots of stress. We'd all been working real hard for 8 hours straight. The funny thing is, since early in the day that guy was criticizing many things I was doing, several times rightly so, but also a few times for no apparent reason - but always in a mean kinda way.

He was kind of getting on my nerves but at the same time he also "bailed me out" a couple of times, showing me where to find things I was looking for (my biggest weakness seems to be that I can never find the stuff I need and always end up having to ask, which I myself find annoying as I'd rather just get the work done without having to disturb anyone), so I couldn't really make up my mind about his attitude.

I also heard the guy recently got a great position in a big restaurant, so I suppose he knows what he's doing.

So yeah in the end I suppose that he was stressed and who knows what was running through his mind. I would be fine never ever working with the guy again, but I know I most probably will have to, and that's fine too.
post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChefBillyB View Post

I think in this case, your right. There is a lot going on in a large catering, just understand the pressure that a Chef and Sous have on their backs. Not every decision is right, it may be the only one they had at the time. I would talk with the Sous,  and tell him why you were doing things the way you were. Now that its over he may see your point. The lesson you learned, is to make sure you have 5 gal buckets at the catering, to pour the hot water into, and dispose of easier.I always make sure I have easy outs after a catering, so I don't have to walk through a crowd room, its all in the planning................Chef Bill

5 Gallon buckets and about 6 feet of clear plastic tubing, just go to a restaurant supply house and tell them that you need a length of soda machine hose, help a great deal for emptying lage water baths without blanching your arm.  Put one end of the tube in the pan, suck on the other end like a straw, carefully for God's sake, and watch for water to start flowing.  Put the end that's in your hand into the bucket quickly and let it flow.  As long as the bucket is lower than the bottom of the pan, it will drain without any of the spilling or carrying heavy stuff of just dumping it.
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
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post #9 of 16
Happy to see everyone is in agreement.
You always do what the chef tells you, with one exception: if it's a health or safety issue.
You may still find yourself looking for a job but I'd rather do that than injure people.
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post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Just Jim View Post
You may still find yourself looking for a job but I'd rather do that than injure people.

Thanks JJ. That's exactly what went through my mind.
post #11 of 16
Injuring people comes at a huge cost and we need to make sure we avoid doing that at all times. 
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post #12 of 16
If it is a matter of how to cook something I would listen to the senior cook/chef. However, in your case I believe you did the right thing.
post #13 of 16
i think you did the right thing, you used your common sense and good judgement. no one can dispute that.
post #14 of 16
you did the right thing french fries, always in any situation safety comes first. and i bet no doubt that if you did what the chef had told you to do and caused an accident i bet highly likely that you would have got the blame for it too despite carrying out an order.


on a second thought do they have any 'trolleys' at your place of work? transporting chaffing dishes on a trolley would not only minimise the risk t yourself but to that of other people also, just a thought
 
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we're as good as our last meal.
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post #15 of 16
 I feel your pain, My chef and sous Chef's are always contradicting each other. Ive gotten used to cooking the dishes slightly different based on who's working but as soon as they're both on line the jig is up. Its tough because I cant really tell the sous, "chef wants me to do it this way" because chef always tells me that "He's [sous chef] Is never wrong so just do it his way" but chef still wants me to do things his way... I think. I don't know but they're gotten in minor arguments about these little tiny details before and I just tend to follow orders based on who's giving them. I have been in a similar situation where Ive been told to do something not food safe, thankfully it was just by some one of a heigher position and not a chef. I just played the germophobe card and he didn't take offense I just got a weird look and an eye roll
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post #16 of 16
Quote:
The sous chef sees me and tells me to take the whole hotel pan and go empty it outside in the planters.
You say "yes chef".

Then you empty the water into appropriate containers which you take outside while taking the empty hotel pan along with you. Problem solved safely and you did what you were told.
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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