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Frustraited..........

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone,

This is my frist post her.  I have never been a person who really posted on forums and such but I came hear today to get the opinons of culinary professionals because I am getting very frustraited.  This is going to be long but please bear with me.
I have two culinary degrees, one from a school in the United States and another from the school in the Uk.  I have so much student loan debt that I will probably my children will probably have to finish paying off out of my estate after I pass away.  
I love food, I love everything about it, but I especually love cooking it.  My jouney to becoming a professional chef has not been a good one though or an easy one.  
When I was attending my first culinary school, we had to complete a 3 month externship at a restaurant in order to graduate.  I had two job offers for my externship.  One was at a Ritz-Charlton Hotel, the other was at a small Hunting Lodge.  In the end, I chose the Hunting Lodge only because when I visited with the Ritz-Charlton Hotel, the Executive Chef told me that he was going to put me in the Garde Manger kitchen and that I would have to stay there for at least a year then if a position opened up I would be able to apply for a transfer.  
At the Hunting Lodge, they had a very small kitchen staff because they didnt' do very many covers a night and during service, it would be just me and the head chef in the kitchen.  I thought that I would have a chance to do and see more at the hunting lodge and get to pick a head chefs brain so I took that job... That was my first mistake.  The head chef of this hunting lodge thought that they were hiring me so that he could train me and then I could replace because they could pay me less.  So he didn't show me a damn thing... wouldn't answer any of my questions.  I was just like a nurse in a operating room, he would say "give me this... or get me that....." and that was my job the gofer as I use to joke.   The thing is... he then got mad at the owners and quit.....  So guess who got pushed into the roll..... me.  Here I was still technically a culinary student running a kitchen at an upscale hunting lodge.  When I say running, I mean I had come up with a new menu everyday, order supplies and be there to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Again, it wasn't busy, it was almost like being a private chef.  Some nights I might only cook dinner for a couple, I think the most I ever did was 15 people.  and they came as part of two groups....  But stayed because they were very happy with me, the owner loved me because I was doing the job for peanuts and everyone was happy with the food I was making.  I didn't know enough to know that I should get out of there.

Finally I did leave that job to go back to culinary collge in the UK.  That College in the UK was when I first started getting my rude awakening. .. Passed the course but just.... and that was with me not working, doing nothing but studying.  So I grauated and was recruited by a very nice 5 star hotel right out of college, one that had a great reputation for great food.  This was the year that everyone first realize that there was a problem with the economy.  So.... the restauraunt was short staffed and they had "cheapened" up their food.  And I had no training, no introduction.  I was just thrown in .... If i messed something up, I wasn't told the proper way to do it, I was just never asked to do it again.  If I was asked if I knew how to do something.....  and I said No..... then I never got to do it, no showing me how or even letting me watch.  I stuggled at this job as a resort..... I was finally laied off.  I went to work next a small restaurant in the same town as the hotel.  I was the second chef, covered the head chefs days off and cooked all main course items.  I had one other chef helping me who die d veg, starters and desserts.  The most we ever did here was 40 covers... as I was only working main course on Sunday and Monday nights.... the head chefs nights off.  Other times, I worked starts, veg, and desserts my self.  I actually did good at this job, the owners really liked me, and told me constantly that I did a good job.  Then.. the head chef made it known tha the wanted to leave.... so they hired a very well known local chef who had actually been a sous chef at a Mechelin star restaurant.  He was hired while I was there to work with the head chef and take over once he left.  The think is.... they didn't really need me during this time period so the owners moved me to the hotel that they owned and I worked in the kitchen there.  It was pretty much the same situation as the other Hotel, only three chefs working, doing weddings and other groups of over 250 people.  The food was crap which is why so few chefs were even able to do it.  And again.... I struggled, pretty much had me just platting deserts and even washing dishes.  

Finally I left there..... and went to yet another Hotel.  When I started, the head chef had just quit.... So the Old Head Chef (before him) had come in just to keep them going.  He really liked me and put me on main courses.   I did that for about 4 or 5 months until they hired a new Head Chef.  He let me stay there unti one night things went really bad during a busy service.  Now I will admit when I make a mistake but this problem was mainly him not me.  We were so buisy that I was working mains, a nother chef was working starts, one doing paistry and the head chef was working the pass and plating.  We got so busy that he told me just to keep putting the orders on tha the would get and plate the items when he needed them.  So I did, the problem was, he would grave the wrong steaks... plate well dones that were the person asked for mediums. stuff like that.  Plus, he would pull down the tickets once an order went because he and all of use where in the weeds.  At some point in all of it... I got lost and went to look at the tickets to see where I was at.  But he hadn't been taking down the tickets when he was sending orders.  I asked him three times to tell me where we were at and got no responce.... so i guessed and just put what I thought I needed on.  We ended up being two steaks short......  Of course it was all my fault.... and that was the end of me doing main courses..... after 5 months that ended it.  It really hurt my confidence and I feel like my am regressing now.  I quit that job and just last month started at another small restaurant.  But this restaurant is actually pretty busy.  Prep and all I am fine but when service comes.....I get so confussed now so easily....  At this current job, I am expected to cook and plate all starters and plate all main courses as well.  There is a floater who helps me by doing veg and who can also help me with starters when I need to.  But I get so confused and up the weeds so easily, much easier than I ded when I was the number 2 chef at the other restaurant.  I think a lot of it has to do with confidence because I am at a fase now where if I mess something up, I just go into a downward spiral, I get where I just can't do anything because my confidence fails me.  
I really like the job I have now but I am afraid I am about to be let go... and rightfully so.  I am starting to question my career choice for the first time since I began this journey.  I love food though so I still want to do something with food.  When I was younger I use to do a lot of history writing.  Some of my work has even been quoted in a few small time history books and I have had several historical articles appear in small town news papers that tied into a local historical event.  At the moment I am even working on a novel.  So I think I might actually make a good food writer.  I have a good palette, knowledge of cooking techniques, termanology ect.  But I have no idea who to get into that.  

So basically I have had to finally admit that it is me, that maybe I am just not cut out for restaurant work after my 5 years of trying, I really haven't gotten anyware and now I have less confidence in myself than when I began.  So I think I might would like to try to do somehting else with my two culinary degrees but am just not sure what to try and how to start.

I was wondering if anybody had any idea's on what else I can do with my degrees, what other jobs can do in food besides kitchen work?  I would really appreciate any advice or insight.

post #2 of 10

It sounds to me that you have great passion for the work and you truly do want to succeed in this business. 

 

What I am getting from your post is that the places you have chosen to work at, were not the right places for you.  Not everyone is cut out for hotel work or high volume work and there are plenty of smaller places that you could easily find employment in if you do still want to work in a kitchen.  The best cooking job I have ever had was when I was at the cafe and I was the sole cook... I had lots of freedom to come up with specials and new menu items and it was just an incredible experience. 

 

You have said that you could be a food writer and you could also use your passion for food and become a cookbook reviewer. 

 

 

 

OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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OK ... where am I going?.. and WHY am I in this handbasket??
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post #3 of 10

first off jpyron, welcome to cheftalk...its quite a motley crew here,with some very great knowledge...learn and enjoy!

 

well, actually you've done quite a lot. the choices might not have been the best, but it has gotten you where you are now. look at what you've learned(you have been paying attention, haven't you?)

sounds to me like you've given up on yourself. at times we all feel that we are 'over our heads', but for me that is just one of the great challenges...did someone tell you that this would be easy? sometimes we all need a break, a hand up, a reality check...our egos get bruised, we are constantly exhausted and aren't really making the big bucks that we think/know we are worth...get over that, it most likely will never happen!.....being weeded happens, being weeded constantly, you need to fix...its no fun for anyone and accomplishes nothing but more stress and blame. you need to look at your big picture and analyze what exactly happens and when. at what point do you get weeded? what is the cause/causes? are the tickets not getting fired properly? starters not going out on time? short staffing? constantly getting out of the weeds is exhausting and so unnecessary...remember to breathe! i can't tell you what to do with your life or career, but the bottom line never changes....do you still have the passion to do this for life?do you have what it takes? can you make a difference? cooking, she is a harsh mistress, but oh so worth it!

joey

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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post #4 of 10

I always tell the new Chefs, " Your only as good as your last Hurrah " there is very little loyalty in this business. Always remember, you are replaceable, under valued, over worked, under Appreciated, under paid. The only thing you will get from this job is, Self satisfaction, if that's not good enough then look for a easier job. Most owners, Hotels only care about you if your producing and making money for them, once you out live your welcome there is always, aways, always, someone waiting to walk right into your position. This person will be treated like gold " Just like you were" when you walk it, taking over for someone else. I real believe a good Chef should think about leaving their position at the top of their game. In your case, you have the passion, just find the right fit. This business gets in your blood. I could never do any other kind of work, no matter what the compensation may be.....................The best of luck..............Bill


Edited by ChefBillyB - 2/25/11 at 4:00pm
post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

I appreciate the suggestions everyone. Yeah I do agree with pretty much agree with everything that was said. I do think it is important to get knocked down a notch. I never was a cocky chef, I always tried to approach every new job meekly and was always open to knew ways of doing things even if I thought they were wrong. Having said that, my problem at the moment is my confidence. As I said, I use to be the second chef at a smal restaurant. But could I do that same job now? ... Probably not. I don't know when it happened exactly but I just woke up one mourning and just don't believe I can do the job anymore.... I am usually fine accept when things go wrong... when things go wrong my confidence really fails me and things just keep going into a downward spiral. Confidence is not the only issue though. I have also been having problems with my feet. I have a stress fracture in both of my feet. The doctors said that they couldnt' really do much for it. They gave me a cordizone shot in both feet and they made special ensoles for my shows made from a plaster cast they took of my feet. It hasn't helped though, at first it just took the edge off but it keeps getting worse. If I work a long shift say 13 hours like I did the other day..... I coudn't walk the next day and that is no exageration. My feet swell up, get this nasty black bruise on top of both of them and I just can't walk on them.... It is real bad when I have to work the day after I work a long shift because I am just limping around the kitchen pretty much all day. I don't have medical insurance so I can't afford to keep gong back and getting more cordizone shots. The doctor pretty much told me last time that the stress fractures had showed no sighns of healing and that I needed to try to limit the time I spent on my feet....... Of course working this industry, that is impossible. As far as service and my confidence goes, my biggest problem is mental. right now I am working at a pretty upscale restaurant that does about 70 covers a night with only two chefs... I cook and plate all starters, cook and plate veg course, I also plate the main course items if I have time. It just doesn't take much for me to get so confused. And the Head chef insists that all veg be up in the window before I start plating main courses which is stupid because the servors take the main course out before the veg regardless and the veg just ends up sitting there. When we are really busy a third chef does come in to be a floater, does veg, helps with starters while I am plating. There is just so much going on that I get so confused.... it takes me a few seconds to figure out what goes with what and so on. Other "chefs" come in tha thave had absolutely no training at all and can out do me on the line. I sickins me. I get so upset with myself especually when these same people could even begin to tell you even how to make a Bernaise or anything like that. I knew this profession would not be easy and it hasn't been from the very begining. I am just getting frustraited more with myself now more than the career. Between my cloudy head and my crippled feet... It is really hard for me now. I would love to stay working with food but I am thinking that maybe I should try to do so in some other capasity. As I said, I do have some minor experience writing articles for a small town newspaper but I would be very surprised if that would help me get a food writing job. I am in serious need of direction right now, I wanted to be a chef and I still do but something has got to change.

post #6 of 10
I feel you. Food writing is not bad. Besides many perks, it is good for networking that can help you go back to cooking. Thanks for the idea. I'll send OC Register an e-mail (begging again) if I can intern. :)
post #7 of 10

jpyron,

That's quite the story. The really sad thing for you is that in monetary terms whoever employs you from here will loose money on you, so lets address that one first. Can you take a pay cut cause if you can you will have options. Your obviously able to work with people and you have a lot of self awareness which generally makes for a nice person. 

 

I wonder if your problem isn't back to basics. Go back and retrain as a first or second year chef, you don't need the tuition or if you think you do well maybe part time is all you need. You are older and wiser than your apprentice buddies so it likely you will be able to negotiate a better pay deal any way. 

 

The problem I see are your systems. If your really confident in your systems and methodology you'll be confident enough to say to a chef that's all over the shop to "go jump". If you think there is a bit of a technical weakness in the way you do stuff go back and learn and nail it this time. With knowledge comes power, with power comes confidence and confidence will do you the world of good about now.

 

Writing, maybe a bit early. Again your going to have people jump on you in a different way and I would love to see you get great at some thing you already love, get confident again and go from there. Hell I started my journey at 35 after 20 years as a plumber.

I love my job
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I love my job
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post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello Garath,  That is great advice and something that I have already thought about.  Basically, the only problem I really have in during service which is the most important time as that is when the money is made.  That is what I tried to do at my last job.... be up front with them tell them that I still had a lot to learn and wanted to learn... took a pay cut.  Then I took an additional pay cut with the job about $2 an hour less.  I can't take much more of a pay cut.  The problem I have noticed is this... I am not sure if it is the economy or what but it seems that people are more than willing to listen to you say how you have a lot to learn blah blah blah and are really happy to pay you less money as a result, but then they still act like they have the exact same expectations from you.  I hate to say it but I think me having two culinary degrees actually hurts me...... people have a sort of expectation immediatly, it is almost like they don't even hear me say, "I have a lot to learn"   For instance going back to the last job I had... I was trying to get back on track.... I took a pay cut and went to that hotel thinking there would be lots of chefs and I would actually be able to work with someone and get better.  But it just wasn't the case.  I was put running main courses....  I did Ok as all I did was cook and someone else plated everything until the new head chef started.  He is probably really the person who destroyed my confidence or at least got me going down that path.  I would make a simple mistake.... like he would tell me to chop onions and so I would chop them, then he would tell me he wanted me to chop them lengh wise instead of across like I normally do.  He then said to me.... "What kind of Culinary school did you go too" over an Onion.....  He he continued to say things like that to me over stupid little things that in realiity probably made little difference. 

 

I mean I basically didn't get an Externship really since the head chef wouldn't let me do anything and then quit forcing me to be the guy doing everything... where I did pick up bad habits and didn't really learn the proper way to do somethings. 

 

What I am saying is with the economy, I don't really feel like I am being put into a position to improve my self in any place I have been.  Even if I take a pay cut and am honest with them up front.... they throw me into the deep end.... won't let me do tasked that I don't have much experience with and don't take the time to show you much of anything... if you ask them a question they act like I should already know even though every chef does just about everything differently.  I remember the first cooking job I got. I was just out of high school and got a job working at a small catering company.  I wasn't hired as a cook but as a guy to help them set up for events, I helped the load and unload their van and stuff like that.  Then one day they were short staffed for some reason and they pulled me into the kitchen.  They were very precise and deliberate with their instructions to me and I thrived.  Ended up working full time as part of their cooking staff.  That is what made me decide to go to Culinary College.  If my first cooking job had been like the past several have.... Then I can be certain I would be in a different career now for better or for worse. 

 

Again though my feet make things hard as well, its hard working in a kitchen when you just about can't walk. 

 

But yeah, I would love to get back into a place and start from the ground up and work my way up.  I mean yeah, I have worked at some bad places and ended up making some bad decisions which at the time seemed right...  But I don't like playing the victim card, no part of my current state has to be my fault....  Basically, I have all the confidence in the world when I am prepping for service.  Pretty much what ever I am asked to make, I feel like I can make it in reference to sauces, stocks, and most other things if I am told about any changes or the way the chef wants it done especially.  Where I seem to fall behind is during service.......  I just can't keep up with everybody else.  And unfortunately that is all that really matters and all the most chefs care about at the end of the day because that is where the money is made.  Who cares if I can make a Perigueux sauce if during service I fall behind.....  I honestly feel like I am getting worse rather than better though.... It's like I just lose focus or something.  As I said, I honestly and truly feel like if I was put back in that position as second chef in that restaurant that I worked in year before last.... I probably couldn't do the job now when I should be able to do a better job.

post #9 of 10

Again very interesting. I lost millions around 2000 - 01 and to this day if things get stressful the back of my head kind of shuts down. I can't think straight I get confused, memory is not there! It's the way I cope and I don't like it when it happens. What helps is a cup of tea and fresh fruit. That's it, but I still go in fads. I learnt that I had to remove myself from stress, not because I didn't know the job but because the stress made me operate poorly.

 

So I made changes, and I work best where I can think in my own time or I get into repetitive work. I can go fast with out having to think on my feet and truth be told it's why I decided on making sauce and jam. I am cooking, my senses are heightened, I have to work hard because I load the stove top with 4-5 pots and any one that has made jam before knows the golden rule is 1 pot. I am buggered if I get out of sequence, and it takes me ages to get back there. I too have bad feet so I installed a springy aluminium floor and now my work shoes are thongs, your probs are all fixable......good luck......the answers there some where.

 

 

 

I love my job
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I love my job
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post #10 of 10

may i ask? how old are you?...foot fractures are something you don't really want to mess with at any age, but as you age it gets progressively worse, if unattended...outside of painful surgery with a long recovery there isn't much you can do on your own outside of self help(rest, rest,rest,rest), meds, and sadly,a career change....my gut instinct tells me it that your boss is aiming to get rid of you, probably has a replacement in mind already. he knows you have  physical limitations and in his prickish way is bullying you into quiting by overloading your workload. at this point, you are a liability, not as asset to him. i imagine you must always be waiting for the other shoe to drop..don't let him make you quit...let him fire you, then receive unemployment for a time so that you can seriously rest your feet without stressing over paying the bills, and perhaps use that time to figure out your next career move..and that's all it is...its just the next chapter! between the reviewers, bloggers and food writers there is  wealth of writing  knowledge and talent. you need to get off your feet, chef.....suggestions?..food writing, recipe writing, online cooking advise for  a local college or vo-tech, teaching...home economics!...start with first graders and actually 'teach' children how to cook,eat healthy and the basics of good nutrition( we need all the help we can get in this department)  ...you don't sound like you are american, which in that case you would have socialized medicine, no? if, american,ok, don't worry...obamacare will be right with you! truly, on a serious note, perhaps you would do/feel better in a much smaller venue...virtually a mom and pop place, if you still do have to work...but times are tough out there, it ain't so easy getting jobs, but i would definitely get away from corporate, unless you have many years invested with them and are due for retirement and the benefits that come with it(haha)...but since you are a writer of sorts...how about a children's book..you don't have to actually publish it big time...just write it up..get a friend or children to illustrate it. have any grade school teacher friends to get you an intro to the school board? or go to the principle and tell them you want to do a series of talks on healthy eating, what kids can make(instead of going home to make nachos or cookies or brownies...then go on to the next class, the next level, the next school etc. schools are always looking for ways to educate and expose their classes to new ideas....just don't know what the school budgets are these days, but i figure it doesn't hurt to ask.......lastly, a food/restaurant critic for your local paper...working for the health department? they may have different teaching programs...maybe a hospital consultant? prison? i'll think on it a bit more,this is what i came up with on the short draw... you truly, truly have my sympathies

joey

 are you eligible for medical disability?

food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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food is like love...it should be entered into with abandon or not at all        Harriet Van Horne

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