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Developing line cooks got me down need a pick me up

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

28 years old, been a chef now for 3 years (16 years in food).... before the economy took a total dump had a good crew....now im having problem finding good people who can learn....much less that want to learn. Out of 17 restaurants in my brand Im #1 labor and #1 food cost, im extremely competetive and I will always finish first in these 2 catagories.  However now Im hitting a brick wall with developing people who can survive with my expectations.  You guys got any words of wisdom for a new chef with shitty pool of people to pull from.  Tried the guys from culinary school (what a joke BTW)dont want to do that again, (no exp=deer in head lights when the tickets come.) Im beat down from 60-70/hr weeks for 3 years and underperformer after underperformer hired and fired.  Just had my first kid and I sure wish I didnt have to work so hard for 40k a year.  Just need some tips on developing people, any advice will help.  im tired, a little drunk, and discouraged.

post #2 of 22

How long do they usually stay? Also do you have a lot of quits or is it just firings?

post #3 of 22

I got lucky a few years back and got a couple of great guys who were in college. One graduated last year and the other will be leaving probably this winter when he graduates. I believe at that time I will shoot myself. There is something in the young people now in that they seem to think everybody's equal, as in if they've done a job for two weeks, they think they know as much as someone who has been doing it for years. They think I want their opinion on everything, and when I tell them to do something a certain way, they start telling me why they do it their way. They have no regard for the fact that I run that kitchen and it's my way or the highway. They think they know better. I'm always walking around mumbling "Anybody would think I ran this place the way people always argue with me." Trouble is, they're the best of the worst and the rest are hopeless. I could fire them for talking back and not doing what they're told etc., but the next bunch would be worse. Around here the pay sucks, which doesn't help anything. They can work a no-mind factory job for more than what they get for cooking. I can't control that, it's up to the owner, although we do pay better than most places around here. And I kind of blame food TV for that too. They come in thinking that because they have grill spat or tongs in their hand that they're automatically the next food network star. Recently I fired a fish filet and my trainee told me not to start it because he had just put the steak on that went with it. I gave him "the look", which is never good, and told him he had a lot of hair telling me how to run the line in my own kitchen. So, I feel for you, but unless they start making smarter, more ambitious people, you and I are just going to have to keep working tons of hours. Although I don't. We're only open for dinner service so I actually only work about 40 hrs. per week. I have a closing list. I tell them to follow it. "Oh, I have it in my head, I don't need it."  So I come in the next day and find the deep fryer was on all night. I can't leave the place and trust them to close. They'll burn it down. If they're lucky. I tell them if the Ansul system goes off they're going to wish it would have burned down because it's not as big of a mess. And they would be the ones to clean it up, not me. Then they have the nerve to ask when they get a raise. I tell them I'll think about it when I can stop going behind them shutting stuff off, cleaning up and generally babysitting.

post #4 of 22

I too have this problem. I am a new chef in a new restaurant, and while my crew does OK, its not good enough to me. They seem willing to learn, but when it comes down to it, most of them are there because its a job. A few of them are in college for other things, and I know once that finishes up, they are gone. 

 

I struggle with a few bad attitudes as well. Since I am technically still in training (oh god only like, 5 weeks left) its still really hard for me to 'manage' things. The bar is going to be raised here pretty soon, and I think they are in for a bit of a shock. Oh well. There's always more people out there willing to do the job.

post #5 of 22

I stopped hiring cooks and started hiring people who give a s***. I can teach anyone who is willing,has a brain, with a good work ethic, how to cook. I can't teach a cook, how to have good work ethic, how to care and want more out of life. I have better luck hiring people with good values, rather than hire someone with cooking experience.................ChefBillyB

post #6 of 22

I'm with Chef Bill 100%

It takes to long to retrain someone. When you're away they will usually go back to their bad habits.

Older culinary students maybe. The younger, forgetaboudit! The CulinaryXX ecuse me, the Chef schools have tried

to  justify their ungodly tuition by drilling into the poor kids they are chefs when they get out.

   Try to get a connection with returning Vets. The percentages of people who understand support and team go way up.

pan

 

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 

Agreed Chef Bill. Its one of our new corporate policies actually...its pretty funny our CEO is pushing his new phrase HWPWGS (hard working people who give a s***).

 

Dont have the money to hire a bunch new people, however I do have some decent cooks who have gotten a little too comfortable.  I just need some fresh ideas on how to motivate and continue to develop them. I have tried the standard ways to teach and train, but as someone said above as soon as I leave or take a day off, the wheels fall of the wagon.  I also want to add that recently the menu difficulty has increased heavily due to an out of control owner.  So if you guys got any cool motivational tricks or things you've done that can inspire that feeling of passion that some chefs really do have for food in others, I'd love to hear about it.

 

 

post #8 of 22

It's either too experienced, or not enough experience. A guy can't win...

 

 

You could try what's called "transformational leadership."

 

 

I suspect part of the problem may be your owner setting impossible goals, and your staff are turning into whipped dogs.

post #9 of 22

I always tell my employees, It's the compliments I get about them behind my back is what counts. That shows me I have people with character, willing to grow and be better at what they do. I think small things make the difference, I will give an employee $100 to have dinner for their Birthday or Wedding Anniversary, they brag to their friends makes them feel good. It's really small things like that, just showing them I care about them.....................ChefBillyB

post #10 of 22

For some people, "results oriented training" provides more motivation than "do it this way". As long as the results meet your standards, do you really care whether they cut the onions following your technique for mirepoix or is it more important that, oh, 12 quarts of 2-1-1 mirepoix are ready for service?

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #11 of 22

We recently had an issue with a young man who after a month still could not do his job.  He was properly trained yet fell apart each day.  Most of the other line would cover for him but this day we didn't have a full crew and it was time for everyone to pitch in.  This kid just failed all around.  Then had the nerve to say he was not trained properly.

 

So for the next 3 hours I covered his work, trying to help my chef and produce food with precision.  Afterwards I spent the rest of the day doing all the rest of my work.

 

The next day I was scheduled off but came in and spent 3 hours retraining our young fledgling.  I didn't do his work but made him do it in detail.  I know that I have given everything to this kid.  When he comes in next time he must step up.

 

I feel strongly that each person must be trained to perform the job.  I must give the time needed to train by giving my attention and training well.  If then they fail, it is because of them, not me.  

 

How do we get this generation of entitlement to work?  I am still trying to figure it out. 

post #12 of 22

You said it April. They feel entitled. Their parents gave them everything and they are determined to work on their terms. Can't understand why I get upset when I'm telling them something and I have to interrupt their texting. I give them "the look" and their response is "Huh? What's the problem?"  Umm, you're at work and I'm not paying you to text your friends? Put the phone away before I take it away. They can't understand that the world does not revolve around them. They can't pay attention. They can't focus. They're all ADD. They're all part-time rock stars with hearing losses so you have to shout so they can hear you. Then they complain that I'm "yelling" at them. So they decide coming to work stoned will help the situation. And maybe if they have 2 or 3 energy drinks they can make it through a shift. Now they're jittery and really can't concentrate. Give me a break!  I make sure if there is a customer compliment that they know about it. That seems to go a long way with them. I also run menu ideas past them to see what they think. I don't just add items and expect them to suck it up and deal with it. Part of the reasoning behind that is they can't complain about it later because they were asked. I am also open to their ideas and suggestions. If an idea isn't vialble, I make sure they know why so they know I am listening and value their imput. The prior manager was a dictator. No one had any imput or say about how things were done, which was very frustrating to them. Now the problem seems to be that since they have the right to say whatever they want without fear of reprisal, it somehow translates in their minds that I don't know what I'm doing and therefore they can do what they want. I guess they view me as weak and undecided, which is not the case. I know exactly what I'm doing. I don't micromanage. If I want 1/4" diced onions, I don't care how you get it done asl long as they're 1/4" and finished in the time allowed. I don't wait tables (although I could) so I take waitstaff concerns into consideration when making policies. They wait talbes, I don't, so they have a better idea of how things should go than I do (usually). Sometimes they don't and customer service suffers and that's when I put my foot down. I don't know what to do anymore. And I don't hire "cooks" anymore either. I look for people that I think I can teach. But they're few and far between too. I used to be able to take a high school kid dishwasher and make a cook out of them, but not anymore. I always said I could teach anyone who wanted to learn how to cook. I can't anymore.  I don't know what happened. Most days I think it must be me

post #13 of 22

Hey Greyeaglem, I was one of those high school dishwashers, that thanks to a chef who took the time and spent the energy to train me, became a cook. I went from scrubbing pots to coming in early before my dish washing shift and doing prep, to working on the line when needed. Eventually, I stopped washing dishes and worked full time behind the line. I wanted to learn, had absolutely no skills in the kitchen, and was glad to have the extra hours at first. Later I got paid more also, but that was never why I threw myself into so much. I think I was just happy the chef saw something in me and didn't want to disappoint him. I worked my butt off and tried to repay him and show him he had made a good choice.

 

That was 30 years ago, and I still am thankful for his tutoring. Looking back he must have been glad to have someone who listened, "as in attentively payed attention", to his way of doing things, and then did them his way with no fuss. I didn't know any better, had no opinions to offer and basically would do what he told me. I like to think I only needed to be shown once and was naturally good at it, but I'm sure I made my disasters like everyone else.

 

Now I am trying to hire 4 people and am very undecided as to whether I should pay up for experience or take non-cooks and train them. This thread is stressing the need to get the right people not the right experience. If the right person comes along, maybe I can complete the circle and train them. I know this xbox generation's kids aren't like the older generation's were... but I have to think there must be somebody out there who gives a %$£%. Let's hope I can find a few.

post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by James-Italy View Post
 I know this xbox generation's kids aren't like the older generation's were...

...

Damn kids with their hula-hoops and jazz music.

 

Sometimes I prefer someone who can just follow simple orders.

Actually, mostly I prefer someone who can just follow simple orders.

It's not rocket surgery; I can train people easily.

 

And if their choice of consoles is an XBOX, then I give them crap for being a casual gamer.

 

 

post #15 of 22

Left4bread,

  Thank you very much for my morning chuckle!

It's going to be a good daylol.gif

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #16 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by left4bread View Post

 

And if their choice of consoles is an XBOX, then I give them crap for being a casual gamer.

 

 



excuse me sir, but i fancy myself a hardcore gamer and quite a mercenary in any kitchen, and i'm an xbox convert :p

 

but on the topic at hand, i think a lot of people around my age are interested in doing what they need to keep their jobs, not get any better at them. to me every day is a chance to push the boundaries of what we did the day before; get it done faster, cleaner, better, with less waste. why? because we're fu**ing brutal, that's why...but that doesn't seem to be a reason enough for a lot of the people that are comin up the ladder with me right now. i'm not sure what thier long term plans are, cook on the line forever? that's a sad way to spend your career...

post #17 of 22

Quote:

Originally Posted by jedimind View Post
 i think a lot of people around my age are interested in doing what they need to keep their jobs...

I'm not sure what "people around my age" is,

but I defend my DW's and I respect them.  I'd almost rather train them to be cooks than keep the current x-junkies

and noobs fresh from school. 

 

That's all I meant by my post.

 

40yo PC casual gamer, BTW.  Just bought a GTX570!  Had to upgrade everything/new chassis to make it fit.

$$$? dollars later...

 

 

 

 

post #18 of 22

Ever work for a chef who scared the hell out of you, yet commanded your respect? Don't be a nice guy; be that guy. Training, in detail, is important. So are verbal reinforcements: "work faster, work cleaner, &c." So is yelling, jumping on the line and showing the cooks how much better you are than them, and challenging them to become as good as you. If they suck, tell them they suck and can do better. If they do well, tell them they don't suck but can probably still do better.

Also, swing by for surprise visits on your days off to make sure everything's running as it should. If it's not, chew someone out. Do this a few times and people won't slack off (as much) when you're not there.

Don't fire someone for not being good enough. Push them harder and make them get better or give up.

post #19 of 22

this question recently came up at the bar. That question" is it better to change a flawed dish on your own accord or to Do what the chef tells you?" . i personally do what my chef tell and i do it how he tells me to.  Yet everyone i talk to is telling me they change the recipies when ever they feel like it . who is right?

 

post #20 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rexxar View Post

this question recently came up at the bar. That question" is it better to change a flawed dish on your own accord or to Do what the chef tells you?" . i personally do what my chef tell and i do it how he tells me to.  Yet everyone i talk to is telling me they change the recipies when ever they feel like it . who is right?

 

If you want to quit (or get fired), laser.gifdo it your way.

 

Otherwise, should you choose to remain employed, do it the way the Chef wants it done.
 

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #21 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rexxar View Post

this question recently came up at the bar. That question" is it better to change a flawed dish on your own accord or to Do what the chef tells you?" . i personally do what my chef tell and i do it how he tells me to.  Yet everyone i talk to is telling me they change the recipies when ever they feel like it . who is right?

 


I'd only act on my own accord if there is a food safety issue.

 

post #22 of 22

 

Quote:
cook on the line forever? that's a sad way to spend your career.

That is a sad attitude about a cornerstone position in this industry.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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