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Issues with being a new kitchen manager

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

Hi,

 

I've been working as a kitchen manager and dinner cook for a sorority for the last month. It's been pretty exhausting, since I'm new to it. My boss is very controlling, but I knew that going into the job. I want the job for the experience, not so much the money.

I write all the menus for lunch and dinners. I cook dinners five days a week in addition to ordering the food and putting away the inventory. I spend a lot of my time at home writing the menus, so I have the time at work to start prep work. I make just about everything from scratch and very rarely open a can. We use some canned products such as beans for humus and salad bar items. Half the salad bar is fresh veggies. I'm getting the hang of what the girls like and what they don't. My boss goes over my menus every week and picks what she wants on them and doesn't. I've had to work the last two weekends because we are short a cook still. I'm wondering if I've gotten in way over my head and if I can keep this volume of work up. I enjoy the feed back from the girls, but I feel like I'm not doing enough to please my boss. I forget to order an item here or there, but for the most part I do pretty well. I'm wondering if anyone can give me some words of encouragement. I'm also a Certified Dietary Manager. Just took my exam last weekend. I want to get a handle on managing the kitchen and my boss is trying to make sure I do like she would. I can't read her mind though and I'm getting frustrated. She constantly compares me to cooks she has had before in other sororities, but she knows I'm knew to it. I'm hoping it will get easier and I she will have faith in me.

 

post #2 of 20

chef kkg,

i think you actually know the answers to your questions and i'm pretty certain you don't need any handholding, so i will simply offer my opinions and maybe not so much advice(well, maybe a smidgen).

first off, you've only been there a month...give yourself a break. trust me, if there was a problem or controversy, you would know about it or you'd be gone already...come on...it's a sorority!

you're doing the job of 1 1/2 if not 2 people, which may come back to bite you in the arse if you don't get help/relief. you are showing that you can do the job of 2 swimmingly and effortlessly so where is the incentive  for mgt. to hire help?  in your effort to be ALL, which again trust me, you just can't be...ever...it doesn't work like that, you will eventually burn yourself up like a super nova. besides, teamwork and a good team is so much more fun than stressing over doing every single thing all the time perfecetly by yourself....did i say all the time..it gets old

pleasing your boss? if you please the girls you will ultimately please your boss, no matter how much of a pita she is. she basically works for the girls, or the girls parents actually..the ones who write the tuition check.  you don't need to be a rollover, but nothing, nothing, nothing says professional like open communication...it is key.  you don't need her to be your new bff, you just need the freedom to continue to do the already stellar job that you are so obviously committed to doing. they should count their lucky stars they got you! the old cooks, the former cooks are all gone...over...you're in, you're there. have faith in yourself...you do and will shine and eventually everyone will see it...sometimes it just takes a bit longer....

yes, it does get easier...but you need to hit your own mark first...a good friend once told me that the graveyards are full of indispensible people...it was an epiphany for me.....hope this helps..

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 #3 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thanks Joey,

 

It's been rough the last two weeks. My boss fired the other lady she hired along with me to be the morning cook and this lady was peeved that she did not get the manager position. So much so, she would do little underhanded crap to try and make me fail. I was sort of oblivious to it, but my boss wasn't.  Then my boss hired some guy as the morning cook that hasn't cooked in a kitchen for years. He can't keep up the volume and the desserts have been placed on me until he can do it or we find someone else.  I'm trying to help him with his time management skills, but he has got so far to go that I don't know if he will ever be able to do all the job's tasks. I sat down with him and asked him what I could do to help him succeed. I email him the recipes and coach him how to put stuff together. He can cook just fine, but I wish he could turn the volume up a bit and have his tasks planned out so he's not lost half the time.

 

I finally have a weekend off so I can sit back and ponder my predicament. There's a saying when you give an inch, they take a mile. 

My boss said she didn't feel comfortable with me bringing in my computer. Well I don't either, but when she asked me to print out my recipes at home. I did state that I'm not going to burn up my own printer cartridge, when I should be able to print the recipes out at work. I think she was trying to see how far I will go to make sure everything is hunky dory. I know she is burned out too, but I have to start setting limits. I don't want to crash and burn. 

 

I fought my way onto the computerized network for US foods so I could see prices when I'm writing my menus. The Rep pretty much did everything he could to prevent this from happening. It's better that I have a complete list for him when he comes, so I don't have to sit there for a flipping hour of my valuable time asking him about prices and products just to get the wrong item anyway. He's afraid I'll start ordering online. Well, he should have helped me out more in the beginning when he knew I was a poopi, instead of taking advantage of me.

 

So there has been a variety of things going on. Hopefully things will even out soon. 

 

I appreciate all the helpful encouragement and advice from this forum. 

 

Thanks Joey :D

 

Morgan

 

 

post #4 of 20

chef kkg, 

ask, no tell your food rep(tile) that you want a copy of the order guide for the past year....oh they so squiggle and squirm..too bad. if your rep doesn't do it, call us foods direct and request one...it is invaluable....also, can't you call the food rep to place an order or does he/she have to come in? i hate when they come in unannounced, in the middle of busy prep, or just in the middle of anything...obviously i don't think much of them, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't....good luck with them...put on your gator gettin gloves!

no one can make YOU fail, but you are right to set some limits..like what about all the unpaid hours you work at home on menus, pricing etc. i don't know if you are salaried or not, it almost doesn't even matter..you spend a lot of your 'free' time on your job, their business....you got a 'row to hoe' girl, but maybe think about why you are are there..what you are getting from it and what you have to give, which is mo' than plenty...don't be hopeful that it will work out, make it work out!...ok...so much for not giving advice

joey

p.s. ...just so you know..i mean no disrepect for not capitalizing your name title or anything else.... it's just the way i write

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 #5 of 20
Thread Starter 

Hi Joey,

 

The rep did give me an order guide, but unfortunately the sorority just started using USfoods this year under the direction of the new house director, my boss. So it's not much of an order guide.

 

I'm in the midst of trying to find or create recipes for healthy, good tasting dishes that are not too labor intensive and provide the type of menu my house director wants. Fresh green beans are a bloody pain in the arse, but the girls wont eat canned veggies at all unless they are kidney, black or garbonzos. I have to get the fresh broccoli and make sure that the stalk is attached to the florets. I place them floret side up, almost standing in a steamer pan so the stalks get the brunt of the steam first. It's a lot of prep work and I don't think she really knows how labor intensive it is to prepare 20 lbs of it for 50 girls. They eat every bit of it, believe me. Since I've been there I have been having to increase the food output daily, because there is no limit on how much these girls can take per plate. I made a spicy Szechuan stirfry the other night and threw in a sheet tray of the left over Curry Chicken I had frozen and along with it 100 servings of jasmine rise. 35 girls ate that night according to the plate count and cleaned me out. When those girls come through they take what they want and have no clue that it would be possible for someone else not to be able to eat because they took too much. I have to constantly overcook and have thrown way too much food away, but my house director warned me that I'm to never run out of food. She says she doesn't care if it is in the dumpster or in the girls gut, but I better not run out of food. :(  The house director says a sign up sheet never works and we just have to prepare according to the weeks prior using the plate counts as a guide. Any suggestions how to deal with this mess would be most appreciated! 

 

We use Veggies on the Run. My boss stated that ordering produce from big vendors is risky when it comes to quality. I use a lot of garlic in this kitchen where it had never been used before. The cook before me only used garlic powder and salt. I can't justify buying the bulk garlic in a tub that has already been peeled. I don't think we use enough of it yet. We go through about 10 to 15 heads a week. What would be a good point to consider ordering it like that? 

 

My boss took all the onions out of the kitchen and refuses to let us cook with them. She also took all the granulated onion and onion salt LOL! She has some kind of aversion to the poor little onion and refuses to believe it enhances the flavor of foods. I've been able to cook just fine without them. I just utilize my garlic, green peppers and celery. It's just another challenge for me. She didn't take my little scallions away :D and I may order a few shallots next week......

 

I'm in this job to get the experience of running a kitchen, cooking and ordering. I am a perfectionist, so they will get a lot out of me I'm sure. My boss stated that she is a little afraid that I may leave when If offered a Dietary Manager's job. I am on salary right now, but as long as it gets better here I wont leave. Being a Dietary Manager in a Rehabilitation/Long Term facility is a whole other animal. Their food budget is horrible and they are regulated to a SYSCO menu 24/7. Yea I'd say $23 bucks an hour is nice, but being able to write your own menu and prepare delicious wholesome food from scratch for $12 bucks an hour....? I think I can drive my paid off car around for a while. Know what I mean?

 

 

post #6 of 20

Buy your garlic in a #3 tub. I pay about $5 for it,You should be able to use that up easily in a week if your cooking for 50 each meal.

I would tell miss house mom that you want your onions back. What the hell does she know about cooking?

post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 

Unfortunately, miss house mom is my boss and basically can make me cook standing on my head if she wants to. I have to justify the use of onions in a dish to her before she will give them to me. Not sure if I'm even willing to try approaching it at this point. I made it through one week without them, but I'm starting to get annoyed about it. Makes me wonder what other action she'll take regarding cooking ingredients in the kitchen :(  She's very controlling and is determined to see things done her way. Just the way it is at this point. At least I'm cooking and ordering. I'll see if I can get it in a three pound tub when I order this week and see how it goes. :D

post #8 of 20

good morning chef,

sorry for the delay in answering...we are on a camping road trip(state parks) and i'm dongeless so internet access is intermittent. i apologize if i'm repeating, but i am under a time limit and haven't reread the posts..ditto what chefbuba says....you were hired to cook....fajitas without onions, beef stew, marinara, chili...can't imagine...one of those past cooks your boss constantly refers to screwed that up, for sure...maybe the girls don't like raw onions, but roasted onions are a whole n'other bird....look into 'roastworks' products...not sure if us foods sells them, but you can look them up online. they have some great products...roasted and seasoned corn, roasted corn and black beans, roasted and seasoned peppers and onions or just peppers for fajitas, all kinds of roasted potatoes, which i know potatoes are easy and inexpensive but these are truly great products....gotta love timesavers especially when they are great products.  there is nothing wrong with vegetables from a vendor. they have variety and bulk. you just need to check the produce when it comes in. you can get trimmed green beans in a case of 2/5lb. you could roast them or broccoli or asparagus as well instead of steaming...sheet pan with whole garlic cloves, evoo, s& p...400 oven for 10 minutes i would definately buy peeled garlic. you can get a 3# cyrovaced bag or container. i couldn't live without peeled garlic. once you have it on hand you will find lots of ways to use it...trust me. you can always roast it and it will last a very long time that way or you can freeze it too if you think it's a problem. there are some wonderful, wonderful frozen soups....did i say wonderful....creamy mushroom medley, roasted red pepper and smoked gouda bisque, other bisques as well. corn chowder, tortilla...such a huge huge timesaver and you can use them as sauces as well...

my solution to your portions/dinner service...get a server to serve just the hot entree item...it is the only chance of having any kind of control not only on portions but food costs. the numbers and bottom line will at some point matter...trust me! your boss will repeatedly end up paying MORE for thrown out or unused food than she will having someone serve it. pull the dishwasher out for a few hours or have the director do it, or you do it.. its better than spending your time  stressing over trying to make more food in a panic mid service... that gets hugely old, hugely fast!. the girls don't give a rats patootie about portion control, food cost or if the last girl to eat has anything or not. it's all about what THEY want. sad, but true and it's not likey to change in your lifetime. i think that sign up sheets do work, especially as you and after you gain a good reputation. they willl be signing up like crazy...yeah again(trust me!) i think relying on the previous weeks plate count is suicide. 

not to put a period at the end of your career, but you should be thrilled for your job...a week off at thanksgiving, 3 weeks at christmas, spring break, summer....nice..or it could be...there are lots of cooks who would be grateful for your job...

in closing...if i were in your bare feet, i would commit to a year and let the director know of your commitment...trust me, she will sleep a lot better and maybe back off just knowing that the other shoe isn't going to drop anytime soon...then with that out of the way, the real work can begin! it's hard to make the changes you need to in 3, 6 or even 9 months...

i hope this all makes sense and i apologize for any/all typos...i'm under a time restraint...

in closing...

in chaos, there is opportunity!....don't give yourself away though....

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

Reply
post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thanks again joey!

 

I'm greatful that anyone is responding. I have a dinner coming up that I have to prepare for over 150 people. I'm not sure what kind of turkey to buy. Turkey breast that is presliced or the whole compressed proccessed crap. There is only going to be me and one other guy working. I'm going to make mashed taters, gravy, broccolli and ambrosia salad. Do you have any suggestions to make this run smoother. Like the type of turkey I should buy and how I should set up the meal. I'm going to be prepping the day before as well. I'm serving 75 people at a time. Family style. House Mom and boys are turning the tables and then we'll serve another 75.

 

My boss will give me back my onions if I ask nicely. She just wants to know what I'm putting them in and how much. The other cook in the kitchen, that is not doing well, decided that he would saute some up to serve with hot dogs at lunch. He knowingly did this when he knew she had issues with cooks using them to excess. That's when she decided to remove them from the kitchen. She actually told me today that she would let me use onions in my stuff if I wanted, but the situation in the kitchen is chaos because of this other cook and we are just trying to get through until we can find someone who can step up and do that job.  Starting next Wednesday I'll be doing breakfast, lunch and dinner for about four days straight. I told her she just better set up a place for me on her couch :D.

 

We had someone come into 'stage' with me today. Great skills, but then he told my boss that he was waiting to hear back from several other places that offered employment through the summer. So he would just be with us until he found that. My boss told him that we need someone willing to commit and sent him on his way. At least he was honest, which is more than I can say for some people.

 

I'm pretty committed to this. I get parranoid that they may find someone else who has a lot more experience and get rid of me. I wake up at night worrying about product and if I have enough. I want to be able to get to the point where I'm not doing that every other day. My boss treats me well and is helping me. She is just pretty particular about things. I can respect that. Hopefully we'll get some applicants in soon.

 

post #10 of 20

Is this a school or old age home where food comes in mostly pre fab and done ? sounds like it?  and you just put it out.

Call your purveyor they make a real boned breast of turkey , that comes in foil that you roast. It is very good and is real and no waste. You need about 6  0unces pp.  25 pounds broccolli, or 300 pieces , 2 ounces gravy pp allow for some spillage,, 3 ounces cranberry pp, mashed 5 to 6 ounces pp,  stuffing 3 ounces pp. 

How one can operate without onions and not be allowed any because a kitchen manager doesn't like them is nuts. The publics food should not be deligated by 1 persons likes and dislikes or their personel taste. You are the chef not them. As far as someone to stage sounds like in your type operation great skills are not required.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #11 of 20

chef,

 

i have been doing this for over 35 years

just do what you are doing and the reward comes

from the people you serve everyday by making them happy

 

chef michael

 

ps need any help just write

post #12 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the amounts. I believe I'll have to order 30 # of broccolli. I serve that regularly and just trim a tiny bit of the stem. I order the full heads, not just the florets. The girls eat them up like crazy. I had 100 girls eat 13# and wipe me out. I had to make another veggie to back it up. I simply par cook them so they are al dente and bright green. These girls will not eat canned vegetables.

It is a sorority and yes I just put food out there. They take as much as they want with little thought of whether I may run out. I simply have to over cook. Lately there has been lines up against the steam table waiting for me to serve where there had not been before. I'm having to increase the food pretty much on a daily basis, because more and more are coming to eat regularly. My house Mom says a sign up sheet does not work, but I will suggest it to her again. She is kind of my mentor in all this, good or bad, she is my boss and I don't want to piss her off. I think once she gains enough confidence in me she'll let go and let me run things solo. She really doesn't want to be in the kitchen, but she was tasked to improve the quality and health of the food so I'm greatful that she has made me a part of that despite her restrictions about onions. :)

post #13 of 20

In catering likw what you are doing  The vege alway works out to approx 16 Lbs per 100 guest which is about 2.6 ounces per person.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 

Is that EP or AP amount Chef? That sounds about right. I may have not been ordering enough for the veg then. 30# of broccoli for 175 People should cover it don't you thing?

post #15 of 20

should cover it. Unless they eat like gorillas  !

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #16 of 20
Thread Starter 

Joey,

 

It's been a nightmare. I've been doing a good job ordering and cooking, but the house director has ended up being a royal bitch from hell. It turns out she has been to 5 different sororities in 6 years. She has all the staff pissed off and walking on egg shells. We have been short a cook all term because she either fires them or they quit. If I get an opportunity to get out of there I'm leaving before she tries to ruin my reputation. She is nice one day and basically nit picks the shit out of me the next.  The girls love my cooking and I've got a good reputation with them. She has been cooking lunch the last week and has me write the menu so she does not have labor intensive meals. She told me Quesadillas were too labor intensive. She wont let me just do it, so she makes me help her and then bitches at me the entire time about how hard it is. I'm so done with her. I've kissed her ass for two months and there is absolutely no pleasing this woman. She has a horrible reputation in the sorority/fraternity community. The cook that quit is working at another sorority and everyone knows why she left after 16 years and they asked me how I'm able to handle it. Well I'm at the end of my rope. The work environment is hostile and she keeps me in fear for my job constantly. I'm so sick of her bipolar shit and her crap talking people. I want to talk to the board about it in confidence but I'm not sure where to turn. She interrogates me about who I talk to and what I say. I'm not allowed to talk to the house keeper. Does anyone know this woman. HOW THE HELL DID I GET STUCK WITH HER.

I've put my heart and soul into that kitchen. A job I know I could love, this woman has made me hate going to work. I know she would replace me and not blink an eye if she could. She'll work me to death and not give a shit just like you said. I've had a potential opportunity come up and may have the chance to get out of there, but I'm sad because there are a lot of things I like about the job.

One of the board members came into the kitchen one day and said "I hope she doesn't quit too!"   I don't know if I can continue with this. Life is too short to be this way.

 

post #17 of 20

kkg,

you know all this, but if you need moral support here goes....

if you're losing sleep with the thoughts of how much you hate your work and what to do about it, you snap at your husband and kick the dog, it's time to RUN not walk to the nearest exit...as in NOW!!!  it sucks that it has to happen right before the holidays but what a great christmas gift to yourself. the girls will be on christmas break so it might actually be less drama giving notice now. if it were me, i'd give notice then write and hand deliver a letter to the board president explaining your abrupt departure, working conditions and abuse...it is abuse you know and abuse is abuse, pure and simple. there is a pattern here that will continue to continue long after you're gone if something isn't done or at  least made notice of. somehow at some point down the line and after enough kitchen employees quit, someone on the board will notice the huge and constant turnover...hopefully...

if you have another cooking opportunity, go for it..you're not 20 or 30 or even 40...yes, life is just waay to short to put up with any more b.s than you have to. this cooking life is already hard and stressful enough....

just used this quote this morning, but it's so worth repeating..."live each day as if it's your last....one day you'll be right"!!!!

good luck, keep us posted and get the hell out of there...it's toxic.....

joey

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

Reply

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

Reply
post #18 of 20

Couldn't have said it better myself. You sound so dedicated.....share that dedication with an employer who appreciates it. Life is, indeed, too short.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by durangojo View Post

kkg,

you know all this, but if you need moral support here goes....

if you're losing sleep with the thoughts of how much you hate your work and what to do about it, you snap at your husband and kick the dog, it's time to RUN not walk to the nearest exit...as in NOW!!!  it sucks that it has to happen right before the holidays but what a great christmas gift to yourself. the girls will be on christmas break so it might actually be less drama giving notice now. if it were me, i'd give notice then write and hand deliver a letter to the board president explaining your abrupt departure, working conditions and abuse...it is abuse you know and abuse is abuse, pure and simple. there is a pattern here that will continue to continue long after you're gone if something isn't done or at  least made notice of. somehow at some point down the line and after enough kitchen employees quit, someone on the board will notice the huge and constant turnover...hopefully...

if you have another cooking opportunity, go for it..you're not 20 or 30 or even 40...yes, life is just waay to short to put up with any more b.s than you have to. this cooking life is already hard and stressful enough....

just used this quote this morning, but it's so worth repeating..."live each day as if it's your last....one day you'll be right"!!!!

good luck, keep us posted and get the hell out of there...it's toxic.....

joey



 

"The satisfactions of making a good plate of food are surprisingly varied, and only one, and the least important of them, involves eating what you've made" - Bill Buford, Heat

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"The satisfactions of making a good plate of food are surprisingly varied, and only one, and the least important of them, involves eating what you've made" - Bill Buford, Heat

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post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 

Well I finally nailed a new job. The only problem with it is I don't start until Jan 25. I know this house mom is going to be extremely angry and try to get out of paying me. She fired my friend that she hired from culinary school because he stood up for himself and told her not to lecture him when he was in the middle of service. She is twisted and lies. She has been through 6 cooks in 4 months. I want to talk to a board member but it's too risky she'll find out before my two weeks is up and set me up somehow. She accused one of the other cooks of stealing and all he did was give eggs to another sorority cook who brought some more over later. So I figure my best option is to grab my check and sneak out of the kitchen and run straight to the board office and tell them why I'm leaving so abruptly. I don't need her recommendation nor would I ever want it. She has been in 5 houses the last 6 years. I just hope I can hold it together enough to get through the two weeks. I spend hours writing menus just to have her rip them to shreds. I got a job as a Dietary Manager. It pays twice as much and I get benefits. I'm not telling her where I'm going or why. It's an at will state. :) 

post #20 of 20

Shallots are wonderful I'd go that route. Congratulations on your new job! 


Edited by TrainMeUp - 11/2/14 at 6:56pm
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