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Where should I go next?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hey all, just looking for you all to share your thoughts on something.

 

I've been working in kitchens for almost five years now.  I landed myself a nice sous position a year ago at a brewpub in PA, that does some pretty cool stuff.  Local foods, etc., and I have thus far enjoyed the freedom the position gives me to do what I want in regards to specials and running the line as expediter, learning more about the ins and outs of food costs, inventory, hiring and firing, all that good stuff.

 

I never went to culinary school (something I almost daily wonder if I should do), and this job felt like a reward for slaving away and working my way up in kitchens, doing all the shit work and paying my dues.  I don't think I'm anything special, I got into this line of work late at age 24, and am completely aware that in the grand scheme of things, 4 or 5 years of work experience is pretty unimpressive.  At the same time though, one of the reasons I picked this business is that I love the challenge of constantly being on your toes, making shit happen, and being good at what I do.  My borderline ADD self thrives in the kitchen, and what I don't have in terms of experience I try my hardest to make up for with work ethic.

 

So my dilemma is this:  I work under a chef who is clueless in a lot of ways.  He's a horrible manager, and I can't figure out if he's burnt out or if he never had "it" in the first place.  At this point he's working fewer hours than everybody that works in the kitchen, disappears for 2 hours on Saturday afternoons to get high, and is pretty much depending entirely on his staff for menu ideas and specials, which is a huge part of what we do using fresh ingredients.  The list of things he does wrong goes on and on, and aside from going to the ownership, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do.

 

Now, this is small town America, businesses work differently out here, and it's generally a bit more laid back, but just looking at the numbers on this place, I think the guy is on the verge of running it into the ground, and the ownership and investors seem to have no idea it's going on.  I feel trapped and that with my lack of education or a bunch of high end restaurants on my resume, I can't exactly go out and find a job that affords me all the perks this one does.  I know this is all part of what you have to go through to make it in this industry, but should I just bail and take the pay cut?  Should I talk to the owner?  Confront my boss?

 

Sorry for the long post, I hate the drama and soap-opera b.s. that this has come down to, but I've really not been in a situation like this before.  Thanks in advance for any advice.

post #2 of 7

You're going to have to 'feel' out the situation.

 

Does anyone else notice the same things you do?  Start chatting with the owners (if they are around) get an idea on where they stand and what they think.   Quite often they put up a 'front' that makes it seem as if they don't know there are any problems even though they know full well what's up.

 

Try and entice them into making a comment or two that will let you know what they think.

 

If there is one particular owner involved more with the kitchen - get his / her opinion on a sauce or something that the chef made.   Be polite, never disrespectful but ask for their opinion, often this will elicit some serious comments.   Which you can then use to see where they stand, ie. what they think about the chef and the entire situation.

 

Another alternative is to make a joke/comment about the 'chef's management style' be light at first but clear.  See what the response is - you might be surprised.  

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"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

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"Plus, this method makes you look like a complete lunatic. If you care about that sort of thing".  - Dave Arnold

 

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post #3 of 7

If you're gunning for the chef's job then the above poster has the inside track, but if you want to know if you're on a sinking ship, look to the customer. Ask the wait staff if there are complaints. Look at the plates coming back.  The customer doesn't give a flying shit if the chef is high on Saturday afternoon or not, all they care is if the food is good and they get it hot and on time.

 

If the chef is leaving everything up to you and the crew, than you can do his job with virtually none of his responsibilities and take none of the heat when it's turned up. Self-Promotion never pays off. Do your job and let your work speak for it's self. Be professional and raise the bar for all.

 

Keep your head up and your knives sharp.

 

Ari

post #4 of 7

Yep the above 2 posts got it dialed in. I was in your situation at that age and  the chef was pretty much having me run the kitchen while he enjoyed outside endeavors. The owners noticed that I was the one doing the work and as I began to get friendly with them they noticed I pulled off a very successful dinner rush which netted them some good cash and compliments from the customers and when they gave me kudos I casually mentioned that I enjoyed my work but could sure use the money that the chef was making and lo and behold they canned him and gave me the job.

Make sure you have learned enough though to pull somthing like this off as it is not just all about cooking. Like you I too never attended school and worked my way through the ranks and have been running kitchen since I was your age so if I can do it from the sound of your post so can you!

Off to work now but good luck with the situation my friend. Doug...

The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity !
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post #5 of 7

Ordinarily I'd tell you to never question your chef...but if this guy is disappearing to "get high"...ugh.  That's so unprofessional it turns my stomach.  Are you supposed to follow his example?  Blech. What each of us does in our down-time is our business solely but if it's becoming commonplace that does nothing but detriment the business.  

post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by MisterShow View Post

  I don't think I'm anything special

Now, this is small town America, businesses work differently out here, and it's generally a bit more laid back, but just looking at the numbers on this place, I think the guy is on the verge of running it into the ground, and the ownership and investors seem to have no idea it's going on.  I feel trapped and that with my lack of education or a bunch of high end restaurants on my resume, I can't exactly go out and find a job that affords me all the perks this one does.  I know this is all part of what you have to go through to make it in this industry, but should I just bail and take the pay cut?  Should I talk to the owner?  Confront my boss?

 

 

If you don't think your any thing special that's a problem that you need to deal with. Why would any one hire let alone promote any one that lacks self confidence?

It sounds like you are around 29 so at this juncture you should have a firm grip on what you need to do.

The real question is what can you do for a sinking ship with your experience and do you really want that job even if they offered it?

Going over the Chefs head and talking to the owners can work out but this usually ends up at one extreme or the other. More often than not it's a good way to end up unemployed. Not too many people are receptive to hearing from their staff that their place isn't working out so well with the Chef they hired.

This really emphasizes the reason why I say over and over just going out and getting a job with the notion that culinary school is a waste of $$ can be a really bad idea. The vast majority end up hitting a wall. Unless you are willing to pack your bags and travel to try to score a job with a skilled Chef that is willing to teach you then school should always be on the table.

None of us know your Chef, the owners, their personalities or your financial situation. Ultimately you have to decide the direction your career will take.

If you can't replace the job then keep your head down and do your best at work every day until you feel you have a solid chance at promotion. If you can get enrolled in culinary school while you work.

Best of luck .

 

 

Dave

I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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I think the most wonderful thing in the world is another chef. I'm always excited about learning new things about food.
Paul Prudhomme
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post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

To the above poster:  I'm not lacking in self-confidence, I'm just very aware that I got into the game late, and I am by no means a prodigy.  Honestly, I don't think I want to be.  I do this job because I like the work, I have no illusions or desires to be a famous chef or a celebrity.  I never really said culinary school is a waste of time, I just don't think it's for me.  I believe there are many roads to get where I want to go, and culinary school may be one of them, but I sure like being debt-free, and learning things on my own.  My plan since starting my current job was to spend two years in a management position, then decide on school.  I'm hoping that I can turn this experience into an opening at a restaurant where I can round out my skills, and hopefully make my own business a reality.  I've been doing nothing but learning and networking since day one of work as a fry cook at a chain restaurant.  I just happen to know that all the talent and hard-work in the world can mean nothing if you're unlucky or don't know how to be in the right place at the right time.

 

To all, I've been around the block, this isn't my first rodeo.  This place is sort of unique in terms of restaurants.  Small place in the middle of a one stoplight town in PA, most people have to drive 30 minutes to get there, and we're actually doing really well.  Costs are not bad, we sell tons of food, and the brewery = tons of profit.  The chef has been there since the place opened, and the owner is practically buddies with the guy.  It's as if he's totally blind to how lazy this guy is.  It's noticed by pretty much everyone but the people that matter.  I don't think it's a sinking ship and I don't really have any machinations on taking the man's job.  I've worked for some real bastards in this industry and out, and am usually a big enough asshole myself to deal with other assholes.

 

I am very much not a shy person.  I'm quite blunt, and pretty intense, this guy is just a different animal altogether.  He's ingratiating and passive-aggressive, so there's never anything coming close to a confrontation.  You can talk to the guy all day in a respectful way and he'll nod his head and agree, but he never actually changes.  I know I should probably just move on, but I was hoping to log some decent time at this place.  At this point I'm kind of acting as the executive chef.  Orders, specials, inventory, I'm doing it all and love the work.  When I talk to my staff, I hear "yes sir", when the ACTUAL chef says something, there's nothing but silence.  I have managed to earn the respect of my colleagues, and grown as a professional, I am just looking for a way to deal with this in a professional manner.

 

I suppose the most professional way I can react is to just deal with it and keep my head down.  Unfortunately I've never really been that kind of guy.

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