› ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Professional Food Service › Professional Chefs › Having an issue with a co-chef
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Having an issue with a co-chef

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone,


I'm struggling with a situation as the new chef, in a two-chef privately owned year round remote lodge operation.  I've been here 3 months, and the senior chef has been here just over a year.  We prepare b,l,d almost daily, share the "work load" and are more or less equals, according to our boss, although the other chef is the "decision maker, order placer, and menu maker" due to seniority, because "somebody has to be in charge".

I am very organized, clean and methodical; she is hap-hazard, disorganized and does not practice good food handling techniques, nor does she label/date anything.  She leaves a mess when she goes home for the day, brags about how wonderful her own food is, and gets mad when somebody likes my cooking.  I always thought that chef's like to create great things, have a passion for what they do and want to make things as good as possible under given circumstances.  She looks for the easy way out, the quickest way, and leaves a trail behind her.  I don't want to clean up after her, but if I need a work area that's dirty, I have no choice but to clean it.  She boasts about her credentials, of going to CIA, Hyde Park, plus lots of experience post grad. working under the likes of Mark Miller, a stint at The Little Nell, collaboration with Marcus Samuelson, etc. 

My credentials are boring by comparison, but my food (and attitude) has always been well received, here included, and it bothers her that I am getting complements, maybe more of them than she is.  She has the bosses snowballed as to her "greatness" (or at least some of them) and I'm wondering if I just need to be patient, and let the chips fall where they may.  When our billionaire owner came to town last month and I had my first opportunity to cook for him and a few guests in his private home.  I prepared some of his own venison, which he loved.  For dessert, my co-chef said she wanted me to re-serve some 5-day old already caramelized, long re-dissolved creme brulee!  (And he loves creme brulee.)  I can make great creme brulee, but I wouldn't serve THAT creme brulee to anyone, much less to the big bossman on my first cooking date with him!  Another example, she offered to thaw out some jumbo shrimp and b.s chicken breasts for me on Thursday for a dinner on I was cooking on the following Tuesday.  I'm very into fresh, high quality food, and thawing these two quick thawing foods 5 days ahead just isn't right in my book.  Why would you do that?  Overnight is all they need in the walk-in.  We also "help" each other prep, according to her rule, and I don't have a problem with that concept, but I don't want to put my name on something she's had a hand in because it could be old, left out at room temp. way too long, been poorly prepared or who knows what.

Possessing a lifelong interest and passion for food and cooking, I am humble, non-confrontational, take a lot of pride in my food and work ethic, love the intimacy of interaction with the guests I'm feeding (most of whom are "demanding and a pain in the ass" according to my co-chef).  I don't feel that way, I like to get to know them a little, and I care. 

So am I, or do I, have unrealistic expectations here?  


I would love feedback, advice, and/or suggestions in whatever capacity you offer!  Many thanks in advance!



post #2 of 9

Get out now, there is no room for "co-chefs" in the same kitchen.

post #3 of 9

Yep, get out while you still can. If you're not in a position to make her change her habits, then your best move is to get as far away from them as possible. You don't want your reputation tarnished by her poor product and practices.

post #4 of 9

IMHO, co-chefs is a recipe for disaster!


There should be only ONE chef (chief), the next highest rank is Sous Chef (under chief) who does what the Chef wants.

Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
post #5 of 9

Just because you have gone to CIA, and worked with a few well known Chefs doesn't make you a Great Chef.

It's what you do with the knowledge and skill that will make you a chef. It sounds like to me that she's a recipe for disaster and would throw you under the bus to save her own skin. I would leave, but before I did I would talk to the owner/manager and let them know exactly why your leaving. Don't burn your bridge by just up and quitting. Let them know that you would be more then willing to come back as the One and only Chef of the place with full control.  

post #6 of 9

It sucks to be in a situation like that.  The expectations in a high-class place are higher than what you're experiencing.


I'll assume that, aside from this glorified bastardizer of everything good,  you want to stay with this job.

Quick question - what happened to the chef immediately before you? The answer could show a pattern relating to the other chef.

It also sounds like it was possible that when you were hired they would have liked to have given you the higher responsibilities, but were afraid of offending the other "chef".


While it stinks to have to do it, I would suggest keeping a daily log of all the issues.  I know that a lot of them may sound petty if they were taken alone, but together they all paint an accurate picture.  Keep it factual and emotions out of it.  Stick to the things that affect quality, food safety and general professionalism, and stay away from things that make her lack of self-esteem apparent.


In a month or so, have a single sit-down with whichever bosses (usually hate multiple bosses) make sense.  Be clear with them that it's not only the end-product they should be concerned with, but also a clean, organized well-run operation, and the actual benefits that affords (easy health department visits, better efficiency, better staff morale, etc.).

I hope it works out.

post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much everyone!


I wasn't sure if anyone would reply to me and I'm so appreciative to hear from all of you!


I agree with the "co-chef" thing not being a good idea, but the ad I first responded to was for executive chef, not sous, and I think ChefDave11 is exactly right about them not wanting to offend the other chef that had been here a while.  Corporate job posting, management level interview.  And the initial phone inquiry led me to believe, although a bit vague, was that I would be "over this chef that had been there a year".  During my interview process it appeared we would be equals, but being a private lodge vs. a restaurant situation, I saw this as a thing that could be really great if we both were on the same page.  Which I thought we were, as it was presented.  Scratch cooking, organization, cleanliness, (especially in our newly remodeled $1M+ kitchen, (yes, really! it's amazing)), mgmt. wanting to bring our level of service and food to a "5 star level", (although they have NO idea what that really means), being friendly, positive, caring, etc.  Our owner very much into entertaining and showing his guests a great time.  And I've come to notice a consistent vagueness in answering of most any question at this mgmt. level.


The chef before me was fired, although from what I hear I think he did a good job but he had medicated-emotional sorts of issues.  He, along with other employees, have (had) longevity here.  It's not uncommon for an employee to be here10-15 years and more.  Kind of unheard of anymore.


Agreeing with PeteMcKraken, I also believe that someone has to be "in charge", and the accountable, responsible party.  Although I do think it could work with like minded individuals.  But to follow along with a poor example and poor practices is wrong, just because they are "the one in charge" doesn't fly with me nor make what they are doing right. 


I can't figure out how to copy and paste on this site so my flow is off here, so you know. 


She sees me roasting peppers and tells me "we have a can of those in the back".  And if I do something special for a particular guest's request, I will have (the hassle of having) to do it for everyone.  Aren't we in the service industry?  Don't we cook for a living because we love it, and love to fill people's bellies making them happy by doing so?  Tonight, after dinner my current fly-fishing guests requested to have the same blueberry pancakes I made them for breakfast this morning again tomorrow!  The servers were glad I was cooking breakfast again, as they know the other chef would have thrown a fit to have her breakfast plan changed like that.  I was flattered that they loved them so much to want them two days in a row!   They are on vacation, why not continue to make it an amazing memory for them?


I'm quite sure I won't be changing her habits, and she seems quite confident in her abilities, ironically.  My agreement with ChefChrisM.  My hope is through my quiet persistance that the differences will get noticed over time.  I have a lot at stake here, the corporation relocated me here and the benefits are really great.  But I have to be happy and fulfilled in my job too.  I spent too many of my younger years just hoeing the row, and I can't do that anymore.  I live in an amazingly beautiful place, mtn. bike, hike, fish, snowshoe, run, etc. literally right out the back door. and this could be the sweetest deal ever if I had the right "co-chef"!  Anyone want to apply?


I'd like to hear Chefbuba's reasons.  I agree with Peregrine's opinion of tarnishing my reputation, which I am afraid of as we "share prep" duties, or just have a general guest opinion of the food produced at the lodge, but it's clear to staff members, and possibly to guests, "who cooked this meal", and where the favor lies.  I am not trying to "one up her", I hoped we would be this amazing team, as I have worked in similar situations, but she is "not as advertised" and I take too much pride in myself and what I put out there for my guests to compromise my standards to her level.  She never asks my opinion, for menu ideas, has rarely asked me to taste anything she has prepared, and defends any critisism she recieves as if it "just couldn't be". 


My letters have been lengthy and full of details, and again, I am thankful for all replies!  The varying feedback promotes a lot of "food for thought".  I'll take it all in and will make my own decisions/judgement considering all the feedback.  Don't stop!


Warmest regards,


post #8 of 9

you've been there 3 months...  This senior co-chef has been there ~15 months?


I guess it's time to be brutally honest.   


Did you just notice these things?

Or where you ignoring them for the last 3 months?


How long has this place had a chef?

How long has this place had 2 chef's?


Why the hell are there 2 chef's?


How many staff do you "Chef's"  have?


"A year round remote lodge operation..." doesn't sound like you are a brigade, let alone 2 brigades that may require 2 chefs.


You are in a remote location... if that means the same to me... you are going to be a one man / one girl show.  Making the best of everything that can last at least a week in refers.


You are the co-chef... if a station is dirty you get someone to clean it... who cares who left it that way.


As the co-chef you are equal.  If the other chef is lazy, sloppy and dangerous you should just call them out on any 'problems' or 'safety issues'... you are the "co-chef" right?   


Wrong- you are not a "CO-CHEF"!




I'll be straight - you are a cook.   

The other guy/gal is a bad cook.


You get paid well but treated like a heel.


You either have to get rid of the other bad cook or GTFO right now.


You can get rid of the other guy / gal by taking lots of notes and slowly winning the popularity war with the bosses.

From your self description I doubt you'd ever win the popularity war, unless you change tactics.


Do you do service together or is it a one person show... your turn... then theirs... your turn etc?

If it is then you can probably easily win this position... then hire a  cook or better yet an apprentice to fill in for the other "chef"


Honestly I believe you are a chef and can get the work done but are just fooling yourself.

Get back to basics...


You are the CHEF or you aren't ....




Co-Chefs = 2 cooks with lower income potential. (for various reasons)

2 Chef Kitchens without a mega-ton of work = bad endings (usually ending in tears)



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





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


post #9 of 9

lol... and damn me


you posted your reply just as i hit my response.


 Well that's a lot of new info - lets work through it together...


... i'm going to start reading it all now.



back to eat crow or offer more free advice in a bit.....



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





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


New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Professional Chefs › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Professional Food Service › Professional Chefs › Having an issue with a co-chef