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CAN"T COOK

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Hi There

 

I'm simply writing this out of frustration and to see if anyone has dealt with this before.  Have you ever hired a chef with 30 years experience and he can't cook? I hired this guy thinking he would be a great replacement and after 3 weeks on the job his lack of ability in mind blowing. I know it sound crazy but let me know if there's anyone else out there who has experienced this before.  Let me know before I hit my head of the wall.

 

Thanks

post #2 of 18

I currently work with two people who are both experienced in the trade (20 and 30 years I think) who are pretty much useless. Not fast at prep, not good on service, not good at keeping track of checks, not vocal. None of the things that I thought would be 'automatic' after even 5 years in the profession do they have. Kind of demonstrates to me how it's perhaps not the length of time you've served, but the quality of places you've worked in.

post #3 of 18

In a thread here not to long ago the question was raised as to how to screen those interviewing for chef/sous/linecook etc positions. One of the things discussed was giving them some sort of cooking test to see if the umpteen years of experience they were claiming actually MEANT anything.  Sounds like you coulda used something like that when you hired your 30 year guy eh? surprised.gif All the years in the biz dont mean squit when theyre standing in your kitchen looking as though they just stepped foot in a Martian spacecraft.

post #4 of 18

Been there and done that many times.

I've learned quite a few life lessons on that very subject.

 

Brought an applicant in on a slow night to see how he'd react on the line.

Sure...it was 115 degrees in the kitchen, but that doesn't mean you should faint on the line, have to excuse yourself and then simply leave.

 

I also learned that being in the business for 30 years doesn't mean you can cook.

 

Brought in an applicant with years of experience and asked him to make me 3 gallons of potato leek soup. I had to show him what leeks were, because he'd never seen them before. When I asked him about his soup making prowess, I was told he opened cans of soup and poured them into a pot to reheat. But...........he had years of experience doing that.  :-)

 

Meezenplaz  you are so right about that and the above samples are why....

post #5 of 18

I'd have to agree that a working interview is the best way to test someone. The variety of kitchens out there makes it easy for many, many people to have long careers with no decent training or knowledge. For these people kitchen work is a job, not a career.

Personally, I'm a doer not a talker. I never feel like I know the right answer in an interview but I have pretty good knife skills and know not to look in the oven when I'm told to get lettuce.

The last time I interviewed someone claiming to have lots of experience as a chef, I asked him to wash some dishes while I talked with my partner. He took the heavy metal dishrack and set it on top of all the stacked china. That was enough.

The last working interview I had the chef asked me to finely chop shallots and herbs, peel some carrots, prepare three gallons of salad dressing from scratch (by following a house recipe) and a couple of other tasks I can't recall. So I'd suggest something similar where you have a few set tasks that will showcase skills from basic to more involved. As the old cliche goes, "Actions speak louder than words"

post #6 of 18

HAAA i could not imagine being in the industry that long and have nothing to show for it. Ive seen that happen quite a bit.For instance,working with a cook 1 on the line and having him cut into raw poorly cooked chicken breast and then slicing a piece of prime rib with the same knife.REALLY??

Not to mention he didnt want to work any other station besides in the fryer land.

post #7 of 18
It's shocking the number applicants I get that can't cook.
Working interview is definitely the way to go.
Things I look for in the interview:
-Do they wash their hands before starting and between tasks.
-Do they know basic knife skills/safety
-Can they cook a steak or burger to correct temp
-Do they look comfortable on the line, with the tools, equipment and the other chefs.
-Are they vocal...calling back orders, saying behind, hot or sharp as they move around the chefs.
post #8 of 18
Oh and give them some raw chicken to cut, prep and cook.
Observe the entire production.
This will give you a very good idea if he understands food safety and sanitation or if he'll wind up killing your guests.
post #9 of 18
I currently have an interesting situation with a head chef who started as a decent cook but seemed to regress to the point of near uselessness. I started working at an upscale independent living center (rich old people who complain that we have prime rib and crab cakes too often). When I started there five years ago, when we had turkey on the menu, we'd be buying whole turkeys and we'd make cornbread from scratch just to use in the stuffing. Now, the turkey is the breast/thigh ball thing and stuffing is out of a box. His reasoning is its too much work when in reality, its because he spends half the day on his phone with his wife. His sanitation skills are horrible now as well. What's crazy about that is he's lecturing other people about something really small when he's walking around touching things with raw chicken on his hands after he pushed some frozen chicken into warm water to thaw. 
 
This week was especially fun where he forgot to order almost everything in general and for my Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, he ordered a lot of the stuff to come in on Saturday. The amazing part is he's completely delusional about everything going on. He thinks everything  is going great, even though we say its not. He also thinks he's one of the greatest cooks around. The only reason things don't completely bomb there is I end up cleaning up his messes.
 
Its been amazinng to see someone who was actually a decent cook devolve into someone  everyone at work agrees is useless.
post #10 of 18

So he's been there a minimum of 5 years, (there when you arrived). He's become comfortable, complacent, about the business, the menu, the

clientele, even food safety. (However I've seen people take the food safety course....not the 20 dollar online one either, I mean the

six-hours-in-a-chair-in-a-hotel-meeting room, safety MANAGER course, pass the 100 question written, only to return to the

kitchen the next day, cross contam with knives, putting raw meat in fridge above ready to eat foods, ("only place I saw room for it! Waahhh!" )

handling noncooked foods without gloves, a host of other scary things. Were they sleeping through the thing??)

 

Anyway its your mention of the phone use that does it for me....he's become way too distracted... when they start spending half their time talking

to elsewhere, it usually gets worse from there, til someone gets hurt or $$$ are lost, and as head Chef he's in a better

position to assign blame as well as tasks. Something to watch for....

You didnt say he was owner or administrator etc.  does the person in overall charge have an awareness of whats happening?

post #11 of 18

I "inherited" an employee once who had 60 years cooking experience and was one of the worst cooks I'd ever seen. At the time, I was working as a GM/Chef Manager for Chartwells. I was following the District Manager into troubled accounts after he fired or chased off the existing GM. My job was to turn the accounts around and maintain them, help train a replacement, then move on to the next account. One account I went into was a National Guard training center. A 78 year old cook there had gotten started cooking in the military when he was 18, then had gone to work as a cook at the training center some 2 or 3 decades earlier.

 

Most the accounts I went into had horrible food and I had to fire, hire and train a lot of cooks. This particular cook was as stubborn as they get, and convinced he was the best cook in the armed forces. I once caught him making spaghetti for 400 servicemen by dumping raw hamburger, canned spaghetti sauce, dry pasta and water in a 50 gal steam kettle, then stirring it until it was all cooked into the most disgusting spaghetti you can imagine. We had it out over that kettle of spaghetti and he quit, convinced I didn't have a clue about servicemen and what they liked to eat. That type of belief has been the excuse of many, many bad cooks I've run across. They're convinced their S.O.S. is what people really want. They never lasted long when the standards were changed to meet my expectations.

 

Nowadays, I have a three step process when interviewing new chefs for my home chef service:

  1. Difficult verbal culinary test via telephone (95% never make it past this step)
  2. In person interview to guage their personality, hygiene and professionalism
  3. Cooking test with a mystery basket of ingredients

 

The verbal culinary test weeds out all the pretenders. I don't have time to meet in person with people who can't cook. I can't tell you how many indignant applicants I've PO'd with my verbal test when they find out they don't know enough to work for me. They get mad and tell me I don't know what people want or that they refuse to cook for anyone snobby enough to request "hollandaise". They don't understand that we don't even get requests for half the things I test their knowledge on. The test is just to guage their level of knowledge so I know what I'm working with.

Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

Reply

Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

Reply
post #12 of 18

Wow that seems relatively strict, seems like you'd turn away many applicants who may lack all that specifc knowledge,

but still possess the basic skils, personality aptitude and drive necessary to learn whatever you need them to....

and your way. But if you're still finding them....m'hat's off to ya.

Also sounds like you're steering a pretty professional ship. Which is good. smile.gif

post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Meezenplaz View Post

Wow that seems relatively strict, seems like you'd turn away many applicants who may lack all that specifc knowledge,

but still possess the basic skils, personality aptitude and drive necessary to learn whatever you need them to....

and your way. But if you're still finding them....m'hat's off to ya.

Also sounds like you're steering a pretty professional ship. Which is good. smile.gif

Meez....In this day and age you have to be strict. How else are you going to get passed the Baloney applicants shell out at interviews. 

If you talk the talk....you had better know how to walk the walk.....as they say.

post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Meezenplaz View Post

Wow that seems relatively strict, seems like you'd turn away many applicants who may lack all that specifc knowledge,

but still possess the basic skils, personality aptitude and drive necessary to learn whatever you need them to....

and your way. But if you're still finding them....m'hat's off to ya.

Also sounds like you're steering a pretty professional ship. Which is good. smile.gif

It is really strict for my business, but I pay around 50% more for cooks than restaurants do. The culinary test has to be tempered for the business you are hiring for. With my chef service, cooks have to have experience with a lot of special diets and restrictions. In a sports bar, none of the questions for those areas would be important, while it might be important for me to test them on their knowledge of prepping and holding fresh onion rings or french fries.

Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

Reply

Brandon O'Dell

 

Friend That Cooks Home Chef Service

www.friendthatcooks.com

O'Dell Restaurant Consulting

www.bodellconsulting.com

 

Reply
post #15 of 18

When I came aboard this new venture I inherited a cook with 30+ years of experience.

He supposedly used to work for Marriot, opening all of their new places.

You wouldn't know that to watch him work.

I've seen him make a good plate of food, but not as often as I'd like, which would be everytime.

He doesn't even come close.

He has one redeeming quality: he shows up on time for every shift.

Other than that....messy plates, horrible knife skills, lack of cleanliness, you name it.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Reply
post #16 of 18

I've been having the same issues with recently hired "experienced" cooks. It seems it's pretty well universal.

 

Also, has anyone noticed that most of them have only one working speed? It shouldn't take 5 minutes to peel a potato.
 

post #17 of 18

There are Doctors and then there are doctors. Some are very good some are terrible. This is almost in every profession, so why is everyone so surprised?

      I have worked over the years with many chefs some were good,some were awful. Some had fantastic organizational and management skills but could not cook. Some have BS d  their way through but eventually get into a situation where they get caught. Some function because they have a great crew behind them . When they go out to find another position and do not have that crew with them then the truth  shows up.. Have seen it so many times.

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 #18 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefedb View Post

There are Doctors and then there are doctors. Some are very good some are terrible. This is almost in every profession, so why is everyone so surprised?

      I have worked over the years with many chefs some were good,some were awful. Some had fantastic organizational and management skills but could not cook. Some have BS d  their way through but eventually get into a situation where they get caught. Some function because they have a great crew behind them . When they go out to find another position and do not have that crew with them then the truth  shows up.. Have seen it so many times.

Sooooo many times... Blah Blah Blah!!!

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