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hey 20 year old chef running own kitchen and nervous

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Hello my name is Manuel and my dream has come true of becoming a head chef of a restaurant that is opening this Thursday Dec 13. I am excited but nervous. I have been cooking in kitchens since 16 and went to culinary school for a little. But this restaurant I created the menu and the ins and outs of it. So I'm pretty nervous. It's not a fancy restaurant it's more of a hangout spot but . I put steak and pasta up on the menu. I'm just scared it won't be as good as I envisioned it. Can I get advice words of encouragement some tips. Please thanks ..
post #2 of 18

Read through the threads on ChefTalk. There is a lot of good information here about making prep lists, good buying practices and generally running a restaurant. So you can learn a lot the easy way. 

Here is my two cents.

1. If you are the owner, get a separate sales tax account.This is very easy and the bank will explain how. The sales tax is not your money but it is very easy to lose track of and then not have it when it is due. There are no excuses when you have to pay the sales tax. 

 2. Recognize your mistakes. Every Day. Don't be arrogant and keep doing  things just because it was your idea.  Do what is best for the restaurant, not your ego.  Listen to others. They may have good ideas, too. 

3. No matter how good it is. if no one is buying it, take it off the menu. Make what sells.

4. Everything costs money. The running water, the flame no one is using, the mayonnaise in the bottom of the jar, 8 ounces instead of 6 ounces, the napkins the wait staff use to wipe the tables, the basement lights left on all day. Be very aware of where your money is going. 

5. Quality products beat Lower price every time. A good product at good price, not a cheap product at a cheap price. Charge customers accordingly. 

6. Look for ways to improve every day. Food, service, buying practices, cleaning, maintenance, etc. There is always someplace you can improve. 

7. Take the time to prepare the food correctly. No matter how busy it gets, do not make shortcuts. Correct but late is better than late and incorrect.  Let the customer know why they are waiting. Quality always. 

8. Never forget that tomorrow is another day to do it better. No matter what happens today, accept it, learn from it and move on. 

Good luck on your new adventure. Have fun. 

post #3 of 18

We need to know where you are so we can all show up on opening day and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

This will also give you some pros to jump in and wash dishes or perform other grunt work if you get in the weeds.

Very excited for you...take advantage of chefwriters excellent tips and you will do fine.

Well, maybe the tips and a few xanax, lol.



post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
@chefwriter. It all started like this. I went looking for a jobs here in Killeen/ft. Hood and I stumbled across a job called Mel's big city eats. Went in me and head chef went to the same culinary school in Tampa it was a small world . He hired me for kitchen manager. I show up one morning and the business is closed down. I called him and he said manni I'm sorry for misleading but the owner shut us down. I was bummed out. Couple days later I get a call from the same dude, and he said someone bought the restaurant and he asked me to be the head chef but I choose to give it to you. Now I'm in the position where I came up with the whole menu. Little scared cause it's a pizza place but I have little experience makin pizza. But I'm still trying, never giving up I'm putting my heart in this. So if anything I'm putting time and dedication . It's just tough for me. Cause just a few months back I was an ordinary employee . To head chef making menu, ordering food and hiring kitchen staff.
post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
I'm nervous.
And @flipflopgirl it's located in Killeen, tx thanks for the humor to break the nervousness. Lol
post #6 of 18

Life is funny, isn't it. With little experience you find yourself running a kitchen. If you applied for the job, you would never have gotten it. But here you are. 

Nervous is good. Nervous will keep you sharp. BUT..... It's pizza. Start with just pizza so you have one product and a bunch of toppings. Add other stuff as you go. This means you can focus on one thing.

Start by making sure you have your oven temperatures calibrated (meaning the actual temp matches the dial temp.)

Make sure you have some money on hand to make change. People like to pay in twenties.

Have plenty of dough on hand, ready to go. Have plenty of toppings, fresh and cut ahead of time so you can make pizza's quickly. Plenty of cheese and sauce. 

Open the doors. 

Make and sell some pizza. 

When business is over lock the door. Take a deep breath. Recognize you are not dead. You did not kill anyone.

You find you had too much or too little food prepared ahead of time. Write it all down.  Get ready for Friday. 

On Friday,open the doors. Do the same thing only Do it better than you did on Thursday. Write it down.

Repeat over and over.   

Keep improving what you offer. Experiment with the dough. Experiment with toppings, cheeses and sauce. Improve your checkout times. Keep learning. 

post #7 of 18

Don't worry, manni.

After you have been open for a few days (maybe things will be slow ;-) you will get your bearings.

Then slam that whole Fort Hood area with flayers.

If the food is good and lots of it, you will have a a ton of cammo camels lining up to get in! 

Esp if you serve draft beer, lolol!

I would be there on the 13, but we are driving to Abilene for the holidays and not leaving until the 18th.

PM the name and address and we will def stop by!

Small world, eh?



post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 
Yeah I mean that's all I can do at this point .. I'm blessed. I'm humble about this situation. I have faith that I'm going to make an Impact because of the food I'm making. As a human I start to get nervous cause it's my reputation and name that will need put out there. But I have to go through trail and error at this point. But I'll make it., shoot I made it this far why not keep going forward.
post #9 of 18

Hey Manni, welcome in.


Regarding pizzzas, first thing is to anticipate selling lots, by keeping plenty of duogh on hand

made ahead of time. Nothing worse than being in the middle of a busy pizza day and getting

frightenly low on dough.

You said it  IS a pizza place so I assume you have any specialized equipment needed.

As to dough recipes etc it's all here and on the net. Back when I started making pizzas

someone either trained you or you used one of the few books on it.

But once you get it down, Pizzas are easy fun and profitable.




This will also give you some pros to jump in and wash dishes or perform other grunt work if you get in the weeds.



Hmm.. volunteering your fellow Chefs' valauable time again Mimi? 

Never thought I'd be able to say I'm glad I'm NOT in Texas.


Kidding of course. biggrin.gif

post #10 of 18

One nice thing about this site - you can share your recipes and get great feed-back and advice .... then either ignore it or use some of it or all of it.


Also that thing about people showing up from CT... might not be as crazy as you think... it is a small world after all.


Record keeping is a huge part of a 'good' business.


I used to make prep sheets every day... by hand; and make a photo-copy.  Put the copy in my journal and put the hand written ones on the lines.

This allowed me to tweak things on the fly and really be in 'tune' with what was selling and what was going to be wasted.


If you have a ton of toppings at your pizza-joint you will really benefit from recording things on paper.  Everyone says that 'xxx' is a slow mover but half the time people are talking out their ass and just using what 'they don't like' instead of actually 'tracking' what is selling and what isn't.  


Half the battle of being the CHEF is know what is really going on!


I wish you luck - and if you get any complaints (or raves) please share them so we can either help you or help ourselves.


PS- you're the first 'newish' cook / soon to be chef that I've ever heard - that seems to have his head screwed on straight!  



"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 #11 of 18

Remember where you are.  Make a brisket pizza and/or a barbacoa pizza and you will have a line down to my place in ATX.  Are you familiar with Brazos Valley Farms in Waco?  They have some great cheeses, texas style boards, and grass fed beef.

post #12 of 18

I really think you should probably go learn more before opening a place. If it's your own money you are risking then fine, but your playing with someone elses money here by the sounds of it, so think of them as well. A lot of restaurant owners are naive or don't have any real experience running a place. You will learn a ton throwing yourself into the deep end like you are doing, but a lot of the time this type of thing leads to failure. I'm not trying to be an asshole here, but it's just a hard truth.


theres some good advice in this thread and hope you do well, i thought i should throw in something like this for you to think about as well.


The only advice i think is worth giving is to just focus on the simple small things. Perfecting your pizza doughs, making the BEST pizza sauce around. Those are the little things people love and will come back for time and time again. Keep the toppings simple so you can taste everything that is on there. Most of all buy the best you can afford, go check out the markets often and get involved with the community around you.

post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 
Sup meez .. I have done extensive research and trail error to make the right pizza. I ended up with the right pizza that the people who have tried it. Im putting my heart in this I want to be known. And Michael yeah I have to put myself in the big man chair and continue on. It's going to be tough but ill make it. Garbal yeah your absolutely right I have it in mind. I have a bbq chicken pizza that I'm going to put on the menu as specialty pizza. And Patrick yeah it's a good conscious feeling thanks for the reminder. I appreciate the advice and words of encouragement. I will remember this when I become successful..
post #14 of 18

Good luck tomorrow. Don't forget to post again and let us know how it's going. 

post #15 of 18

 I will remember this when I become successful..

mm-hmm, and WE will all remember that we helped you. wink.gifbiggrin.gif


But seriously, and to ditto Chefwriter, be sure to let us know!



post #16 of 18

Hi Manni,


First of all, HUGE congratulations on getting your own kitchen at age 20. Lots of people have given you some great advice, especially ChefWriter. I'll just add a couple things. Keep it simple. Let the owner focus of big picture finances. You focus on running a clean, efficient line, putting out killer food, and coming in under cost every week. You've done your time on the line, so the foot, knee, and back pain will be nothing new to you. But as a chef, the mental anguish of knowing that you're responsible for everything culinary will be completely new for you. 4 top waited 45 minutes for their dinner? Even if it's not your fault, it's your fault. Your garde manger guy put the wrong dressing on a salad? You didn't do it, you trained him a different way, but guess what? Your fault. Just remember that we've all been in the weeds before. Have a shot of whiskey, shake it off, and don't make the same mistake the next day. I can tell you stories of times when my kitchen ground to a screeching halt and I was sure the world was going to end. It never did. The difference between a great chef and an insurance salesman is whether they get back on the horse the next day.


As you make the leap from cook to chef, your job description changes dramatically. You're no longer allowed to have tunnel vision that extends only as far as your station. You're now responsible not only for the food, but for the finances of the kitchen.


Now, on to the nuts and bolts. Somebody mentioned record keeping. You want to make good food, but if your overlords aren't making money, you won't last very long. If you want to come in under your food cost, if you want to prevent waste, loss, and theft, and if you don't want to devote 20 hours/week to doing so, you're going to need a good system. Full disclosure time: My father, Matthew Starobin, is the owner of CostGuard Foodservice Software, so I'm naturally a bit biased. I've also been a line cook, sous chef, chef, bartender, and manager since I was 16, and currently own and manage my own place. The first time I was running my own kitchen, I used spreadsheets for everything. One sheet had my sales items, another had my inventory items, another had my recipes, another had my weekly sales data, and a fifth brought it all together to give me something resembling a food cost. But we all know how this story ends. A system that's this haphazard, this prone to user error, is more likely to detect a flaw in the system itself than it is to detect actual shrinkage (meaning waste or theft). The food cost percentage that it spits out is a "best guess" that's correct to within +/- 5%. That's not good enough. A 5% miscalculation can equal tens of thousands of dollars over a year in a medium sized operation.

And what happens when a recipe changes? When the cost of eggs goes up? When I decide to change mozzarella brands? I have to go back in and change 5 different spreadsheets. I can tell you from experience, Manni, this is a nightmare. It ends up taking you away from the kitchen, which is where you belong, and isn't even a particularly effective way to keep your costs under control, which is the name of the game. At this point in my career, it's a nonstarter. With so many better options out there, it's like reinventing the wheel and coming up with a square.


The alternative is a powerful, highly functional piece of recipe management and inventory control software. I'm not going to lie, these aren't cheap and they take some serious time to set up. But once they're configured, they give you incredibly powerful data which can be the difference between coming in at a 25% food cost and a 35% food cost. That's the difference between success and failure. Most importantly, once you have your recipes, your sales items, and your inventory input into the program, adjusting them is a breeze, and lots of the processes are automated. Stay away from the $50 pieces of junk you'll see floating around. If the system is unreliable, the results will be, too. Anyway, a high-end piece of software will pay for itself in a couple months. I personally recommend CostGuard, and that's not just because my dad made it. It's because I use it every day, and I'd be lost without it. Our business is all about results, and if CostGuard didn't perform, my place would have closed it's doors long ago. Take a look at all the options out there. Most of them offer free trials. Choose whichever one you're comfortable with, make sure they offer ongoing support (you're going to have lots of questions in the beginning), and get your data under control. If your finances are as solid as I'm sure your pizzas are, you'll go far. Just remember- a cook makes food; a chef runs kitchens.


Manni, if you have any questions or need any advice, feel free to drop me a line anytime, preferably via email.


Best of luck!



post #17 of 18

How did things go?? I am excited for you. :)

post #18 of 18


We have to wait for the DGSs to get out of school this Friday and will have to fight traffic on Hwy 36 North (not ONLY a Friday, but right before a major holiday) so unless we make supernatural time, will miss your sure to be delightful pies on way TO Abilene.

Have to make the drive home on Christmas day and the boys will surely be starving to death about the time we hit Gatesville.

Wouldn't be a problem to swing thru Killeen for our pit stop, but you will be closed, huh?

I am still sorta working on waiting till the 26th to come home.

Would you mind PMing the phone number for me to keep with the addy as only been to Killeen once and may get lost, lol!



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