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How to deal with a messy chef?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

Recently started a new job, and am loving it so far. One thing that's been getting to me though (and apparently others as well) is how messy our chef can be. It's to the point that it impedes the efficiency and speed of others around him. He'll take our towels and tongues, dirty pans aren't checked to the dishwasher, and leaves his mise all over the place, all during service! 

 

You don't normally cook alongside head chefs, but even in the past I did so and it was never this bad. The fact that he's my boss, I'm not sure how to approach this. If anyone has any ideas how I can tackle this please share confused.gif

'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli

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'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli

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post #2 of 27
In kitchens I've worked in, no matter how crappy of a position it put me in, I made it my job to make sure that my station (and the Chet's, if I was beside him) was spotless. Maybe after some time he will realize what you're doing and change for the better? I couldn't imagine approaching my boss and telling him to work cleaner- that's not my place.
Sam Jebson
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Sam Jebson
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post #3 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltAndFat View Post

In kitchens I've worked in, no matter how crappy of a position it put me in, I made it my job to make sure that my station (and the Chet's, if I was beside him) was spotless. Maybe after some time he will realize what you're doing and change for the better? I couldn't imagine approaching my boss and telling him to work cleaner- that's not my place.

 

So your advice is to clean up after the Chef because he isn't capable nor responsible to do it himself?

 

What sort of advice is this? 

 

Those days.......................... are long gone my friend SaltAndFat

(coming from a old guy, who used to suck up to the Chef that way too , and found out it's a losing proposition)

 

If a Chef is going to receive any kind of respect,

if a Chef has to be able to command a team of his peers...

the Chef must always show himself to be the best at anything in the kitchen.

Cleaning should never be above a Chef's responsibilities.

 

 

Now Junglist...that being said,  since I do not know the inner workings or politics of your kitchen,

I can not comment on what you could do to fix this problem.  It happens.

What you're watching here is another persons habits.

Those are hard to break.

Approaching the Chef could land you in hot water or not.

I certainly would not clean up after him to make him look good.

He doesn't deserve it.

You know the Chef, I do not.

post #4 of 27

Some of the chefs I worked with were sloppy, but very good. We all have faults and ideosynchs. I am sure you do thigs that he does not agree with or like. I am sure he has many good traits. The fact that he is behind the line helping you guys is good. You have to worry about your station, he has to worry about all of them. I am not condoning his sloppiness though.

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 #5 of 27

Have everyone write him a note.  If everyone does it he can't tag handwriting to just one guy.  Or print out your notes from a comp.  Let him know as nicely and as comically as you can what a slob he is and how it messes up everyone else.  Try and get your notes out when and where he will see them privately not busting him out in front of everyone.  Maybe he'll get the picture then. 

post #6 of 27

I dont think making him see the picture would be the hard part.

Seems likely as not he'd just pull the "Whos head chef here, me or you?"

card. Or posssibly the

"I dont think I've gotten as far as I have by not knowing what I'm doing" routine.

 

IF he can be influenced at all in this, it has to come from someone he respects;

someone he listens to and has a good raport with. I cant see that being you--

you're just too new.

 

Time may change that.

post #7 of 27

He probably doesn't know its messy. As for stealing your towels and tongs etc, he probably thinks its okay because hes the chef, and doesn't know he's really doing it. Make a joke out of it, just to draw it to his attention.

post #8 of 27

Why not sign the notes?

post #9 of 27

Were you hired to give the chef feedback? If the answer is no, then I would not offer any until it is asked for. Unsolicited advice is almost never welcomed.

 

Focus on the positive aspects of the job and you will find them growing. Lack of attention on the negative aspects, and they will wither away.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #10 of 27

I don't know if this is the situation or not, but if it is, you might need to open your eyes....

 

Is the chef always on the line and always dirty?  Or, is he being asked to jump through hoops and do special dishes by the GM, owner, vip, etc?  Is he jumping on the line to bang something out and running back to the expo, or butcher table, or building up prep for your station.  I know as a chef, I can have multiple responsibilities at once that keep the kitchen afloat during service.  I have personally had to make off menu dishes that the line cooks didn't know or weren't capable of doing.  In that process, I have taken towels and tongs because it wasn't my station and I didn't plan on even being there.  Now, I don't condone leaving a mess or passing off a mess for others to clean; you should always work clean.  However, it is real easy and common for line cooks and station cooks to get big headed and think they are God's gift to the kitchen when in reality all you have to do is worry about your station and your mise and nothing else.

 

Again, if the chef is working a station and can't set up proper mise, then it's a different story, but I have a feeling it might be more than that.

post #11 of 27

I hope he is just stealing your tongs and not your "tongues". I agree that you should not have to clean up after anyone else. However, that being said your boss is your best customer  and you will do well on a pirate ship to support the captain. If he is willing to pay to have you clean up after him, he will not be around long because the efficiency of the house will suffer. I am sure that if that is the way he is about cleanliness, that attitude will show in all areas.

post #12 of 27

Maybe the chef is testing you.
 

post #13 of 27

Last year I quit a position for this very reason. Well, mainly for this reason. I worked with an "executive" chef, (more of a title, than of experience and professionalism) who was an absolute disgusting slob in every way. One of the other cooks who became his little puppy dog was also a slob of enormous magnitude as well. I found myself having to often clean up after them on top of keeping my own station immaculate, as it should be.

 

 It got to the point of total blatant disregard, inconsideration and disrespect. Leaving bloody cutting boards, using your station (since it's always clean since they destroyed the rest of the kitchen), spilling liquids on the floor creating working hazards for all other employees. Hells to the no.

 

First of all, a real professional (in every sense of the term) would never work like that to begin with. It's the first thing they teach you in cooking school is to clean as you go! I mean that's basic 101. And anyone who makes messes like that and just walks away from them expecting other people to clean up their mess is lacking in character. I myself have been sous chef, and supervisor, and would never ever dream of making a mess and expect some lowly cook to clean-up after me. I do clean after people, out of teamwork and camaraderie, but I will never allow anyone to behave in that way where they think they're so great they can't be bothered to clean up their crap. That is 100% unacceptable behavior. I don't care who you are.


Edited by Pollopicu - 2/26/13 at 2:38pm
“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

 

 

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“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.”
Oscar Wilde

 

 

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post #14 of 27
Thread Starter 

Yeah I meant 'tongs'; sorry I posted after a long night drinkbeer.gif

 

I fully agree it's not really my place to question the chef's habits, and the fact this is the first time it's happened to me is why I came looking for advice. When the chef and I work service together, it's usually just the two of us on the hot side. I'm actually flattered that they ask me to work the hot stations, to work dinner service, and recently a couple times during service on busy nights... the chef has enough confidence in me to take off (at least that's what I tell myself lol). 

 

I've sucked it up for now and just started cleaning everywhere when there's free time between tickets. I actually love the job and have been focusing on the good things about it. As mentioned I realize everyones' not perfect (including myself). Sometimes I think I'm ocd about working clean, but wonder don't others realize how much more efficient things would be if they did the same? More than anything I wish he'd stop stealing my damn towels and tongs...

 

I appreciate everybody's feedback, and am glad I'm not the only one that feels this way lookaround.gif

'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli

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'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli

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post #15 of 27

40 years in this business and the two constant things that I can think of that have always occured at every place I have worked

1.) my towels and tongs always get stolen

2.) I am always accused of stealing someone's towels and tongs

talker.gifchef.giflol.gif

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #16 of 27

I've worked with a chef like this and all i would do is clean up after him as quick as possible while keeping my area clean. Its the typical grab the pan from his hand as you see hes done with it. Your kitchen may even become even more productive if you acclimate yourself to his ways rather than wishing for a cleaner chef. Adaptation is key in any kitchen!

post #17 of 27
I worked for a similiar chef to what you have mentioned a couple years back. He would leave coffee cups everywhere. Jump ship in the middle of service and go downstairs and count how many cucumbers we have because apparently he forgot to ealier when he place his order. Go for 30 minute smokes to talk to his wife on the phone. The guys just trying to be "cut throat." Or he just flat out doesn't respect himself.

What I would do is keep looking after your station. Keep it emaculate. Grab a 2L bucket filled with losts of clean soapy water and set it between your stations with cloths next to it. Somewhere where you both can access it easily. Eventually he will start to notice your positive habits and join in.
post #18 of 27
Ask him to buy more tongs and up the linen order, he will understand.
post #19 of 27

Well, let's see.  A typical day at my restaurant, and here I am again attempting to run it well.  Yea me.  Been doing it for 21 years.  This time.  Doesn't get much more fun than this.

 

Very small town, small restaurant, full-service menu including Pit Smoked BBQ, steaks, comfort food from scratch, pasta etc.

Extremely limited labor force, approximately six-week learning curve.  Extremely here is an understatement.   Most are young, though and say they want more hours.  I'm almost 70, trying to slow down.  It ain't working.

 

Let's see:

 

PR in the dining room as much as possible.

Checking plates going out with the corner of my left eye...don't want that gravy dripping off the plate.

Running two four-foot grills, one flat one steak, when it's really busy and the grill person is needed elsewhere.

Occasionally use the left eye also to check portion control at the fry station, steam table, etc.

 

Wondering if a cook, Mr. X, has been sent to prison this morning or will he be back tonight.

 

Pit fire is built, but ribs weren't taken from the freezer yesterday as instructed.  Banging ribs on the floor because we're down to 7 slabs

.

Run from the line to the back to cut more steaks--had a rush.  Gotta watch those steaks and burgers and chicken on the grills, though.

 

Cuting boards (2), knives (2), left on the table.  One is slimy with the fish I just cut, one is bloody as is the slicer I also used for the steaks.  All sitting where I left them.

 

Checked the baking potatoes on the way by the oven, cut off the oven and left the door open for "someone" to get them out.  'Scuse me for asking.  After all, I was just standing there.

Oops!  Blackeyed peas need taking off the burner.

 

Orders for fried chicken and fish.  Both to be breaded.  Every one's busy.  Flour and breading gets on floor, and on me.  Hmm, I'll clean it later when I get time. 

 

My man is still in court.

 

Two people in the back.  Dishwasher three feet away from that table.  A cook/prep person three feet in another direction, finished with prep waiting for me to tell him something else to do.  Can't bother them.  Wishing the prep person would help the kitchen when finished without being told.

 

It's 12:30, half-past noon.  Damned food truck just pulled up.  Got to go tell him to wait.  He doesn't want to.  Hope the steaks, fish, chicken, potatoes, and burgers are OK.

 

It's slowed just a tad.  Now I've got to go apologize to the dishwasher and the prep cook for having to clean up my mess.  Will also ask the dishwasher nicely to please keep the tongs cleaner, so we won't have to use blackened steak tongs to turn the chicken filets, and to please remove the blue portion bowls from the trash..

 

Oh my gosh, got to have the order guide ready for the salesman in 45 minutes.  But what about the flour on the floor.  Ohhhh, humbug.  Gotta get it off my fingers first.  Wish the towel man would hurry up.

 

P.S.

This was yesterday, at least the food truck and salesman have already been here.  Looking for an easier day.

P.P.S.

Yes, they do clean up a lot of my messes, but they're good about holding back their anger.  Good thing is, I know from day to day which ones will get any available raises.


Edited by Raibeaux - 2/27/13 at 5:53pm
post #20 of 27

Sarcasm is your greatest weapon. Just say the following and see how he reacts:

"Man I can't wait til I'm a chef so my cooks can clean up after me."
 

post #21 of 27
Thread Starter 

Not one wanting to cause a scene, I've learned that subtlety and sarcasm has worked ;) Things are a lot better now, maybe not perfect, but the head chef and I have each others' backs. Just the fact that him and I have the most experience in an industry kitchen out of the enitre staff has gotten us through many trying times.

 

And just when things get better, in comes x factor. The company has recently hired an 'outside' person to come in and give advice on how to improve things both in FOH and BOH. Although the head chef and I have already been trying to tell management how to make things better, for some reason they felt it necessary to bring in this guy, pay him an obscene amount of money, and basically repeat everything that's already been said. I welcome criticism and feedback, but to go OT for one sec:

 

Strike 1: First time I work with this guy, is during a very busy Saturday dinner service. He's in the kitchen trying to change things during service, and has the nerve to ask why we're backed up on tickets when he's spending crucial moments showing us how to cook and plate everything. He couldn't pick a better time to show us these things? He was trying to make changes in FOH during service as well, and basically the entire restaurant staff became very frustrated...

 

Strike 2: During our slower times (and when he's been able to be in the kitchen when I'm not) I ask, 'So are there any changes I should learn or be aware of'? Him... 'No". He's in the kitchen for maybe 5-10 minutes at a time before he disappears to do who knows what for another 10-15 minutes... And that's when he actually stays for a period of time; in the first week he's left early twice because 'he wasn't feeling well'...

 

Strike 3: Back OT, this guy never cleans up after himself. His prep is left out, not labelled, not put away properly (and I say this because he goes home without putting stuff away). Cutting boards and utensils, never checked, never wiped down. Even doing tickets, this guy fires his food and just walks away. I had to finish 90% of his stuff tonight after he literally forgets about it...

 

I'm far from perfect, but I would think there is some sort of common sense in kitchen etiquette? I think I'm just forever cursed...

'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli

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'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli

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post #22 of 27

I would start looking for another job just to be on the safe side. Whenever an owner brings in outside points of view, there's usually a shakeup in management. Seen it many times. I wouldn't necessarily say that your head is on the chopping block potentially, but most definitely the executive chef's is.
 

post #23 of 27

True, unless the owner is reacting to a request of the Executive Chef lol.gif, then it could be cover for the EC to get rid of one or more or to institute drastic changes that the EC would rather not be seen as causing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by solsen1985 View Post

I would start looking for another job just to be on the safe side. Whenever an owner brings in outside points of view, there's usually a shakeup in management. Seen it many times. I wouldn't necessarily say that your head is on the chopping block potentially, but most definitely the executive chef's is.
 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #24 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Junglist View Post

The company has recently hired an 'outside' person to come in and give advice on how to improve things both in FOH and BOH. Although the head chef and I have already been trying to tell management how to make things better, for some reason they felt it necessary to bring in this guy, pay him an obscene amount of money, and basically repeat everything that's already been said. 

 

Strike 1: First time I work with this guy, is during a very busy Saturday dinner service. He's in the kitchen trying to change things during service, and has the nerve to ask why we're backed up on tickets when he's spending crucial moments showing us how to cook and plate everything. He couldn't pick a better time to show us these things? He was trying to make changes in FOH during service as well, and basically the entire restaurant staff became very frustrated...

 

Strike 2: During our slower times (and when he's been able to be in the kitchen when I'm not) I ask, 'So are there any changes I should learn or be aware of'? Him... 'No". He's in the kitchen for maybe 5-10 minutes at a time before he disappears to do who knows what for another 10-15 minutes... And that's when he actually stays for a period of time; in the first week he's left early twice because 'he wasn't feeling well'...

 

Unless they're part of the 5% that know how to create long-term positive change, everyone hates consultants, and for good reason. They're paid big money compared to the real employees and impose a pre-determined way of doing things without taking the time to learn the work culture. Some are nice and it looks like you got an a$$hole.

 

Consider confronting him -in a nice way- in front of the chef and the manager. With them present describe how he's interrupting service, slowing things down and then finding fault with the BOH. "We can't have you doing that. It lowers morale and keeps us from doing our job.  During slower times when I ask you if you if there are any things I should learn or be aware of you say no. That's the time to tell me and the staff so we can do something about it during service. When you leave after 10 minutes for a smoke or a phone call you're not available for a half hour or longer. I know you've been leaving early because you're sick but the rest of us don't want to catch what you have."

 

Chances are he'll fold like a bad poker hand and the chef and manager will know the facts. Consultants usually don't have the authority to fire people.

post #25 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by solsen1985 View Post

...Whenever an owner brings in outside points of view, there's usually a shakeup in management. Seen it many times. I wouldn't necessarily say that your head is on the chopping block potentially, but most definitely the executive chef's is.
 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post

True, unless the owner is reacting to a request of the Executive Chef lol.gif, then it could be cover for the EC to get rid of one or more or to institute drastic changes that the EC would rather not be seen as causing.

 

I can actually see both scenarios going down. Early when I started I was well aware that the head chef was frustrated, because he tried/tries to make sensible changes to operations only to have to go through numerous channels to reach the big boss on a decision and be denied. I am really hoping at the least that this consultant will mirror what we've been saying from the get-go, and some significant changes do happen.

 

I have a feeling that any positive changes that are made, that this consultant will take full credit for, even for the decisions our head chef suggested/helped with. I can tell the head chef is feeling the pressure of the entire situation, and has told me he's already looking into another job, and wants to take me with him. I'm kind of perplexed because he has a lot of talent, but at the same time I don't want to jump ship after only working here a month. 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by mano View Post

...Chances are he'll fold like a bad poker hand and the chef and manager will know the facts...

 

The chef is painfully aware of the facts, and after the feedback the staff has given to the managers, as well as them first hand witnessing the consultant 'in action' I think it's safe to assume that they know the facts as well. It feels like we're all running around with our hands tied behind our backs, as the decision to bring this guy in came down from corporate.

 

I'm soo tired of politics; I just want to be able to put out good food and work with like-minded individuals. Thanks to everyone for the advice offered, it's helped me put things somewhat into context... and possibly prevented me from taking out my frustrations on customers' well done steaks with my japanese lasers laser.gif


Edited by Junglist - 3/3/13 at 10:39am

'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli

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'A fool can't act the wise, but the wise can act a fool...' - Kweli

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post #26 of 27

I didn't say jump ship, I'm just saying cover your own ass. I hope it all works out.
 

post #27 of 27

Start looking    around   for a new one

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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