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How to Motivate an Older Cook?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

So I have a grill cook who has been with me for a few months. He is almost double my age and has been in the kitchen longer than I've been alive. He has head chef experience and a lot of kitchen manager experience and for some reason or another is working back on the line again. He generally does an average job behind the line, he MUST get better but that's for another day.

 

Anyways, he is very quiet, somewhat shy and not very motivated unless I light a fire under his a$$. He will do the bare minimum to get by and even then I find him spending most of his prep time doing nothing other than getting his own station set up, slowly.

 

I think a lot of my problems with him are he's making $11 an hour when he used to making a decent salaried living as a manager or head chef. I'm getting the feeling he's putting in what he thinks is $11 worth of work for $11 worth of pay. He's generally a nice guy but is so quiet that I don't really know how to read him. Never gives me attitude and respects me somewhat but I know underneath it all he's thinking "I can do his job better" (I can assure you he can not). He does know some correct technique but does not know enough that I can trust him to make a special, properly make an aioli or season a steak correctly and I think this stems for not really working in any higher end kitchens.

 

I just don't know how to go about teaching or managing this guy. He is so good at slipping under the radar that even I (who sees every detail in my kitchen) usually don't catch things til after service. I'm trying to find common ground with this guy but he never opens up to let me know what motivates him. Sometimes he talks passionately about recipes and things he's done in the past but other times he seems old and tired of kitchen work. I am generally very good at being "good cop" in the kitchen and can get people to do their jobs well without complaining and keeping a positive attitude but this guy is really testing my managing abilities. I see it as a challenge but just don't know how to get him to like his job and do it well.

 

Advice from experienced head chefs is needed! Thanks.

post #2 of 10
Ask him about his past. When he starts talking about his old recipes keep him talking. Some people just aren't the outgoing talkative type.

However I do not think that it is fair to judge him for being back on the line if you do not know the circumstances.

On the other hand, I would not have somebody working my grill station if they can not season a steak or set up their mise correctly.

Sorry if im on both sides of the fence. Just kind of playing devils advocate
post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chef Torrie View Post

Ask him about his past. When he starts talking about his old recipes keep him talking. Some people just aren't the outgoing talkative type.

However I do not think that it is fair to judge him for being back on the line if you do not know the circumstances.

On the other hand, I would not have somebody working my grill station if they can not season a steak or set up their mise correctly.

Sorry if im on both sides of the fence. Just kind of playing devils advocate

Thanks for the input. I do try to get him talking but when I do it usually goes off in a different direction. I don't see where I'm judging him though? I don't know/care why he's taken a job behind the line.

post #4 of 10

You could find a quiet moment with just the two of you and ask him point blank. Explain it like you have here. Let him know your sincere interest in finding out what's going on. 

     It could be burnout. It could be he is one of those people who have always seem kitchen work as a job and don't have much passion for learning. OR  It could be that he recently lost his wife, his parents or his dog and is deeply sad. 

Sometimes there is nothing like a simple, honest conversation. 

post #5 of 10

Sounds like burn out. Hard to say without actually working next to him.

 

It's your standards. Make sure he follows them and is productive. If you feel you're getting the $11 bucks an hour out of him, then there may not be much to sweat. If not, then let him know he needs to step it up a notch.

post #6 of 10

How can he slip under the radar if he is not doing the job well? I wonder if he senses that you feel that you can't trust him to make a special, an aioli, or to season a steak? You mention that he is an older cook, perhaps the fact that you bring up age is a clue to a vibe you give off that you are unaware of but that others pick up on.

 

He never gives you attitude and respects you somewhat but you know underneath it all he's thinking "I can do his job better". This might be what he is thinking and it might not be what he is thinking. Maybe he thinks you feel that is what he is thinking so he is doing his best not to give that impression and it is coming off as making him appear unmotivated and shy.

 

It is always hard to know for sure what is going on in someone else's head, but by talking and getting to know them on a more personal level, we get closer to knowing what motivates them and makes them tick.

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 #7 of 10

hmmm may I add my 2 cents?

because I am an "older cook" in the kitchen where I work, I had an instant feeling about this situation.

it starts with the title of this topic. 

how to MOTIVATE an older cook.

excuse me? if there is someone who needs to motivate him at all, it's himself.

 

when I read about his former experience, I am very surprised to read how he is now performing in your kitchen…...

sounds like he has lost his drive/ passion and is there to just make money, was my first impression

second, has he been out of the trade for a while and finding it hard to catch up now again?

third, is he there to just make money because "he has to" aka needs money?

 

definitely it's time for a talk with just the two of you.

very important to know what his reasons are to be back in the kitchen and then perform like THIS, when he used to work at higher levels (how long ago was it?)

one thing to stimulate someone with in work, is to try and find out what they LIKE to do and then challenge them in that.

will make work more FUN and hence, more motivated to work, if that is the problem. maybe it's all too simple a job for him.

 

be patient but also be serious.

there is work to be done, and age does not matter in a kitchen (I am 47 and all the rest including chef, is younger…..) 

there are also younger people than me that do exactly as you described…..so its not the age being the problem here.

its all about working as a team, whether it clicks, serving the guests together and about a passion for your job.

post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Soesje View Post
 

hmmm may I add my 2 cents?

because I am an "older cook" in the kitchen where I work, I had an instant feeling about this situation.

it starts with the title of this topic. 

how to MOTIVATE an older cook.

excuse me? if there is someone who needs to motivate him at all, it's himself.

 

when I read about his former experience, I am very surprised to read how he is now performing in your kitchen…...

sounds like he has lost his drive/ passion and is there to just make money, was my first impression

second, has he been out of the trade for a while and finding it hard to catch up now again?

third, is he there to just make money because "he has to" aka needs money?

 

definitely it's time for a talk with just the two of you.

very important to know what his reasons are to be back in the kitchen and then perform like THIS, when he used to work at higher levels (how long ago was it?)

one thing to stimulate someone with in work, is to try and find out what they LIKE to do and then challenge them in that.

will make work more FUN and hence, more motivated to work, if that is the problem. maybe it's all too simple a job for him.

 

be patient but also be serious.

there is work to be done, and age does not matter in a kitchen (I am 47 and all the rest including chef, is younger…..) 

there are also younger people than me that do exactly as you described…..so its not the age being the problem here.

its all about working as a team, whether it clicks, serving the guests together and about a passion for your job.

Oh thank you for this....

 

It could be burnout or..............................

Just because some one WAS a chef in another life doesn't mean they were a Chef in the same sense that we all recognize.

There are good Chefs there are motivated Chefs, and there are just get by and lazy Chefs too.

If he was a manager at some point in his career, he is not giving you only $11.00 worth of work. That is immature and negative behavior.

post #9 of 10

Soesje, 47, is that like between 46 and 48, wow, ready for the senior home. I think the OP is talking older, as in OMG my legs and feet are killing me. I have had older Chefs working in my kitchens, some were a PITA, others were fine. If this guy is a Chef, he should be able to make specials, season a steak. If you think he could work a station and do it well the n go for it. In most cases older employees are more dependable. If he thinks I'm giving $11 of work and that's it, look for some one else. I always want people in my kitchen to help me build, I don't need people just hanging around bucking the system thinking they are worth more. If your worth more, you get more, I have never had a employee that was doing a great job that didn't get compensated for his/her efforts.....................Good Luck..............Bill

post #10 of 10

It is hard to get an accurate view of any situation from this side of the screen. What we get is another person's observations. In the past I have had some people describe me as shy. Other people describe me as an incredible tease and sarcastic. Some people view me as slow. Some people ask how do I get things done so quickly. Some people think I am old. Some think I am a kid. It all comes down to individual perception.

 

I have worked for some bosses that didn't think anything was ever right, unless they did it themselves. Whether it be make a special, season a steak, setup a station, or whatever. From this side of the screen, I can,t really say what exactly is going on. I can see both sides of the coin. I have had employees that I couldn't trust to make a special or season a steak, but I have worked for bosses that didn't trust me to make a special or season a steak.

 

Whenever I have a coworker that I feel is not quite with the program, I attempt to strip away prejudgements or preconceived ideas that I have already formulated and turn a fresh eye on the situation as accurately as any biased observer can. It works even better, if I can look at it from their shoes. Doing that opens me up to better insight as to what makes them tick and potentially improving our working relationship.

 

The thing about offering advice that makes it an exercise in futility, is that a wise man doesn't need it and a foolish man won't take it.

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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