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First Executive Chef position....need advice

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I have recently started my first Executive chef job. First day was last week. My establishment is very different from the traditional restaurant environment that I am used to and have experience with. I have one full time cook and one part time cook. I am the first executive chef they have ever had here. This is a new position they created as they have grown. I work for a charity organization. We provide dinner every evening for the residents, as part of our facility is a shelter for families trying to get back on their feet. On the weekends and in the summer we do breakfast and on Sundays lunch is hot. I have volunteers almost everyday to help, but I never know how many I will have or for how long. We also have special events for the other side of our facility. So luncheons for our board members, rotary clubs, college groups, etc. On average, we feed about 80-100 people a day, so low volume. I'm used to much higher volume, but in taking this position, I am hoping I will eventually have a better work/ life balance and spend more time with my kiddos. 


I'm excited for my first executive chef position, I know I can get this kitchen in order and turn around things for this establishment, but currently this place is a total mess. When I came in there is no inventory of any kind. No cleaning procedures in place. No waste log. No cooling log. In some cases they have been using non- commercial grade equipment that is not NSF certified. I have my work cut out for me to get things in order. It took me 9 hours this week to inventory the freezer and it still needs a deep cleaning. Thank goodness for community service month in April, I have 4 groups set up to come spend days deep cleaning my kitchen!!!


They brought me in to steer the food program in a healthier direction and elevate it, they also needed someone to get the kitchen in order and to start providing a higher quality product all around but especially for the new part of our facility where events are being booked for some big name events. I am working on curriculum for after school cooking classes for our after school program. They also would like me to start teaching the residents, nutrition classes and how to cook healthy meals on a small budget so they can feed their families well after they get back on their feet.  


To top it all off, one of my employees can't cook and can't clean. She is consistently late. As far as I am concerned I have no use for someone like that in my kitchen. I can't micromanage her and take care of my daily responsibilities like ordering, inventory, event coordinating, etc. I literally have to type up exactly what I want done for each meal  and how to execute or she can't prepare the menu I have planned. She tried to cook rice like pasta earlier this week. My supervisor wants me to try and train her and give her a chance which I am, but I am about ready to pull my hair out. I almost freaked out this morning when I found grill grates she used Thursday shoved in our dishwasher unwashed and caked with food, I had been making community service wash by hand in the 3 compartment. Then when I made French Toast this morning the grease trough on the flat top overflowed when I went to clean it, because she hasn't cleaned it out all week, I almost screamed. My full timer is on vacation this week, so I know who it was who didn't clean. I didn't even realize it had been used this week, as nothing on the menu required the flat top this week or I would have checked it.  


My old executive chef and I spoke and I bounced some ideas off of him. He suggested we have a cleaning party after dinner service and that way I can implement my cleaning procedures and they understand my expectations of clean. We are doing that on Monday. 


So all that to say, I need some suggestions, ideas, etc from those more experienced than I. Since we are such a low volume establishment, we don't use all our equipment on a daily basis, like we don't fry daily so changing the oil daily is a bit much, so how often would be ideal? Or should I just have them strain it for a few fries and then put in clean oil. Flat top isn't used daily so the oil we season with can get funky by the time it needs to be used again, so would not seasoning it until just before use be best. I have never dealt with these issues as I have always been in a high volume restaurant where the equipment was used and cleaned daily. Also, as far as a cleaning checklist for daily/weekly/ monthly, what would you suggest as reasonable? My hubby took at look at what I drafted and he thinks I am being too harsh and unreasonable in my expectations of my small staff.


And y'alls opinion of how long is it reasonable to try and work with an employee who comes in late, has no drivers license or reliable transportation, can't cook, needs hand holding every step of the way and can't do basic kitchen cleaning to try and train them, before sending them packing? No kithcen needs an employee like this, but with sucha small staff it is even more of an issue. I came in this morning to food still sitting out from dinner service and trash cans full, floors not mopped, etc. 


Sorry if that all came out a babbling mess, but I am trying to get dinner service started, direct volunteers and figure out this mess in my head.  

post #2 of 7

An executive chef with only 1 full time cook and 1 part time: are you kidding really that is not an executive chef, they just need somebody to take the flak....

Before you became an "Executive Chef" Surely you were a head chef....... Just do what you did then.


I was an executive chef prior to owning my own business, and I had a head chef below me and 4 sous chefs, total brigade 45,

post #3 of 7

I have to say, you have to find replacement asap! I've worked with one too many lazy workers before and it just sucked life out of management/staff. You can see peoples potential during a shift, you can tell how far they can jump based on how well put together they are. 


At this point, you're just being nice and hoping it will smooth out (her getting her sh8t together) which it wont.

post #4 of 7

 I  think first you need to understand that the bit of the industry you are working in is very specific. And you are in the position of having to develop  a market for your kitchen, that is outside of the work that your kitchen normally does.

 working for a charity makes things a little different as far as how you work with your staff.

 Re; your employee, the first thing to do is to sit down with her and find out if she wants the job. If she does, and has enthusiasm for it then you and that employee need  to  agree a training regime that will eventually allow you to do the work you need to do. It might be that in the first instance she will need constant supervision.

 If she really has no interest in the job, then you and her need to work out a way to find her work that she wants and a way for you to bring in someone who wants that job.

 And TBH I think that you do need to understand that even thought you may be fulfilling some of the duties of an " executive " Chef de Cuisine you really are a head chef working to develop a trade that will allow you to become an executive Chef de cuisine, no offence intended.

 I have a Brigade of over 25 staff, do all the menu development,  contribute heavily to new business development, designed the kitchen, do all the training,  do all the kitchen admin, have two sous chefs, am overseeing the development of a new remote kitchen and business, but because I still work most services I am the Head Chef. 

post #5 of 7
Wait you're trying to prepare for dinner service, yet you took the time to type 7 long paragraphs irrelevant of your job description. Go prepare for service! This is not what I would be doing or thinking about when I'm running a kitchen. Also, I would consider your current position to be more of a kitchen manager rather than executive chef.
post #6 of 7

chefkingthe post before yours was 2 1/2 years ago.



Welcome to ChefTalk.

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.


"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

post #7 of 7
Yeah I know I checked the date after I typed it.

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