I had a frustrating experience at work yesterday, and I’m seeking any advice you can offer.
Background: I’ve been working in kitchens for 10 years, never went to culinary school, started as a dishwasher. I work hard, I love what I do, I’ve been a favorite (or so I’ve been told) at several of my cooking jobs, but thus far haven’t advanced to management/chef, although that is my ultimate goal. I am reticent in person and am working on my leadership skills in order to move up; so far, I have blamed my career stagnation more on my quiet personality than on my work ethic, skills, or passion.
I’ve been at my current job for 8 months. It’s a highly-acclaimed restaurant that I had long aspired to work at. I took a demotion in order to work here: I got put on garde manger (I have worked every station in other restaurants). I made it clear from the beginning that I would like to move up the line, with assurances that this could happen with good work skills and dedication. Throughout my tenure here, I have received almost uniformly positive feedback from my superiors (with a few minor criticisms that I corrected immediately after they were called to my attention: prep methods and such, although in my defense I was sometimes given inconsistent instruction). My contributions extend beyond the line: I have suggested more efficient methods of prep and organization, and proposed new dishes which have worked their way onto the menu. I had a 6-month review that was mostly positive, and during which I reiterated my desire to learn additional stations; the chef agreed this would happen soon. The sole negative criticism was my tendency to be a bit disorganized, although the chef conceded I've improved in this regard.
A few weeks passed after my review and I was still on garde manger. I brought it up with my chef, he responded that he would train me soon. Didn't happen. Last night, the sous sat down with me and said that he and the chef agreed that I’m not ready to move up the line because I’m not proficient at garde manger. No issues with ticket times or plating, but he mentioned a few prep mistakes I’d made (I broke a sauce, for example). I told him that I wished these issues had been brought to my attention before, particularly at the review. However, another cook who started at the same time I did has since advanced on the line, and I have seen him make similar mistakes to the ones I have (forgetting things in the oven, burning things, etc).
I guess I see 2 possibilities:
1) I really am not ready to move past garde manger. This is worst-case scenario. If I’m really unworthy of progressing past salads and rillettes after all this time, should I accept that cooking is not my calling? I’ve been doing this for 10 years. It is my passion, but I’m wondering if I’ve hit a plateau and should just give up. It tears me apart to think that I’ve devoted my life to this only to find out I’m mediocre and will probably never make it as a chef.
or 2) My employers need me to stay on garde manger because no one else is willing to work this station. A friend suggested that I’m *too* good and that employers need hard workers in low positions, because there are few of us. I’m not saying this to deflect responsibility; when someone gives me a criticism I am more than willing to listen, but in this case what I was told last night doesn’t sync with what I’ve been told during previous months.
Thoughts? Is it possible they’re jerking me around because they know I really wanted to work here and I won’t complain? Or am I in denial: should I accept their criticism at face value and redouble my efforts? At what point do you admit you’re no good at what you’re most passionate about and throw in the towel? Should I start applying to law schools?
This got long, thanks for listening.