This thread is an opporunity to share experiences of woe, dissatisfaction and frustration in the culinary kingdom, in particular the evolution of self, the undertaking of growth and the ascension of responsibility. Insights into my little tale are valuable but also feel free to share a similar story and perhaps I can extract some wisdom from your experiences.
I have recently taken on new responsibilities, the kitchen is now my kitchen and I must oversee everything going on now. I took this job 'head chef' after 7 years of grinding in the back of house from the lowly title of dishwasher/kitchenhand, to day prep, to working the pass, to grill and a touch of sous chef. I have no formal education, I've come along way but oh lord there's a long way to go. I'm so stressed and psychologically encumbered, it's been to date mostly a mind-game. I wonder, after six months, if maybe I'm not cut out for the gig, perhaps I fair better as a sous chef. Internally I quit about twice a week, it never manifests, I never actually pull the plug but there are moments where I concede. Usually after copping the shits from the business owners when I fuck up a night of service. I really want to be a part of a more reputable, more expensive dining experience and cook for less people. It's far more satisfying than a manic pub or a bar. When we're busy it's about 60-80 in 3 hours service with seating capacity of about 45, plus take-away orders. I tend to lose it around the 30 covers mark.... that's not good at all.... 60 should rattle me, not half that much. It's slow season so I can analyse the position better, but fuck me i feel like a headless chicken sometimes.
I also can't help but notice how the standards of my employers are of course arbitrary but fluctuating. It's a family business: 2 parents one son all working in the kitchen and out. I have had far too many reprimands over poor prep, in particular not cutting the vegetables perfectly (it's japanese, this is a crime of crimes). However when I observe some of their completed works I find inconsistency and general human fallibility as well. Yet if I drop the bar (not even alot either) I get in loads of shit and my night is ruined, utterly frustrated, angry and ready to scream "I quit!". They have issued official 'poor performance' reviews and I have 4 weeks to raise the bar on my game or it's termination time. Pressure's on right? I know I can do this gig but I feel like it's taking me forever to master the delegation and problem solving techniques during dinner service. I burn shit every now and then, Gyoza's in particular. I have 6 burners as a grill. 2 fish pans, 3 teflon, and 4 big-ass deep sutee-ing pans (basically stainless steel woks, but totally curved, no flat base, half a sphere with a handle, can't find their proper name online....) SO it's not like a hotel with shitloads of pans to be tossed into the dishpit, NOPE! I sell 5 mains and I'm hooped. I have to juggle cooking and washing my own pans, plus making sure the pass isn't dragging as well as co-ordinating with the tempura deep frying.
We have our nights, it's not all doom and gloom. But still it's like the train has just left station and I'm bloody Indiana Jones on a horse tailing right behind trying to catch up. This does wonders for my sleeping cycle, which is a loaded gun when you start at 9am and finish around 1030pm. Who started the standard with hours like these? I still find it odd... When I'm well rested after my 2 days off I'm in the zone, come Saturday however you gotta ignore the fatigue and move forward. I also don't even feel like cooking at home anymore, I get this sentiment 'someone cook FOR ME today', it's my turn to be served please and thank you. This is a big drag cuz my home kitchen is like a church, a sanctuary a place to meditate and find that inner peace, that zen. So I'll go my 2 days off eating takeaway and then prep a bunch of lunches and dinners to freeze for the week ahead on my last night off, and in that time I snap and go 'wait I do still enjoy my kitchen at home, I just need a good reason to crack the eggs...' I'm also single as shit and don't have much of a social life, those two days off for me are spent in solitude, I just want to be alone but I'm starting to feel like that isolation may be doing me more harm than good.
Can you relate? Do I persist? Is this a test of strength? Am I to emerge from this period with a sharper skill and prowess? I can't even tell, I fell like a drowning mouse spinning in the whirlpool of an unflushable toilet wondering how the hell I even found myself in such a state.
- Honest and paranoid.