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Need some advice on a potential move

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
There is a TL;DR at the bottom, when I was writing this I didn't realize how long it was. And sorry if it kind of doesn't make sense, I'm on hour 36 right now.

Before I really go deeper into the actual topic of my thread I'll give you background information on myself and my career this far.

Ever since I was young, 6 maybe 7 years old Ive been infatuated with cooking. I remember times when I would sneak downstairs at 2am to watch the food network, in particular the show "cook like a chef". The way the food looked on tv was amazing and coming from a family that usually are well done roast with some kind of packaged gravy and baby carrots over cooked to baby food in the bottom of the roasting pan these people looked like modern day alchemists to me. It was exciting, it was and is my first real passion. every day after school I would turn on the food network and endlessly watch it until my parents either told me it was time for bed or I had neglected my homework and had to get it done if I wanted to keep watching. This obsession quickly went from tv, to reading cook books, and books on cooking techniques. By 10 years old, with some parental guidance I was doing the cooking for my family a night or two a week. this continued all the way up until I graduated high school. To sum this up I didn't get my first kitchen job until I was 19. My late teens were filled with indecisiveness about what I wanted to do with my life as a job. Went from odd job to odd job for a few years before I had decided to go into the industry. Late 2011 I had gotten my first job working for some crap catering company as a dish washer/line cook for a cafeteria. I had no experience so I took the first job I could get. It was to say the least, unsatisfying. I was working 12-14 hour days cleaning, making tuna melts and mashed potatoe out of a bag. I quit my job 7 months after, uninspired to cook, to go travel, get away hoping I could refresh myself and finally figure out what I really wanted to do. I had spent a lot of time watching Anthony Bourdains shows. The culture behind the food really interested me. His traveling inspired me to travel, and learn more about the culture of cooking. through the families I met, the hospitality, the food and the overall enjoyment of the atmosphere created around the food brough back that excitement I had when I was younger. Coming back I wanted to give cooking one more shot. I had figured catering wasn't for me and that before I had actually given up on cooking I wanted to see what the fast paced life of a line cook was like.

When I got back home I went looking online for cook positions. Unfortunately all of the well known and more respected restaurants in the city I'm from we're looking for a minimum of 3 years kitchen experience. I sent in my resume anyway, but with no response back. I ended up going into a chain restaurant that a few of my good friends were working at, they were enrolled in culinary school. I had figured it would have been a good place to go based on that and really looking back on it the experience was worth it. In the 1 year I had worked there, pulling 12-16 hour days 6 days a week I had made my way from dish washer through the night shifts, working all of the prep stations to having the chef ask me to become the day sous. I declined, I had realized that really in the chain I would have been with, although they prided themselves on being fresh food and really made it feel like there was something special there, I would have been a glorified paper pusher, with no say in the opperation in the restaurant aside from maybe getting to edit the schedule. I quit, and came to my current job.

Currently I am in a still high volume restaurant, but privately owned, and a higher standard of quality. I came into that restaurant 2 years ago thinking that I was going to kill it. i was wrong. I was one of the worst cooks on the line and they had me on sauté. Over the next 6 months they wouldn't move me, I began to improve quickly, learned a lot of new things and gained a lot of confidence in my ability and myself. After that worked my way through the entire kitchen over the next 4 months to be in the end promoted as sous in my new job.

I've been a sous chef there now for a year and some change, nearly entirely self taught. I enjoy it, teaching new staff and even my staff that have anywhere from 5-10 years more experience than I do new things each day. But I find myself stuck in a rut. I don't find myself learning anything new. Being as green as I am in the industry I don't like the idea that I am not learning anything. the quality of food has been going up, quality of service has been going up, my cooks are getting better and I can see the improvements in them every day. And this is part of where my problem comes in.

We are currently in a rebuild of our kitchen staff. I've built a lot of good relationships with the staff. I am training constantly working 6 shifts a week, usually with a call in on my 7th day. I don't mind doing it knowing it is helping the kitchen get to where it needs to be sooner. I don't mind working on 2 hours of sleep every day and not eating two days at a time. They put a lot of time and dedication into me to get me where I am and in return I do the same for them. However, I don't want to feel stagnant anymore, I want to see the kitchen succeed. But I have this burning desire to move up and learn, become the bad cook again and work my way back to the top. I want to get back to what I wanted to do when I decided to get into the industry and get into fine dining.

I don't want to be that person that jumps ship, or in their eyes appears to be but I have a deadline for myself that by October 1st. I have to make a decision regardless of the state of the restaurant, Im getting tired, not because I'm being over worked but because I feel as if I have plateaued, and honestly I am stuck not knowing what I should do.

TL;DR
I am a sous chef who is still in my opinion is still new, I don't feel challenged at work anymore. I want to make a move however were in the middle of a rebuild of kitchen staff and I know there are a lot of senior cooks who would probably leave if I did and I wouldn't feel right about leaving the restaurant, my chef and the other sous I work with in a position where they are going to have way too much work to deal with. Along with that I am unsure how to get into the right kind of restaurants that I want to work at. (Ex. Bluehill farms, AOC, ko) that all want experience in fine dining but there isn't any places locally that I would even hold close to a caliber of places like the above mentioned. As far as I know the only options would be to apply for a stage or a longer term internship. Which I would love a better explanation on how to go by applying for a stage and all of the things you would need to do before hand to prepare for one would be. Visas, what do I work on as far as general skill goes?
post #2 of 10

Read this..........http://www.cheftalk.com/t/86724/new-job-dilemma

 

As you say, you are a young inexperienced, self taught line cook with a title that is thrown out far too often to someone without the experience.

A sous chef should be the best cook in the kitchen, you need to be a bad ass, there should be no doubt in any of the staff of your abilities.

A sous chef should be able to do EVERYTHING that the chef does when he is not there, a Mini Me.

If the place you are at now is two steps below FD, find someplace that is another step above where you are at now, speak with the chef, tell him you want an need to learn.

Forget about the title, go be a bad ass line cook for a couple more years, learn, learn, learn then look to be promoted.

I was a bad ass line cook, then learned banquets and did that for several years, then learned off site catering and worked that for seven years but always enjoyed working the line any time I could.

What about high end hotels? You could get a bit of everything there and would be very good experience.

post #3 of 10

     First, you say your on hour 36 right now. Do you mean 36 hours with no sleep? If you do, my advice, kitchen rebuild or no rebuild, is to take a day or two off and get some sleep. Sleep deprivation is a serious health hazard no matter what your age. No job is worth the serious problems you will be dealing with.  

     Not eating for two days? Why not? You don't' get a meal break? You can't stop at any point and eat something? 

Many fine dining restaurants have a family meal for the staff. Others provide time before or after service. Your restaurant is so dependent on you working non stop that you can't eat? That is completely ridiculous. 

 Being sleep deprived and malnourished is not the sign of a committed, hardworking, bad ass Chef. It is the sign of some one who is being taken advantage of.  

      You are getting a call in on your only day off after all week? Any chance you are getting overtime? You should be and by that I mean your employer in the US is legally obligated to pay you overtime. If you are on salary, you are getting taken advantage of. Salary divided by hours actually worked will tell you your Actual hourly rate. It may be time to figure that one out. 

     Helping you find a better job would help if we knew which area you were  in but in any event, you will need some time off to look for a new job. 

     As Chefbuba pointed out, fine hotels are a good choice. Or catering. Or a different style of restaurant. Or institutions. 

The restaurant you are in now will get along just fine without you, whatever they happen to be in the middle of. 

      As far as learning new things goes, once you have commandeered more time for yourself read a cookbook or twenty, practice bread baking, beer making, canning and preserving foods, etc, etc. etc, etc.  Learning about food isn't about how much time you devote to one particular restaurant. It is opening yourself up to all the various ways food is grown, harvested, prepared and served in the myriad of ways society has come up with. Being a Chef is about showing respect for yourself, your coworkers, your customers, your work habits and how you approach the food you prepare. And all of that is true no matter what kind of place you find yourself in. 

Get some rest. 

post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 
I know my staff have no doubts in me or my abilities, nor does my chef. My chef with me is working 6-7 days a week. Which is keeping him away from working more along with me. I already do orders, invoices, costing, labour, schedules, inventory, but between that, training all of my other cooks and prep cooks, working service, and making sure the needs of the kitchen are met I don't really have the time to focus on myself and my development. I was on hour 36 no sleep by the time I wrote this post, and by the time service is over and we are shut down I never really want to cook just from pure exhaustion of the shift, serving 500 covers on a Tuesday kills me. When I get home there might be a beer in the fridge as my hours have kept me from going shopping. its not so much as I don't know my shit, as I don't know as much as I feel I need to know to really give the sous roll the respect it deserves. I recently won 2 larger local competitions this year one on charcuterie, barbecue, and I've been set up against a few well known local chefs and sous chefs in black box. Which I still haven't lost to any of the sous and only lost to the one chef I went up against. And ran the catering division of the company. My complaint is less about the way they are treating me, because really I'm not being treated all that poorly. My life is devoted to learning, I have a band saw at home and an area set to do my butchering, my old chef and I try to meet up weekly to brew beer and have recently stepped into distilling. Before work I am usually at any one of my suppliers warehouses checking everything new out to try to figure out what to run as a new special, from my mustard guy, my honey supplier, cheese supplier to my meat supplier. But I'm learning nothing new at work. We're all so busy right now at work that there is no time. The closest I really have to learning at work is when I stay after they lock up and dip into all of the weird product, chemicals, and tools I have ordered in for myself (on my own dollar) and make with one of the cooks that want to stay and learn something new to them. Next pay check is going towards an anti griddle because I had the short opportunity to play with one and loved it and I have a savings account for a freeze dryer that I want to play around with in the future. I know my chef, and exec. I've worked with them and I know how good they are. I just don't get anywhere near enough time with them to learn from them anymore and I know what they can teach me. When my exec is in he holds me to the standards I try to hold myself to, gives me the input I want but I only work with him a few hours a month while I'm working service. on the up side I did managed to get the entire day off today which is going to be a nice short reset. I figured I should just send in applications to the places I would really love to work at this time, if something happens then I will make a move.

Thank you for your replies it's nice to have a resource for talking to other people in the industry either who have went through or are going through the same or similar stuff in their career.
post #5 of 10

I am going to go ahead and say this but you might want to hold on to that resume there. please disregard the advise if it you don't think it is valid. 

 

It seems to me that you can still learn a lot of things where you are now, according to you the exec and the chef have a lot to teach. You just don't have time to learn, right? Please don't take it in a badly as it is not meant that way, but I think you are in an ideal position to learn how to manage your time better. It is absurd that you go two days without eating because you don't have time for it and the same goes for the 36h shifts. If that is what it takes to get the job done there is a serious problem in the organisation, otherwise it is a personal problem. Right now you are young enough so you can take it, but it will take a significant toll on you latter. No matter what you need to do or what the job demands of you, your health should always come first. Not because you cant handle it, but because of your future.

 

Cheers

post #6 of 10

Geez, I agree with others that you have to take care of your physical and mental self.

I just want to pass this along. My son, who is 23 was always an achiever. He excelled in technology. He got a full ride to a great technical university and majored

in MIS management information systems. He was described by his professors as the MIS brainchild. He was always immersed in some sort of mental challenge.

From his freshman year till graduating he never came up for air. Put in hours like you are. He was recruited right after graduation for a residency program at one

of the worlds leading technology companies in Mountainview Calif. It was a 2 yr. program, and after him going to get his masters at Stanford. He was just like you

and spent every waking hour learning. Some times when involved in think tanks he would not sleep for days.

   I'll shorten.  Just before he ended his residency he had episodes where he had no recall for certain periods of time and or his actions. Well it became critical

and he had to see many specialist and do many studies. He was sent to world authorities and experts for a diagnosis. The diagnosis was that He was experiencing sleep deprivation

and  metabolic syndrome. Which many clinical experts told him is starting to be correlated with early brain degenerative disease.He has still not recovered but is getting better all the time.

He was so interested in what had happened to him he is currently taking classes locally for the next MCAT

So please be careful with yourself.

.

I am curious though, you say the chef is always working like you and does not have the time to train. If you are doing all those administrative and kitchen functions

for him, what is he doing? Pulling shifts? I'm not so sure he is the proper role model for you if the supervising staff have to work all those hours. If it's a number thing

then he should have the experience to justify his labor needs with whomever.

  This industry can be tricky to navigate, sometimes you find yourself so deep into the woods you don't see the trees. Unfortunately sometimes that leads to complacency.

You start to justify things, like, the staff respects me, they really need me, etc.

 

I think you're young in the industry, please go back and reread Chefbuba and Chefwriters posts. I would print Chefwriters out and tape it to the inside of your tool box.

Best of luck

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #7 of 10

    As I type this, you were last on 6 hours and 34 minutes ago. So I know you are still checking in. I'm really wishing I could stop by where you work and meet the geniuses you work for who you seem to think are worth your life and health. I really want to give them a piece of my mind. I can't so I wrote this instead. 

Let's review your most recent post. It was quite rambling so I'll break it up a little. 

 

     "My chef with me is working 6-7 days a week. Which is keeping him away from working more along with me. I already do orders, invoices, costing, labour, schedules, inventory, but between that, training all of my other cooks and prep cooks, working service, and making sure the needs of the kitchen are met I don't really have the time to focus on myself and my development." 

      As Panini pointed out, What exactly is your "chef' doing? You are doing all the jobs the "chef" should be doing. He isn't busy doing other stuff. He's taking advantage of you. 

 

       "its not so much as I don't know my shit, as I don't know as much as I feel I need to know to really give the sous roll the respect it deserves."

Where did you come up with this elevated idea of the role of a sous chef?  We have already established that you are doing the staff training, scheduling, etc., all the jobs a Chef would do. In this particular kitchen, you have already passed the role of sous. You aren't respecting the role in what way exactly? 

 

    "I recently won 2 larger local competitions this year one on charcuterie, barbecue, and I've been set up against a few well known local chefs and sous chefs in black box. Which I still haven't lost to any of the sous and only lost to the one chef I went up against. And ran the catering division of the company." 

This is rambling. Or perhaps incoherence. You won some competitions. That's nice. It has nothing to do with how you are being treated at your job and even less to do with running the catering division of your company. Your post is beginning to not make sense. Followed immediately by….

 

"My complaint is less about the way they are treating me, because really I'm not being treated all that poorly."

     The topic you were writing about was either the competitions or the catering company, not your treatment. 

You are being treated poorly, you just don't seem to see it so let's keep going. 

 

"Before work I am usually at any one of my suppliers warehouses checking everything new out to try to figure out what to run as a new special, from my mustard guy, my honey supplier, cheese supplier to my meat supplier."

     They are not your suppliers, they are the restaurants' suppliers. Why are you there checking up on whatever? Again, that's the chef's job. What was it he is doing? 

 

"My life is devoted to learning, I have a band saw at home and an area set to do my butchering, my old chef and I try to meet up weekly to brew beer and have recently stepped into distilling."

                                                         AND...

   "The closest I really have to learning at work is when I stay after they lock up and dip into all of the weird product, chemicals, and tools I have ordered in for myself (on my own dollar) and make with one of the cooks that want to stay and learn something new to them. Next pay check is going towards an anti griddle because I had the short opportunity to play with one and loved it and I have a savings account for a freeze dryer that I want to play around with in the future."

         

Compare those two statements with these two. 

 

"But I'm learning nothing new at work. We're all so busy right now at work that there is no time. 

"I know my chef, and exec. I've worked with them and I know how good they are. I just don't get anywhere near enough time with them to learn from them anymore and I know what they can teach me."

 

 So YOU are buying new products and equipment to use at a restaurant you DO NOT own with your own money so YOU can teach yourself new things. And the occasional other cook who wants to try something new. On YOUR OWN time. 

      Your Chef and Exec are so good they show NO interest in this activity. They are SO busy with ???? they can't be bothered to show an interest in a guy with your level of dedication, persistence and drive? They are SO good they are completely unfazed that you are buying all kinds of products and chemicals to play with in their kitchen and you are planning on getting an anti-griddle and a freeze dryer? You are buying all this equipment and whatever else with YOUR own money to put to use in THEIR kitchen and you see them once in a while at which time they uphold you to the standards you set for yourself? This activity is beneath them? They have already worked with Grant Atchaz, Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria for so many years they have become jaded. There is nothing for them to learn? Is that correct?  You show an incredible level of passion and dedication and they can't find the time to teach you what exactly? 

      Unless you can provide facts to prove otherwise or private message me so I can come visit this remarkable kitchen and these geniuses, I will provide you with what I believe is going on. 

You passed by both of these guys a long time ago. You are currently way below the level of kitchen you need to be in. Your "Chef" and "Exec Chef" are quite intimidated by you. Because you are doing all the ordering, scheduling, staff training, etc. you are an invaluable asset. By buying all that equipment and whatnot and experimenting on your own time and your own dime, you are also providing them with a free education in the higher levels of culinary effort, which they neither understand nor appreciate. They allow it to continue because if they admitted they had no understanding or appreciation for what you are doing they would sound like a couple of morons. So they stay the hell away from you and put on a superior air when they get near you because to do otherwise would inform you that the emperor has no clothes. 

      The part of this entire scenario you are missing is that you don't have the foodservice experience to understand that there are people in food service who would think this way. You have either convinced your self or someone convinced you that there is some elusive knowledge your current "chefs" possess that you could learn if only there were time. Geez, what a shame they don't have time. You are being played for a fool and these two jokers are having a good laugh because you are so busy educating yourself and doing their jobs that you can't see it. 

     I'll finish this post by informing you that all of my writing has been edited. I have tremendous respect for this website and those involved in it. So I refrained from indulging in my penchant for cursing like a sailor. Please re-read this post and insert as many swear words as you can think of in the appropriate spots and you'll have a better idea of how strongly I feel. 

      Go find a job some where else. Anywhere else. Move across the country if need be. Get out of where you are. I wish there was a way to work with you. You are the kind of cook I always want to work with but can rarely find. 

     One last thought. Find a way to prove me wrong and I will offer a sincere and personal apology for criticizing your chefs, to you and to them as well. But until then, the gloves are off.  


Edited by chefwriter - 7/30/15 at 9:21pm
post #8 of 10

How did you get to a Sous position without learning most of what there is to be learned in that kitchen? How do you teach others with 5-10 years more experience than you?

 

How could you consider yourself "green"?

 

RedBeerd

post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RedBeerd Cantu View Post

How did you get to a Sous position without learning most of what there is to be learned in that kitchen? How do you teach others with 5-10 years more experience than you?

How could you consider yourself "green"?

RedBeerd

I took a lot of time to learn on my own, hours Of reading, and working in my home kitchen, and practicing. After days at high school I would spend 5-8 hours in my kitchen working on knife skills, and all of the basics until I could do them perfectly, some things I still work on to perfect. I spent weeks learning about my mother sauces and each day spend hours learning derivatives. Reading on and practicing techniques. Even though I wasnt in a professional kitchen or in school for cooking I took this at the time hobby extremely seriously. I would host a dinner party monthly for my friends who were in school or in the industry and cook for them in exchange for feedback. Once I actually got into the industry, I basically had to learn pace, and once I had gotten my first sous position I learned management. When I came into the industry I was looking up to some big names as to where I wanted to see myself. What I mainly mean by I am green is that I feel as if I havent experienced enough in the industry and am at a level that I am personally happy with while holding the title of sous. I want to be able to walk into almost any place and know I can out cook the vast majority of people.
post #10 of 10

Dag,

I don't think anyone here is criticizing you. Actually most professionals here feel, the only place to learn is on the job. Personally I think the key to a good chef is not always technique.

Having good technique is great, than you just adapt it to whatever environment you're in. When you say you learned management I feel maybe you are a little misguided there.

The things you have learned sound mostly administrative.  Any great Chef that I have worked with had honed their skills to include, how to successfully communicate with those around him/her.

This sometimes means adjusting yourself up or down in personality or talent to really get through and understand someone. The ability to lead without having to work along side people. Gain personal and professional respect not just for skills but for understanding people.I didn't respect a chef because of his cooking technique, speed, bookwork, etc. I felt the great ones were those that were able to

put themselves in the shoes of the people they were communicating with or supervising.I also respected a Chef that could discipline in a learned way.

 I did not have a whole lot of respect for those Chefs that ran around like a chicken to get things done, overly nice to people to gain respect, and really didn't have an understanding of my job

description that he/she established. Or use the sharp stick in the eye routine to motivate. Only because I didn't want to be that way when I got there.

  I guess I want to suggest that you not try to emulate someone but to more so develop your own professional personality both in and out of the kitchen. I think it's a good time for you

to act like a human liver. Try to see as much as you can in the upcoming future. Than filter out all the things you don't need or want and retain the rest. In my professional personality there is a little bit of all those I worked under bot good and bad. I developed a personality that did not match well with most of the industry profile. In order for me to be who I thought was a productive Chef, I had no choice but to open my own place. I can say that I have found a dozen or so people that enjoy the environment I provide. My Pastry Chef has been with me for 25 yrs. Most all in our kitchen have been there for a minimum of 10 yrs.

Just sayin

gtg sorry no time to reread

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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