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When you first became a professional chef...... like I just did....

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Life has surprising ways.

I have been out of it for a year, and then suddenly got hired by a restaurant, first as line cook.

Since they fired their chef few days before opening... there was no chef.

Since the team (foh and boh) both already saw me as a chef, my boss asked me whether I wanted to try it.

I tell you, I NEVER had the intention to become a CHEF...... I thought I couldn't do it. Which is what I said during my job interview.... I'm not a chef *cough* , look for someone else...  but now... wouldn't want to change ...

 

I had suddenly to learn how to run a kitchen, how to run the hotline, how to keep everything in check and the other thousands of things that chefs seem to do.

Sure changed my view about prof chefs ;) 

This place is a good one to learn how to become a chef, although....there is no one teaching me how to BE a chef.

A special kind of realfood restaurant that wants to serve to ANYONE, especially taking into account those guests with food allergies and diets.... that want to dine out and have nowhere to go.

80% of what we serve is organic, including the meat. We also serve vegans (my speciality) and many others.

It sure is a challenge! My intention is to show my guests  that healthy food is not rabbit food. That it can be nicely presented, too. Classic basics meet health food.

 

Since I started in the kitchen few years ago, I have seen and heard my share, and always said, things should be done different...better..

Here is my chance and I am doing just that.

No stress in my kitchen... everything in its place (as far as possible since we also do workshops and they create a mess.... you don't want to know) and also taking care of the people working with me.

 

I would love to hear some stories of what it was like for YOU when you started to run a kitchen the first time.

Advice and tips also welcome.

post #2 of 19

Kind of the same situation.  Around '94 I worked under a talented chef that had lost his "edge"; he'd become kind of burnt out and lazy.  He offloaded more and more of his duties onto to me until the owners decided they might as well get rid of him and let me do it.  The owners been grooming me for a chef job at another property so I was ready to take the step.  Obviously I had to learn as I went along, a process that continues to this day.  I made some mistakes along the way but eventually I had the chef thing basically figured out.:lol:

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
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post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 

Phaedrus, what has been most important for you to learn?

post #4 of 19

confidence. even if you don't really have it pretend that you do. If you waver the whole team feels uneasy. They need a leader (even if they CAN think for themselves it helps them relax a little) Democracies are a nice idea but not in kitchens, it can all come undone and turn into a bland shade of brown. and I stress leader, not dictator as dictators eventually face rebellions or worse, underground resistance which is the very worst thing to happen to your kitchen.


Edited by akat - 11/16/15 at 4:50am
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 

Yes.... totally agree with this one. Sometimes can feel totally nervous because I have to be the leader, but so far THAT at least, seems to be working. Even the owner (a woman), needs someone who takes the lead. She wanted a restaurant but has NO knowledge of kitchen matters nor how you even set up a restaurant. Luckily she listens to me, although I still feel have limited knowledge, but then, have worked in a few fine dining places so at least MORE knowledge than she has. I enjoy sharing knowledge with others. Always have, so teaching the people working with me suits me just fine. 

post #6 of 19

aside from our massive ego's ,... its about money. Make money and it will all be well. From learning the hard way I would recommend making money THEN stroking the ego... then once all the customers are biting, raise the prices and get a little more ego in the mix until you have the right balance of ego and money.

post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 

I am smiling sweetly at you ;)  because to ME that is not what it's about.

Not all chefs have huge ego's nor do they make money.... (I wish, though, for the latter)

post #8 of 19

if one has a selfish ego they really should not be cooking professionally. A chef with no ego is boring, like Krishna food,  i don't want to eat that. I want to eat "wow" as though i`m part of some special secret that only me and the chef really know about. I will be the only person in time and space that will eat THIS dish and personally that dish had better make me know that. People don't go to restaurants because they are hungry , they go to supermarkets or fast food. restaurants are for entertainment .. do you know ANY good entertainers with no ego ?

post #9 of 19
Don't make friends with the staff, have consequences in place for when your orders are disobeyed, keep a close eye on your inventory and P&L statement, teach your staff how you want things cut, etc for your vision and consistency, be firm yet approachable.. I don't agree with the above about ego. It is about showing love and respect to the diner for me, not about how I or others pat me on the back.
post #10 of 19

Be consistent. To me that is the number one characteristic of being a good leader.

 

I learned to respect the characteristic of consistency in a leader while on my path to becoming a chef. I hope to god that I exhibited this quality during my decades as a chef. The importance of this quality has been reinforced many many times over now that I am back to being a member of the brigade (by my choice, a quasi semi retirement at this stage of my life, down to a 40 hour work week, less stress, etc. etc. etc).

 

Be consistent in your thoughts, actions, food, and dealings with others.

 

Did I mention be consistent?

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 #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by akat View Post
 

aside from our massive ego's ,... its about money. Make money and it will all be well. From learning the hard way I would recommend making money THEN stroking the ego... then once all the customers are biting, raise the prices and get a little more ego in the mix until you have the right balance of ego and money.

In a way I agree with this. From what I learned over the years, a professional chef is one who is in charge of preparation and the serving of food for profit. If food knowledge and money are not priorities then the term professional is be used loosely. To me, a Professional Chef who can't pass on knowledge and management skills to others is pretty useless. Personalities and ego should really have nothing to do with it. People work and have jobs to earn income so they can get along in life. If your kitchen is not run like a business then it's basically a hobby. 

There are many important tasks in a regular kitchen then cooking. I'm in the pastry business, we have an open kitchen and customers ooh and aah when they see something being created in the kitchen. Then they turn to media to learn and everyone wants to be a Chef or Pastry Chef or own their own business. Fact is, preparation of a dish or decorating a cake is a very small percentage of what a Professional Culinarian does.

It's a fact that this industry has a very high rate of burn-out. The Pro's that know, it's about experience, management, mentoring, and business. The people who are spending enormous hours or not making enough money to get the job done are basically working in their hobby. Usually dedicating most of your time and energy to your hobby will result in 'Crash-N-Burn'. When it's time to change that hobby into a career is when you become a Professional.

Just my old 2 cents

BTW, I have always tried to remain disciplined in staying focused on mentoring. I have never forgotten what my first mentor told me 40 yrs. ago, " your job is to make my job easier and eventually take my job so I can move up and on".  Oh! Ego? Stroking? He was the biggest a-hole in the kitchen, treated me and other employees like dirt. He's always been one of my top 5 people. He went on to have a great career and anyone older than 40 yrs. would certainly recognize his name.

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 #12 of 19

Gotta agree with that, it Is all about money.  If the Chef can't make his kitchen profitable, out the door he goes.  Either that, or the place goes bankrupt, and then the Chef goes....

 

But wait, there's more to it than that.

 

In order for the Chef to run a profitable kitchen, he/she HAS to know about ingredients and costing--if you order everything of the Syco truck, you'll run a 40% food cost in no time.  You have to know something about H.R. and labour control, or again, you'll run a 40% labour cost.  You don't get this information from watching food network, nor do you get it from Cordon Bleau, nor do you get it from sitting on your butt and expecting this knowledge to drop into your lap.

 

A restaurant is a business, and a business has to make money or it wouldn't be a business.......

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #13 of 19

Yeah, that's probably the most important thing to learn:  That a restaurant is a business, plain and simple.  The food stuff is very important, you have to know how to cook.  You need to understand HR and dealing with people.  You need a good grasp of food safety.  But tying it all together is a solid understanding of managing costs. I  realize that's not very sexy, and it's not what Food Network likes to show.  The truth is very few restaurants can ignore the financials.  A well funded vanity restaurant run by a celebrity chef can weather some bad numbers, and country clubs often don't need to do much more than break even (or come close).

 

As for the day to day stuff I think there's no substitute for experience.  It took many years for me to have a deep reservoir of tricks, shortcuts and fixes for common problems.  This might be experience in dealing with a cranky pilot light or fixing a broken sauce.  It's also having a good culinary vocabulary and enough depth of experience to recognize the familiar in things that you haven't run across before.

 

It can be tricky as a manager striking that balance between aloofness/impartiality and warmth/humanity.  Machiavelli said that if one had to choose between being loved and feared it was safer to rely on fear.  But obviously he wasn't a chef!  In 2015 you can't run a kitchen like an 18th century pirate ship.  You need to understand your staff and their motivations.  I think you have to have some loyalty to them, although in the end everything has to be a business decision.

 

Lastly I think you have to be organized.  If you're not naturally organized you need to find a way.  I'm not really organized in the conventional sense.  Get a notebook, and carry it with you always.  Don't rely on your memory alone and always verify stuff.  Learn to think a step or two ahead.

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
Reply
post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 

Thank you, Phaedrus (and all others!!!) for the valuable views into your minds ......and the good advice.

I will take that with me when I start again next friday.... 

post #15 of 19

Regarding Ego,.. I think there has been some misunderstanding between Egotism and Ego here everyone. for a quick refresher try http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ego%20?s=t

post #16 of 19

 It has always bothered me when someone throws a dictionary at me to try to explain something. 

 Please explain yourself as to not waste time dealing with your egotism.

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 #17 of 19

The walk in reefer makes a great conference room (esp when the BOH is slammed) as it is insulated and you don't have to drag the cook too far from the line.

 

;)

 

mimi

post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by flipflopgirl View Post
 

The walk in reefer makes a great conference room (esp when the BOH is slammed) as it is insulated and you don't have to drag the cook too far from the line.

 

;)

 

mimi

 

haha. yes. I agree. keeps it private and personal, so you can communicate effectively. What do you do Mimi?

post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlexTheChef View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by flipflopgirl View Post
 

The walk in reefer makes a great conference room (esp when the BOH is slammed) as it is insulated and you don't have to drag the cook too far from the line.

 

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mimi

 

haha. yes. I agree. keeps it private and personal, so you can communicate effectively. What do you do Mimi?

 

A long career.... was a small town girl who landed in the big city for nursing school when was "discovered" by my mentor while bartending at DFW airport.

Long story and long career.

The real question should be "what have I NOT done"...

Read thru some of my posts and you will get the gist of it.

 

mimi


Edited by flipflopgirl - 11/19/15 at 9:24am
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