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Difficult, but promising situation. Family Restaurant.

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
First, a little introduction, as I am constrained by time spent juggling a difficult new job, between stable housing, single father responsibilities, etc. So understand my situation as I describe it, and keep in mind I have to make every effort to make this work.

I am not traditionally trained, but I know quite a lot. My grandmother taught me a great deal, and I have off and on worked intinsely at home, for various reasons, the most recent of which is a dedication to providing my four year old son with real, quality food, and using that time spent to practice and hone technique.

I recently secured a job as a line cook making $10/hr. After our first service, the sous, a friend of the restaurant owner, aged sixty one, called me over for a private confab with the exec. He stepped aside and I was promoted to sous on a probationary basis, with an immediate raise to $12/hr.

My first task was to create a feature item for a "soft opening" - a derogatory term in my opinion but I went with it, and winged it. I devised a Mediterranean influenced sandwich that brought a fellow employee almost to tears, and resulted in an immediate order from a customer who chanced upon the samples I made for the FOH (in order to go be them a proper understanding of the feature item we wanted to push).

That's my story in a nutshell.

The rest of the story is that I've walked into one of those nightmarish scenarios many of you I am sure you are familiar with.

The owner balks at every expense, rightly to, yet also is unresponsive to reason. A language barrier is involved as well. We can not keep this man out of the kitchen, out of our business. He has managerial experience, but in the hotel industry, specializing in the bar. He is adamantly assured that this qualifies him to run a restaurant, and micromanage the kitchen. I've almost reached my personal breaking point and cussed the owner out on several occasions in just the past two days. If I weren't a struggling single father I would break his ass down and have eithet him hiding in the office or myself looking for a new job.

An example of my problems: I am scheduled at *8:30* for an 11am lunch. The owner and co-owner don't arrive until 9:25. I don't get into the kitchen until 9:40. I have an hour and ten to prep. Lunch automatically flushed. Doubly so because the day before it took us until 2pm to get an agreement from the owner to make purchases necessary to open a limited menu lunch service. It was so late we couldn't even secure all the necessary ingredients to create our menu. We didn't get our planned lunch service underway until some time after noon, and I had to make a personal trio to a local grocery chain store to purchase ciabatta rolls and rosemary for the kosher lamb sandwich - with my own fucking food stamps.

When we finally got ready and flicked the opening sign on, we hit every number despite the disorganization caused by a meddling, clueless owner and a staff of FNGs who don't have basic knife skilkls, who don't know the difference between a chiffonade or a batonnet. Add to that the fact that not only was our prep started at a ridiculously late hour, that we also lacked critical ingredients for our feature lunch specials, I was the only soldier on the line, with an hour and change to prep, and an owner already taste testing the beverage options demanding I help set up the FOH. Not only did I have to interrupt my solo prep effort to make him breakfast at 10am (wtf?) he tried to impinge on my domain and what honestly, isn't my job as sous, but which I do out of both desperation and hope.

I doubt I need to continue, but f further elaboration is required I will give it, in PM to anyone who might take umbrage at the situation. I will take any and all advice. I've made myself almost invaluable with my talent and skill, but I want a competing offer before I sit this man down with my exec and lay down ground rules to uncle moneybags.

We even served a complex oder for a last minute walk in after we had polished up for the night and responded to his demand to break it all out again and serve up quality food. We managed it, and after an 11 and a half hour shift that was slated as a five hour lunch service, he was pissed I left to attend to my child.

Honestly the man is very loyal, we get paid, he supports us, we even are getting health insurance. He isn't a bad guy, but we need explain to him that we can handle our business.

I wish I could divulge full details of this restaurant's problems, and it's potential, but I can't risk it.

If anyone has advice on how to approach and solve my queer but unfortunately common situation in an *aggressively* constructive manner, it would be appreciated.
post #2 of 26

Honestly the man is very loyal, we get paid, he supports us, we even are getting health insurance. He isn't a bad guy, but we need explain to him that we can handle our business.

 

It is not your business.  All you can do is tell him what you need.  Then go with what you have.  It is his business. With the shortage of cooks these days you should be able to find another job quickly if you are as good as you say you are.

post #3 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimyra View Post


It is not your business.  All you can do is tell him what you need.  Then go with what you have.  It is his business. With the shortage of cooks these days you should be able to find another job quickly if you are as good as you say you are.
This is true, all of it. By "our business" I simply mean the kitchen.
post #4 of 26

He owns the kitchen as well.

post #5 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parallax View Post

This is true, all of it. By "our business" I simply mean the kitchen.
you're getting benefits, paid on time, and only working 11 hour shifts. Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't think you realize what happens in other kitchens.
post #6 of 26

The stress of putting up with a micromanager as an owner topped with an unorganized business and lack of ingredients is not a place to stay in regardless of an "only 11 hour" shift. I would take a 12 hour shift in a highly functional and working business and kitchen before subjecting myself to that type of crap. 

 

Game over mate, do your research on the best businesses in your area and apply there. It will be way better for your health mentally, physically and emotionally. Loving what you do because you work in a good kitchen environment reflects onto your loved ones. Also, getting paid $12/hour for a sous position seems low to me however, it is what you are comfortable with at the end of the day. 

 

Truth, you cannot change nor fix a micromanaging owner so don't waste your precious time or energy. Just walk away respectfully. (after you secure another job, of course)

post #7 of 26
NEVER, ever use your money in any way to pay for anything needed by the restaurant. Get the money up front or don't do it.
If I read your post correctly, You are an employee. You are not the chef or owner. Buying supplies in a timely manner is not
your problem.
As Jimyra has pointed out, the owner is the owner and can or will do anything he wants. From your post, the owner has more experience than you do in the hospitality business.
And he's the owner. You just started this job. You are not traditionally trained so it is your first job in the industry?
Getting too worked up at this point is self defeating. Keep your cool and work with things as they are. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open.
Listen to and follow the lead of the Exec Chef.
From the owner's perspective, everyone's a critic and could do the job better. On the other hand, you should watch Gordon Ramses' Kitchen Nightmares to see how many clueless owners are put there. I have worked for many. But they are the owners and you are not.
If the job is that bad, find another one. But at this point, show up, work to the best of your ability and remember it is not your place to straighten out the owner. If you are asked for your opinion, provide it in a calm, professional way. If no one asks for your opinion then you don't have one.
Restaurant work is tough for many reasons. Learning to get along with others in a stressful environment is a big part.

Having said all that, the part where the owner got upset because you left to attend to your son bothers me. Your son is obviously a big life priority.
Have you made it clear the hours you can work and the hours you need to take care of your son? Did the owner get upset because you left unexpectedly?
I don't need the details. But in future, if you have explained in clear terms the days and hours you can work and the days and hours you need for your son, then it does not matter if the owner gets upset. If you leave at a time you said you could work then the owner is correct in being upset.
post #8 of 26

Don't spend your own money!  I hope that was a one time deal and you were immediately reimbursed out of the til.  On occasion I will pick something up for the restaurant with my own money and get reimbursed but I'm the chef- if I need something it's because I forgot to order it or want to do something on the fly.

 

You have to know your place. The owner isn't always right but he's always the owner. You can be clear and direct with him but it's his call how the place is run.  If you're not super experienced then let me give you maybe the most important bit of advice you can get: Cover your own ass.  Loyalty is great but it won't get you very far.  Do a good job and take care of business but make sure you and your son are taken care of.  You will have a lot of jobs over the course of your life but only one family.  The business owner will cover his ass, you can be sure of it.  Don't spend your own money or stick your neck in a way that risks your well being or that of your family.

 

The owner shouldn't "balk at every expense".  He needs to account for every cent, that's true, but a restaurant is not cheap to run.  You need a pretty sizable investment.  You need to have a cash float to cover salaries, utility bills, groceries, etc while you're waiting for revenue to roll in.  My line in the sand would be the grocery order.  I'm not opposed to making a will-call to pick stuff up but I'm not gonna pay for it.  Your job is to cook what's in front of you, not buy the ingredients at retail!

 

I don't know what your relationship is with the owners, but if they are serious about you doing the sous chef job then they should give you and/or the chef a key.  It's ridiculous for you to stand outside for an hour waiting to get in.

 

The place sounds like a shit show to me, to be honest.  $12 is on the low end for a sous (unless you're getting 10-15 hours of OT a week, then I suppose you're not too far out of the ballpark for an entry level sous job).  Try to bank whatever cash you can, use the experience but be working on a plan to find something else.

"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
Reply
post #9 of 26

Many helpful comments here that should be followed.....

 

My biggest takeaway is , what are the details of the "Mediterranean influenced sandwich that brought a fellow employee almost to tears"?

post #10 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kingfarvito View Post

you're getting benefits, paid on time, and only working 11 hour shifts. Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't think you realize what happens in other kitchens.
Trust me, I do. I've been staying up until 3am brainstorming dozens of things after business hours. I only get 3 hours of sleep a night, and I expect that to trend downward for the foreseeable future. This was our first unofficial grand opening to take in customers we had been turning away before the grand opening. It's going to get a lot harder, and the hours a lot longer for me, I know. I'm actually arguing to be there 6am to 9pm. I have to get all my juniors up to speed on just basic knife skills because I'm doing prep solo basically, and we're radically understaffed in the kitchen. Tonight we tried out our dinner menu. Tomorrow, Friday, is *the* grand opening. Lunch and dinner. End of work week, dinner service is going to be an absolute nightmare.

Add to that the exec is already in could give a squat mode dealing with the co-owners, it's all on me. Life of a sous in an understaffed kitchen, yeah? I'm here because I mostly know what's in store. Plus don't have any dedicated pit crew. So the understaffed kitchen crew has to juggle prep, cook, pit, etc. I go through quite a but in my eleven hours, and it's not going to get better.

He also fired the lead server and our maitre d because the co-owner, sent him home to save on labor costs-it slowed down. We lost our pit man for favious reasons, so we've had to pull a server to assist for heavy loads.

It's just nuts, but thank you for the reply, KF. I'm taking it all in. Appreciate it.

And no, Jim, he's a co-owner. The money invested into this business isn't his alone. Its the life savings of bith he and his wife, and son. Forgive my failure to mention that. Understand I'm leaving out a great many details to protect my anonymity so focus on something constructive to my situation, or you can ride the slip and slide. Adios.
post #11 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fablesable View Post


Game over mate, do your research on the best businesses in your area and apply there. It will be way better for your health mentally, physically and emotionally. Loving what you do because you work in a good kitchen environment reflects onto your loved ones. Also, getting paid $12/hour for a sous position seems low to me however, it is what you are comfortable with at the end of the day.
I'm right there with you. There is s competing bistro two blocks down, and I have applied yesterday on break but have yet to talk to the exec. I'm not one to give up easily, and I am building a rep very fast.

The 12/hr thing is probationary, due to lack of commercial culinary experience and lack of culinary degree. Salary has been floated and even assistance with securing a used vehicle due to my situation. I'm making big strides in rep. It's all for nought though if the business sinks, but our food is getting a great response so far, and the service is exemplary.

I'm not a fresh cracked egg, my friend. There is real potential here if we can find a solution to the overbearing co-mgr.

I appreciate your response, thank you. I'm taking everything else you're saying to heart.
post #12 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefwriter View Post

NEVER, ever use your money in any way to pay for anything needed by the restaurant. Get the money up front or don't do it.
I was worried, but was reimbursed today and paid for hours worked which were in question, thanks to my exec. That's just how it rolls here.
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefwriter View Post

If I read your post correctly, You are an employee. You are not the chef or owner. Buying supplies in a timely manner is not your problem.
Yes, yes. I know. I'm leaving a massive amount of details out to protect my anonymity.

Quote:
As Jimyra has pointed out, the owner is the owner and can or will do anything he wants. From your post, the owner has more experience than you do in the hospitality business.
Jim is no longer a concern. The man, yhe co, knows FOH for hotel bars but knows shit about the kitchen for upscale restaurant business.
Quote:
And he's the owner. You just started this job. You are not traditionally trained so it is your first job in the industry?
Not traditionally trained, but I'm no spring chicken. I mentioned that to elaborate on my probatory role that's rapidly coming to an end.
Quote:
Getting too worked up at this point is self defeating. Keep your cool and work with things as they are. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open.
I didn't get to this position following that customary philosophy. The 60+ sous who stepped down for me is admitting to this. At first he called me "overbearing and nosey" but I've had the op to display my talent. Now it's fist bumps all around, but I'm not cocky. I know my level of trainging and experience, now they're starting to understand and recognize what I bring to the table, but yes I do lack experience in the culinary field but I've got six radically different career paths ranging from website design, construction, medical, etc, under my belt, so I've been around.
Quote:
Listen to and follow the lead of the Exec Chef.
I'll on this respond to that in PM I'd you'll accept it.
post #13 of 26
Thread Starter 
Apologies, I've been drinking, albeit lightly. I'm also researching while giving my boy foot rub to coax him to sleep. A day in the life.

I appreciate almost all responses thus far, and the massive PMS. It's 1:30 am here and I have to whip up a new feature item for, uh, later today.

Cheers, and thank you for the advice I'n hearing and taking notes-awesome community here. Appreciate you all so much.

Good night.
post #14 of 26

15 beers and a campfire mate.
Talk it out.

post #15 of 26

If you want stability quit now.  If it makes you feel better, there are very few businesses where you can always find a job and pay the bills like the restaurant business.  I've been in your situation, it can be good that they take care of you and you take care of them on a personal level. I have spent my own money to help restaurants succeed and myself succeed.  Not to much but if it costs me 20 bucks to not 86 something or make something better I will sacrifice it. I prefer small private restaurants.  Now that your sous, learn from it,  apply for all the sous jobs around that pay better and try to move up.   If you get an offer, politely give your 2 weeks notice,  maybe they will offer you more or not once you give your notice.  One lesson I learned along time ago the hard way is you look out for you in this business.  Promises, raises, corporate bonuses based on impossible sales targets,(b.s) and eventually moving up are just words.  But your situation isn't that crazy yet.  My last exec job on an island in the South Pacific my produce guy was murdered courtesy of the Chinese mafia, had to drive around the island every day for 3 weeks buying produce from little stands and farmers directly around the island just to keep the restaurant running,  Working in the Caribbean,  US. Marshals stormed my kitchen taking my dishwasher and extraditing him back to the states on armed robbery/murder charges,  there was also the line cook that tried to poison my other line cook because she got promoted over him,  and another line cook I found in dry storage using baking soda to make crack,  etc.  Always remember it could be worse.  Appreciate your job, work hard and remember if you don't like it, just quit and find another one

post #16 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hookedcook View Post

Appreciate your job, work hard and remember if you don't like it, just quit and find another one

Precisely what I'm doing. After the owner arrived yesterday at 9:45, almost an hour late (we should have been in prepping at 6am, he wants us to stay until 2am for prep), to let me, the only person even there in to start prep and clean, and the first thing he did was open a bottle of wine, a bottle of beer, drain the latter and start on the first, that was the end. I can't wait for the first actual critic to walk into this joint. Had to cancel lunch, and after several hours of bullshitting and not allowing us to clock in, sent us home, then called us back for customers he just let into the door with a cold kitchen. Add to that I was told to be there at 6am the next day, got there, waited until a quarter past 7, then left.

Case closed, if I'm not fired, going to milk it, and find a job at a restaurant that isn't run by a clueless alcoholic.

I apologize to everyone. I've let myself get too emotionally involved. 49er syndrome.

Cheers.
post #17 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parallax View Post

I am not traditionally trained...

The rest of the story is that I've walked into one of those nightmarish scenarios many of you I am sure you are familiar with.

 

Consider yourself now traditionally trained. Welcome to the insanity that is sometimes encountered in the biz. :peace:

 

Good luck in your next job and may the force be with you to find a better environment. They do exist.

 

Side note: What is..

Quote:
Originally Posted by Parallax View Post

49er syndrome.
 
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 #18 of 26
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cheflayne View Post

Consider yourself now traditionally trained. Welcome to the insanity that is sometimes encountered in the biz. peace.gif

Good luck in your next job and may the force be with you to find a better environment. They do exist.
Thanks. I wish it felt like I earned my stripes.

And the 49er ref, well, I saw gold. I sacrificed a lot of time and energy on a dream. Now I'm drinking cheap whiskey in an alley begging for change.
post #19 of 26

First let me say that ya might wanna think about moving north. They offer kids $10 an hour to work the drive-thru at McDonalds around Baltimore, and if ever there was a town that needed competent kitchen help...

 

Been on both sides of it sort of; 1st wife and many friends were/are chefs, owned a few eateries, and worked in others, and the first most important lesson I learned is simply to never accept promises in lieu of payment. The job of most mid-level managers and owners is to sell "opportunity", which translates into "work your arse off for a non-specific period of time and I'll take credit if we succeed, but you're toast if we don't". Oh yeah... and you will never be rewarded to anything approximating the level to which your work likely deserves. Owner needs a new Mercedes to play the part right? Seen that more times than I can count.

 

Ultimately it falls to Occam's Razor, the best solution is the simplest. You will often see a higher rate of pay increase by regularly testing the waters elsewhere, either by way of a thinly veiled extorting your due from your current employer, or simply leaving for greener pastures. At least when you discover that the greener grass was a toxic waste spill you'll be getting paid more for the aggravation.

 

Never worked in the environment myself but I'm thinking a stint with a higher end corporate kitchen (hospitality, etc.) might be the better way to go while raising your son. Most have adequate benefits, at least some semblance of structure and set schedules, and generally attract a more professional supporting cast. Privately owned start-ups and re-fires are a true recipe for abuse and disappointment. Any arse-hole can open a restaurant, and many do, which is why there are so many that are always going out of business. The market will prevail, so unless it's your own joint, don't become so heavily invested.

 

I realize that where affairs of the heart, and I fuill well understand that that especially includes cooking, are concerned, their very essence is passion, and it's pointless to devote yourself to cooking if you aren't passionate, but you have to keep your priorities straight, cu'z I guarantee the owner(s) don't look much like yours. Use your skills to get the best money and working conditions that you can while raising your child. That's a project that deserves your passionate best. If your employer doesn't get it, just keep looking. There is a growing void in the market where anyone who is competent working with their hands is involved. From plumbers to chefs, there aren't enough interested today in putting in the time and making the commitment necessary to learn a high skill job. If it ain't got a desk and a chair with ample time for twatting and texting most of those entering the workforce would just as soon stay home, so you're in demand, whether you realize it or not.

 

Good luck and don't take anymore wooden nickels.  ;)

post #20 of 26

These are not people I'd work for.  I realize you're between a rock and a hard place, but spend a little time each day looking for a new job.  Not gonna be easy, but not impossible.  In the mean time (and especially for your son), have a sit down to firm up your schedule.  And be firm about it.  None of this "B schedule" shit like you'll be here when we open, and you'll be here till we're closed.  Those days are over.  True, you might have to be flexible with somebody running late for the dinner shift, etc. But not like 2-3 times per week.   You need keys.  This should make the owner happy that you want to begin on time.  You never purchase anything out of pocket.  His responsibility.  You do your best with what he did order.  He should set up his own breakfast.  That's all I needed to read.  Start looking.  You are underpaid.  Not worth the headache in a field that can be really enjoyable.  Good luck.

post #21 of 26

I could only tell you how I run my kitchen. The kitchen employees answer to me no one else. The owner hired/ trusted me to make the right decisions in his/her restaurant. If the owner wants to talk with me it's not during food service or a busy prep time. If the owner could do what I do, I wouldn't be there. If a owner has never work in a kitchen they have no idea what it is to be in the weeds on a front line. There is only one thing that's important during a busy front line food service, everything else can wait. I all the restaurants I have chafed in the owner knew when to approach me. AQ good chef has many things going on at one time in their head. In most cases they don't show it. The chef doesn't need more bullshit creeping in during a busy time...........That being said, your not going to change this guy. live with it or leave. This guy is doing things his way, it sounds like he really doesn't care if you and the chef agree with him or not.........Good luck........

post #22 of 26

Hi parallax.....

 

I guess I could write a lengthy post and explain and postulate and all, but it's much simpler and much more direct to ask you one simple question:

 

Why do you think the owner is comfortable with a bunch of (quote) FNG's, and a Sous who has very, very, little work experience (Grandma don't count unless she ran a commercial kitchen).

 

Honestly, if the owner wasn't comfortable with his staff, he would do something about it.  It's his money he's spending, right?

 

Once you get the answer figured out, let us know, O.K.?

...."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 #23 of 26
Thread Starter 
Embezzlement.
post #24 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parallax View Post

Embezzlement.


Hmmmm.... Usually embezzlers take off with the money.  This one's sticking around.

 

Perhaps he's a Frank Sinatra fan, you know the song, "I did MY way"?  This is the type of restaurant owner  that makes used food eqpt. dealers get glazed eyes, sweaty palms, and deep, ragged breathing.

 

Smart restaurant owners tend to hire people who can make them money....

...."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 #25 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by CapeCodChef View Post
 

Many helpful comments here that should be followed.....

 

My biggest takeaway is , what are the details of the "Mediterranean influenced sandwich that brought a fellow employee almost to tears"?

Same here! 

 

Come to Kentucky my friend, you will see some of the worst ran and managed (let it be micro or standard) establishments in the country. I am use to hearing about how the restaurant life here is and it seems to be no different elsewhere. Its also funny that you mentioned health insurance thats just thanks to Obama care! 

 

Chef Billy has it right! The owner hired and trusted me to operate the kitchen. I also would start rolling out another welcome mat for another Executive Chef as well, that is if you there long enough to see it. I would not use my money for their BS as well! 

 

By the way, When the Executive Chef does loose his spot. I would not step into that lime light if I were you. If you think you have if bad now. Walk a minute in his shoes! NO thanks at least not for me. Ive been down that road once and that will never happen again.

post #26 of 26
Thread Starter 
Yes, he does. No. There isn't a chance I would ever step into the Exec's shoes at that place.

That's not an issue, however. I'm no longer there, and the restaurant is no longer operating to my knowledge. It's been closed every time I've driven by during the lunch hours, and I don't care to investigate any further given my suspicions.

I've got something else on my plate already, and have been in the lab working on a streamlined menu for a specialty shop that's expanding into a full restaurant.
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