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New chef help

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I was fortunate enough to take my first chef position back in September and I like to think I've done a pretty damn good job of turning the operation from something that needed some serious love into a place that I can be proud to put my name begind. When I came in it was the classic sob story of a poorly abused red headed step kitchen with a lowly staff eager to rob you of what have you. All ordering was through Sysco and a separate seafood supplier (who actually is pretty awesome). I took @foodpump's advice and since we are a very boutique business I decided to fully cut them out (they had been screwing us for awhile) and go through 6-7 smaller local vendors instead who where a.) happier to have my business, and b.) whose product I'm super proud to sell and can advertise with my food. While still using better products (Duroc belly, Redbird chx, fennel pollen, foie, etc.) I also have a whole new staff (my sous walked out three weeks in on a Sunday before brunch so I came in and got a health inspection. On a Sunday.) and have rolled out new brunch and dinner menus. I think -and have been told- that I'm doing really well. This all being said, I am super exhausted and putting in 80+ hours a week. I have a newborn who doesn't know me and am taking on way to much responsibility. I have to figure out how to delegate this workload or my home life will soon disintegrate. It's a very small place, here are the numbers:
Food- 28%, labor- 15-30%, 1 dish 2-3 line and me, menu is low $ avg ticket is about $30 pp, 40 seats mostly patio, I think we do around 750k to million a year (based on daily sales). My question is how do I best hire and maneuver labor so I can finally get a day off and cut my days back to 10-12 hours a day. I will hire/fire as necessary. Thanks chefs.
post #2 of 14

If I learned anything in this business, it's never do what someone else can do. That puts you in the areas you s/b in and doing whats important. Four to five months in this job you did a great job in reorganizing the staff, dinner menu and brunch. You s/b real proud of what you accomplished so far. Once you let up and delegate some duties you'll be fine. When you get your first Chefs position it's hard to "not be there" and trust what you build with someone else. Just remember it is this way because of you........Great job........Chef Bill

post #3 of 14

I don't know man, all I can say is good job.  It's hard to tell without feeling out the place you know?

post #4 of 14

@alaminute you should be proud, sounds like you are doing a damn good job!

 

It is hard to give practical suggestions with only an electronic point of view. Lunch and dinner? 7  days a week? How complex a menu? Any strong help or seriously eager and wanting to learn and grow help?

 

Train your staff well. Communicate your vision clearly and consistently. Respect your staff. Give them some room.


Edited by cheflayne - 1/11/16 at 7:48pm
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 #5 of 14

Bottom line is that you need someone there you can trust. Did you replace your sous chef? If you have, you would do well to train him/her to start covering full shifts by themself. 

 

Start by showing them all the things you do (besides prep and cook) in a day--the order taking/counting stock, closing checklists, etc. Start by walking them through it, then next time have them do it themselves (while you are still there doing office work or whatever) and check how they did.

 

Then give them a shift to run by themselves. A lunch or a brunch to start, or maybe even a slow dinner (Sun/Mon).

 

Just give them the tools to succeed. The pace you are going at (we've all been there at some point) isn't really sustainable for long term so you should start putting in place structures to give yourself a break. Otherwise you will burn out fast.  

post #6 of 14

Congrats!  I was in a similar situation very recently.  I took over a newish restaurant and had to ax the ones that were dead weight, including my sous.  The result was a month or so of 80+ hour weeks working every shift we were open.  Eventually I hired a sous I could trust and things have been much better since.  It seems to me that's your next step, getting that #2 guy or gal that you can depend on.  Once s/he is trained in you should be able to scale back.

 

Prioritizing your time is the big thing, for sure.  As ChefBillyB says, leave the grunt work to the grunts.  You'll kill yourself if you're doing all the menial stuff all day.  Plus it's hard to have a big picture view if you're down in the trenches all day every day.

 

In a small restaurant cross training is the key. Everyone needs to know every job (or as close as is feasible).  That gives you more flexibility with staffing and scheduling. Plus it lets you get off the line and out of the restaurant sometimes.

"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 #7 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by alaminute View Post

I was fortunate enough to take my first chef position back in September and I like to think I've done a pretty damn good job of turning the operation from something that needed some serious love into a place that I can be proud to put my name begind. When I came in it was the classic sob story of a poorly abused red headed step kitchen with a lowly staff eager to rob you of what have you. All ordering was through Sysco and a separate seafood supplier (who actually is pretty awesome). I took @foodpump's advice and since we are a very boutique business I decided to fully cut them out (they had been screwing us for awhile) and go through 6-7 smaller local vendors instead who where a.) happier to have my business, and b.) whose product I'm super proud to sell and can advertise with my food. While still using better products (Duroc belly, Redbird chx, fennel pollen, foie, etc.) I also have a whole new staff (my sous walked out three weeks in on a Sunday before brunch so I came in and got a health inspection. On a Sunday.) and have rolled out new brunch and dinner menus. I think -and have been told- that I'm doing really well. This all being said, I am super exhausted and putting in 80+ hours a week. I have a newborn who doesn't know me and am taking on way to much responsibility. I have to figure out how to delegate this workload or my home life will soon disintegrate. It's a very small place, here are the numbers:
Food- 28%, labor- 15-30%, 1 dish 2-3 line and me, menu is low $ avg ticket is about $30 pp, 40 seats mostly patio, I think we do around 750k to million a year (based on daily sales). My question is how do I best hire and maneuver labor so I can finally get a day off and cut my days back to 10-12 hours a day. I will hire/fire as necessary. Thanks chefs.


I've been in a similar situation albeit as the sous under the chef/owner who wanted to be more or less non-existent.

 

How many days a week are you open? Types of service (lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch)? How many stations? Dishwasher working everyday or is he/she supplemented by the kitchen? Will your labor budget increase if/when food sales increase?

 

As you can probably tell by now small operations have unique challenges and unfortunately a small staff means little wiggle room so to speak. To ease up the burden on yourself it starts with your staff, mostly your sous. Cross training staff on different stations, getting yourself and your sous to work 2 stations on slower shifts, training your sous to do everything that you can do (ordering, talking with vendors, making a schedule, inventory etc.) will help a lot. Nobody knows their kitchen better than themselves, you know everyone's limits and abilities and expectations from the owners. A lot of your questions you'll be able to answer yourself in time.

 

Little tricks that I'd use were:

Getting staff to CONSTANTLY be working, take full advantage during slow times. If they can get the station's prep for tomorrow done the night before take advantage of it and come in before dinner service instead of before lunch. If the dishwasher has time have him peel potatoes and store in water the night before. Every little bit counts.

 

Ordering: If you need to be there for every order (how well does your sous order?) try to get the list done the night before. You can make many orders from home or leave the note for your sous to simply read off (make it idiot proof btw).

 

Working 2 stations on a slower night might allow your to save some labor on another night for you to take off. Try to get yourself and your sous to work multiple stations as often as possible assuming quality doesn't slip.

 

All in all thinking ahead and planning are essential when there's not a brigade of cooks. Taking advantage of every opportunity now allows you rest for later. Hope this helps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
I appreciate the tips and support all- basically i need a good number two is what I'm hearing. (It's so much harder to find time to post and reply these days) thanks everybidy
post #9 of 14

Sounds like you are doing a great job given the challenge you walked into.  A tip on the fois - D'Artagnan has fois trim for $24/lb. if you don't need full slices.  It's 30% off now, but even full price it's a hell of a savings.

 

http://www.dartagnan.com/foie-gras-cubes/product/ZDUFG008-1.html?cgid=foie-gras&dwvar_ZDUFG008-1_freshFrozenWeight=frozen-ZDUFG008#start=8 

post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Whaaaaatt??!!!!!! Thanks- that's awesome
post #11 of 14

I don't see 30% off. :(

post #12 of 14
post #13 of 14
I love D'Artagnan products, there's a truffle mousse pate that's delicious and black truffle butter. I recently bought Wagyu ribeye steaks from them though and both had a huge slice through the center making them look lobed, was surprised that it passed their quality standards.
post #14 of 14
One of the greatest things I was told last year was to watch "The Profit" on CNBC I have learned so much from this show.
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