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young sous chef needs some advice

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 


Hey all, longtime lurker first time poster, thanks in advance. I'm a sous chef at a downtown hotel in a large west coast city. It's a corporate job, I walked in 2 years ago as a line cook with it being my first hotel and first corporate kitchen. I was promoted to sous chef 8 months ago. I'm 24 (all of my staff is older than me) with no classical training (and zero desire to sit in a classroom) I'm very confident in my kitchen skills, we run a ten million a year banquet program, a free breakfast buffet, and a full service restaurant. MOST day's it doesn't feel like work to me, I enjoy being in the kitchen, I get paid well enough to cover the bills and buy a few beers, and my boss is pretty flexible about taking time off.

 

But what I hate is the corporate side. I had to interview with human resources and general manager for the promotion, and I told both of them this was my first hotel, this was my first management job, and this was my first corporate job. They talked about all this management training and employee growth that they had planned so I said great and accepted the job.

 

This is a big hotel, and by the employee entrance they have a HR display board that announces birthdays and promotions and stuff like that. Someone in a different department wrote a word the begins with c and rhymes with bunt next to some other girls name. I didn't write it, I didn't see it get written, but since I smoke I'm on video walking by the board a few times. Since it wasn't the kitchen I didn't think it was in my jurisdiction to do anything, but apparently it was since im a manager, I thought it was a joke and it was HR's area. Anyway human resources (since they generate a whopping ZERO revenue for the hotel) found the time to go through a weeks worth of security footage and did formal write ups for about 20 employees that had walked by and looked like they saw the display board. The new general manager is trying to "change the culture," and now I have a mark on my profile that makes me look bad and am really leaning towards moving on.

 

For a few months now I have wanted to take a step up in the level im cooking at. I've prepared a shortlist of the top 5 kitchens in my city and think I'm going to hand out some resumes and try to stage. I'm aware im going to have to go back to being a line cook, and my girl is in full support. But do you think I am screwing myself over in the long run by not waiting out a year as sous chef (4 months short.) In the long term I really don't want to be in hotels the rest of my life making scrambled eggs and oven cooking bacon for 500 guests every day, but I don't want to damage my resume.

post #2 of 11

Stick it out, the experience will pay out in the long run.

post #3 of 11
Once you'vr been a manager, it can be difficult to step back to a cook job- and the money and the benefits hurt when you lose them. I'm not telling you not to do it, though. But it's difficult, to my mind, to be satisfied cooking- on any level- once you've been a boss. Some people won't hire you for that reason. And, you can always take a sous job someplace with nicer food.
I sympathize with your story, though. That's some BS. I undrrstand wanting to change the culture but I don't think that sounds like a culture I would like either.
post #4 of 11

I see this very differently.

 

You accepted a position in management by agreement with HR.

 

You are now in a different category.

 

You are on a management team now.

 

You must start to think as a manager and not an employee.

 

You saw this sign and as management, you are supposed to alert those in charge.

 

That fact that you did not is why you have a mark now.

 

Now the choice is yours. Do you want to cook or do you want to manage people?

 

If you accepted the agreement and are a manager in training, you must act like one.

post #5 of 11

I have to agree with Chefross, but ultimately I wouldn't worry about it.  That kind of thing is just not going to follow around.  Sure, it will stay in your file if you transfer but stay with the same company.  But, if you leave that isn't the kind of thing that is going to haunt you.  In fact, no one, beyond the HR department will ever see it, and even is a new employer does a reference check it will never come up.  It really is a non-issue.

post #6 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by dvizz410 View Post
 


Hey all, longtime lurker first time poster, thanks in advance. I'm a sous chef at a downtown hotel in a large west coast city. It's a corporate job, I walked in 2 years ago as a line cook with it being my first hotel and first corporate kitchen. I was promoted to sous chef 8 months ago. I'm 24 (all of my staff is older than me) with no classical training (and zero desire to sit in a classroom) I'm very confident in my kitchen skills, we run a ten million a year banquet program, a free breakfast buffet, and a full service restaurant. MOST day's it doesn't feel like work to me, I enjoy being in the kitchen, I get paid well enough to cover the bills and buy a few beers, and my boss is pretty flexible about taking time off.

 

But what I hate is the corporate side. I had to interview with human resources and general manager for the promotion, and I told both of them this was my first hotel, this was my first management job, and this was my first corporate job. They talked about all this management training and employee growth that they had planned so I said great and accepted the job.

 

This is a big hotel, and by the employee entrance they have a HR display board that announces birthdays and promotions and stuff like that. Someone in a different department wrote a word the begins with c and rhymes with bunt next to some other girls name. I didn't write it, I didn't see it get written, but since I smoke I'm on video walking by the board a few times. Since it wasn't the kitchen I didn't think it was in my jurisdiction to do anything, but apparently it was since im a manager, I thought it was a joke and it was HR's area. Anyway human resources (since they generate a whopping ZERO revenue for the hotel) found the time to go through a weeks worth of security footage and did formal write ups for about 20 employees that had walked by and looked like they saw the display board. The new general manager is trying to "change the culture," and now I have a mark on my profile that makes me look bad and am really leaning towards moving on.

 

For a few months now I have wanted to take a step up in the level im cooking at. I've prepared a shortlist of the top 5 kitchens in my city and think I'm going to hand out some resumes and try to stage. I'm aware im going to have to go back to being a line cook, and my girl is in full support. But do you think I am screwing myself over in the long run by not waiting out a year as sous chef (4 months short.) In the long term I really don't want to be in hotels the rest of my life making scrambled eggs and oven cooking bacon for 500 guests every day, but I don't want to damage my resume.


My advice for you is to take a step back and ask if leaving over something as trivial as that is worth it. You have no real experience as a sous chef (4 months is still in the learning phase) so it's not exactly a resume booster, in fact it looks bad to have such a short stint in management especially as your first experience. If you saw the swear written next to that persons name why didn't you as a manager do anything? Letting things slide downhill or burying you head in the sand ("I saw it but I didn't think it was my responsibility") is classic bad  management. Being proactive and on the ball is how you keep climbing the management ladder and gain respect for being good at your job. What you should have done is gone to HR yourself and tell them you saw something inappropriate, it shows to them that you're thinking like a manager and not a line cook. I remember once I saw two FOH's putting ketchup packets and individual jam jars into their purses (I was the sous at the time) and had I not said anything to the GM I would have gotten a sit down and write up for not reporting what I saw. Upper management wants to know that you're looking out for the business.

 

Stick it out a year to soak up the experience. It may not being the type of cooking that motivates you but the experience management wise in a large operation will be invaluable. You WILL regret not sticking it out 5 years from now if you choose to leave so quickly. Going to a high end restaurant with ambitious cuisine after this will be easier with some management experience because you'll be thinking with the bigger picture in mind from the get-go.

post #7 of 11
I have to second and third what has been said here.

So, as a cook, it's pretty funny to see the "C" word beside someone's name. Perhaps you even agree.

Thing is, now how is your team going to respect you if you're not that guy who sticks up for his team mates?

At the best it's bullying behaviour, at its worst it's sexualité harassment. This is something that you, as a leader, cannot stand for. I mean this as a corporation, or as a chef of a little restaurant.

Chalk this up as a learning experience. You are held to a higher standard now and never forget that you are to be the example to your crew mates. Sure, it's funny to see a sign like that, and I get the sense (from your dismissal of the importance of HR following up on a sexual harassment case) that you don't agree or even understand the implications of the actions of the person who wrote that on the board.

In some ways, given your response and feelings towards it, count yourself lucky that you haven't been fired from your position. Trust me when I say that while in a kitchen it may seem like no big deal (cause we have this banter all the time, right?) it IS a big deal to a corporate environment where the pressure is on to ensure everyone has a safe environment to work in free from harassment.

So, tl;dr... You're learning. Be the guy that stands up for staff. While you might Piss a few people off, remember that it's the right thing to do, and that your employee are watching what you do. It's no longer good enough to act like a cook. Act like a manager.

Jason Sandeman

http://jasonsandeman.com

Developing Systems So You Can Cook

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Jason Sandeman

http://jasonsandeman.com

Developing Systems So You Can Cook

Reply
post #8 of 11

I think that's it in a nutshell.  You're not their buddy any more, not just one of the guys.  You're management.  Realistically as a manager, if you see stuff like that and allow it then you're condoning it, and potentially opening up your superiors to greater liability.  Much is made of kitchens being "pirate ships" (as Anthony Bourdain once wrote) and maybe there's an element of that.  But you are responsible for shaping the culture of your kitchen.

 

I can't overstate how important it is for the Chef and Sous Chef to be managers.  99% of all problems you'll face in your career are people problems.  And if you dig deep enough even that remaining 1% if probably also people problems.  Cooking skills are important but people skills are truly more important.  Especially in a larger high volume operation.  You can bring in young guns and hotshot cooks if you need to put aces in the places.  But someone has to manage them, delegate work and create systems that keep the kitchen humming along.  It requires a bit of personal distance from your cooks to do this.  It helps to be likable but trying to be everyone's best friend is a recipe for disaster.

 

After many years of working as a chef I took a step back and took a line cook job so I could finish my bachelor's degree in business.  When I finished school and took an Exec job again it took a couple weeks to mentally switch gears and let the weight of "command" settle onto my shoulders.  I get along with my cooks but there's enough distance between them and me that they see me as their boss first and a dude second.  It really has to be that way IMO.  People will respect you a lot more if you keep those boundaries firm and clear.

"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 11

I'm going to go a little against the general consensus now, but only a little way.

As a Sous Chef you are basically the second in command - generally speaking. You are the second to the Chef, and hence you need to "act" this way.

I fully understand your stance on that something like this is not really your responsibility (and here I go against the general consensus) and to a certain degree I agree with you.

How come HR did not spot this earlier? How can it be, that it even remains there for 1 full day, especially since the board should be managed by HR?

Now - on the one hand you would actually be correct in thinking this way (and I have had my fair share of HR related problems and not only one HR manager looked for a new job after we were done at General Management) - but mind you, I was already Exec. at the time.

As I said - on the one hand HR should be taking a much larger responsibility for this as IT IS their job.

On the other hand now - and this is where I need to agree with the general consensus again - you are the Sous.

 

It might feel like being the snitch or the rat and running to HR might seem to quite a lot of people like telling on people, but you really only have two options:

A) Find out who did it and take things into your own hands - which mind you, is very complicated and dangerous as it can be misunderstood not only by the person who did it, but also by Management

B) Involve the people that have the "authority" to do something about it.

To sweeten the deal - you could even have given HR "shit" for not having noticed it themselves, hence setting a clear example that something like this will not be tolerated by you.

 

Leaving your position now - I very strongly advise against this.

Yes - in a smaller restaurant or "hot" restaurant you might be cooking more again, or cooking with more variety - but imagine this:

 

Line Cook

Sous Chef (8 months)

Line Cook

 

How would you read this on a resume?

Especially...when asked why you left, what would you say? I did not like that HR gave me a mark for not giving a "shit" about what was going on?

Not really the best selling point for future reference.

 

Stick it out - honestly, having a mark on your record from HR is kind of a pre-requisite to move up the ladder :)

I had several marks - mainly for disagreeing with HR on many things including working load and working hours - but that is another story.

 

So, to sum it up:

Man up - you are the Sous, time to let everyone know that you can fill the role, especially when you are this young compared to the other colleagues. Don't be arrogant doing it, but clearly let your team know that you are the one in charge. Be fair, that earns the most respect, and never be to high up the ladder to get your hands dirty along with the team.

Don't try to be the cool "I am your friend" sous - only gets you in trouble

So yeah - just my two (long) cents on this

post #10 of 11
I look towards my sous chefs for support. I hate to side with a corporate hr department but if that word was by my name or really anyone at my restaurant and my sous saw it I would fully expect them to take it seriously. Don't sweat it, I've been in management positions and have made stupid little mistakes that came back to bite me in the ass and it was a learning experience. Unless there is a list of other reasons of why you are unhappy there then forget about it and move on.
Stick it as sous chef. If you want to go work in other restaurants in the future by all means, go for it, but there is no reason to demote yourself after one mishap.
post #11 of 11
I'm with all the people who say, put in your year, don't step back now, etc, but this makes me think I'd leave:

"human resources (since they generate a whopping ZERO revenue for the hotel) found the time to go through a weeks worth of security footage and did formal write ups for about 20 employees that had walked by and looked like they saw the display board. The new general manager is trying to "change the culture,"

My guys are getting written up because they saw grafitti? What is the GM trying to change the culture to, 1984? I might finish my year but I'd give my notice at week 50. Eff that.
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