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21 year old executive chef

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
So a lot has happened in the last few months. I was hired on as a sous chef and my executive chef has since quit, and the owners have since asked me to fill in a run the kitchen. The restaurant has not yet opened and I finished the menu and did all documentation by myself. We have hired a total of 4 other cooks. The issue is that the owners want to hire nobody but chefs, because they want everyone to live and breathe their food and to be able to create items for the specials menu, take produce orders, etc. The first issue that I fear is too many egos in the kitchen. I was originally hired on as a sous chef and after a guy was hired it was obvious to me that we were equals, I was not introduced as a sous chef and I was only making $1 more than him. The owners also have another restaurant that has 20 locations. It is a fast casual restaurant with no chef, just kitchen managers (who don't even cook). I have since been put in charge because I have been here the longest and I have the owners trust. But I fear that the owners don't understand the importance of clear order (executive chef, sous chef). I am 21 years old, I don't know everything about running a kitchen and I could never pretend to. I am a huge fan of teamwork in a kitchen especially. I feel the owners think that if there are official orders then it will cap the creativity of their line cooks, or will cause too many egos. But I think that everyone equal will cause just that. Has anyone had experience in working in a restaurant like this? For the record, the owners didn't use the word "executive chef" for me, and we have not yet talked about a promotion (I will after the end of this week or so, right now it's not the most important thing) but these are my responsibilities:

1) placing and receiving produce and seafood orders
2) training (the restaurant is set to open in a few weeks)
3) 100% control over everything in the kitchen...
4) stocking the restaurant of all necessary tools
5) line mapping
6)HACCP training
7) creating specials menu
8) interviewing

The main thing that brought this issue up is that after 1 week of being head chef, I posted about it on FB and a guy who was working for me all week texted me and said "I didn't know you were executive! Congrats on the title" Which just makes me really confused because they were reporting to me for everything all week, but I guess that's because I've been there the longest and they have only been working here for 2 weeks.

I fear that if the owners try to put us on a level playing field than I will be walked over. I have a corporate meeting on Tuesday and I think I will bring this up to them... Is order necessary?
post #2 of 3

"I was hired on as a sous chef and my executive chef has since quit, and the owners have since asked me to fill in a run the kitchen"


Corporate asked you to fill in and did not promote you.  They may be saving money by not replacing the exec chef until closer to opening.  Then they will hire someone with more experience. Don't let your ego and inexperience set you up for a fall.  Here is an example of a job description for a corporate exec chef, do you and your duties fit the example?


Executive Chef

Responsibilities: The executive chef will train and manage kitchen personnel and supervise/coordinate all related culinary activities; estimate food consumption and requisition or purchase food; select and develop recipes; standardize production recipes to ensure consistent quality; establish presentation technique and quality standards; plan and price menus; ensure proper equipment operation/maintenance; and ensure proper safety and sanitation in kitchen. The executive chef may cook selected items or for select occasions. The executive chef may oversee special catering events and may also offer culinary instruction and/or demonstrate culinary techniques. The executive chef directly supervises kitchen personnel with responsibility for hiring, discipline, performance reviews and initiating pay increases. Typically reports to a food service director.

Special qualifications: The ability to manage in a diverse environment with focus on client and customer services is essential to success in this role.

Experience: Previous experience with control food and labor cost, demonstration cooking, menu development, and pricing and development of culinary team preferred. Premise and liability accountability and contract-managed service experience is desirable.

Education: The ideal candidates will possess a bachelor's degree or related culinary degree with eight or more years of industry and culinary management experience. 

Core competencies: Leadership, Management, Planning

post #3 of 3
To further what he said. I'd love to be wrong and I hope you do wind up getting the promotion you think you have; but this is the industry. Similar things happened to me at almost every job I had when I was young. Owners love to take a young guy with skill who puts in the extra effort and milk them for tasks out of their job description because it's effectively free slave labor. You can't make a kid scrub pots for free, but you can make a "kid" in the kitchen do your hiring, firing, ordering, menu planning, etc for free. It would take me both hands to count the number of jobs I was -called- Chef by everyone in the establishment, but left with line cook on my cards when I was younger. And MOST of the guys my age I work with experienced exactly the same. Until your paystubs say "Executive Chef", that's not your job. And it'll get milked until you get it finalized one way or the other yourself.

The worst in my case was a Sous position in my early 20's. I got hired as a line cook as a temporary job (they offered me a very good wage for a line cook so I accepted it over a worse paying Sous position elsewhere). Shortly after, the Sous was hospitalized for a few weeks. They fired him before he returned. The fact that the chef did nothing but still perpetually badmouthed the Sous who had been carrying him should have been a red flag, but I young.

Chef immediately asked me to fill in temporarily for the Sous. Full Sous responsibilities went on my plate that day. A few weeks later I got "hired" on a "trial" basis as Sous (meaning no actual change in title or pay). This trial basis lasted a year. During which there was not a single day I worked where the chef worked a more than three hour shift. He'd come in, read his emails, say "You've got this," and go home. Sounds improbable... but I lived it for a year. This place had 50+ employee's. Every one of them called myself and the executive chef, "Chef". After a year, I noticed a new Sous on the schedule. He had started the day prior (my first day off in 31 days). I had people coming up to me asking why I had quit, since I'd been the Sous for a year as far as literally the entire place excepting my bosses knew. He worked one day (my day off) and walked out claiming he was sick a few hours into his second day. He never returned. (He wasn't young.) The following day I get told by the Chef that I needed to reassume Sous duties.

I put in my notice that week, and talked to the owner. Turned out that the Chef had told him that I shouldn't get the promotion because I couldn't manage my time effectively, which the owner had believed because I was working 90-110hr weeks... because the Chef was scheduling me open to close 7 days a week so he didn't ever have to work... but he didn't tell the owner that part. I laughed and excused myself.

The worst part was I actually got PTO based on hours work... and I had over a month accrued because I literally NEVER got a day off. I negotiated with them telling them they weren't getting my two weeks if they didn't cash out the full amount (they had a 1 week max cashout policy), I'd just take 2 weeks of PTO as my final two. They said absolutely, no problem. Told me to my face that they realized I wasn't able to take any days off so the PTO had just been a farce and the only way to use it WAS to cash it out. So I worked my last two weeks. They sent me the checks for my PTO, then canceled them.
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