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My chef does not work the line. He comes in, makes sure the work's being done, criticizes something or someone then leaves. Twice a week, he arrives with groceries and has us go out and bring it in. When it's super-slow, he leaves the restaurant. When it's super-busy, he comes in to yell. For my first few months on the line, he would come to my station to help for a couple of minutes, tell me how terrible I was, then leave. I got a handle on the station now, so he doesn't step in any longer. The only time he gets on the line is to demonstrate a new recipe that he wants on the menu.

The guy in the station next to me and I do all our own prep.

He's tired of cooking. Been doing it for over 30 years.
Hi redbeerd,

Is this reasonable? No. Is it common? Yes.

All too often, good kitchens are led by chefs who have lost their passion for what they do. But, use and old age has literally trapped them into something they no longer love. Its a self reinforcing hell where the chef not only does not like what he is doing, but, its made worse by the fact that he no longer loves that which he has spent a lifetime doing. In that way, its not unlike a long term love affair that has gone sour.

Ok....enough of the poetry and tragedy.

You have two choices here, my friend and I think you already know what they are.

1) you can deal with it until you find something better;
or
2) you can try and do something about it.

My recommendation? Go with choice #1. Unless you have some vested financial interest in the establishment, which I don't think you do, choice #1 is the only viable option. Choice #2 is only viable if you intend to oust the chef and take his place, in which case, you have your work cut out for you.

You deserve to work under a chef that still loves what (s)he does and wants to teach others to be better. Let's be real here. Employee turnover in the food industry is huge. So, you are not committing any mortal sin by looking for better work. But, you have to be proactive about it. Something that is truly better doesn't typically just fall in your lap.

I don't know if you are a gambler, but, I like to use this analogy. I like to play blackjack. When I go to a casino to play, I always spend at least an hour scouting out the right table. I want to make sure the people that are sitting at that table know how to play and are not going to pick up and leave 5 minutes after I sit down. I also want to make sure the dealer does not allow mid-shoe entries to come in or allows players to sit in for a hand and then leave thereby wrecking the flow of the cards.

You should adopt a similar philosophy when deciding where you want to work. Spend the time doing the research. Is the chef any good? How long have the line cooks been there (if they've been there for a long time, why haven't they moved up?)? Is the kitchen adequately staffed? Are the cooks learning? Over the years, I have found that if I really want to know how well a kitchen runs, I talk to the line cooks.

Granted, you are unlikely to find the perfect place where all of these questions are answered to your liking, but, at least you will have a game plan that allows you to properly gauge your choices of where to work. .

I hope this helps. Good luck! :)
 
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