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Thread: Advise needed for a young chef.

  1. #1
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    Advise needed for a young chef.

    Hi all, am here to seek some advise from some of you veterans so here it goes.

    I am 24 this year and am working for 5 years in the kitchen now. At my current place, I am the unspoken No.2, my post is just a CDP, however due to high staff turnover my place never got a proper Sous Chef, the previous ones that came were either too lazy or incompetent. No staff in the kitchen now from the opening team are left except for myself and my head chef. We're currently a 10-staff strong kitchen. He places a lot of trust in me and tries from time to time to nurture me into officially becoming his Sous Chef. He has empowered and told me to discipline, guide and teach the rest of the team.

    Basically I do everything from ordering to food costing/food cost control, organizing functions, attending budget meetings etc. All these have taken time out from my working hours instead of standing in the kitchen prepping away but I'm overwhelmed with the paperwork involved. I feel that instead of doing paperwork I could spend more time with the team with Mise-en-place and be on the line and most importantly be more hands on. I feel that I could hone my skills further and thus am feeling dejected. The times that I'm involved in service is only while I am at the pass and it make me feel left out as I'm not actually doing much cooking anymore.

    I try my best to turn up for work 2 hours earlier to see if I could help bang out some prep for the team, but slowly, now I'm getting physically and mentally tired working here. Working 70hrs (rostered) shifts and my pay is not far off from my fellow colleagues. Why do I say i get mentally tired working? It's a bittersweet thing working with my head chef. I've got to say that he is a awesome chef, his creativity, flair, capability, speed of working amazes me. But in the recent few months he has slackened and he's starting to lose his flair. Half the time he's not here, he would take off early or come in late.

    There are times that he would spur me on and say I'm doing a hell out of a great job, but then again there are times that he would put me down and make me feel that I'm worthless. He could one moment be all nice and cool and when something happens between he and his missus he would just go bonkers and yell randomly at anyone. I understand that at any other place there is surely a chef that is like that and that's why I'm willing to accept it.

    Being the unspoken No.2, Every single time a mistake is committed by a fellow colleague, I would directly/indirectly have to go under fire. So now I feel obligated to shield my team I have bitten the bullet many times for my colleagues for the mistakes they have committed. My head chef is a 110% ******* at times so I'd rather take on the ranting on behalf of them. He will tell me every now and then and says that I am too soft on the team and why am I not taking control. My personal feel that there is already one ******* in the kitchen, and I feel in such a small kitchen, there is no need for 2 ******** to be around. It's not as if I do not reprimand people when they commit mistakes, I do but it's just that he feels that is its not adequate. I do it in my sarcastic talks and try to liven up the atmosphere at work. Over a period of 15months we had 16 staff in the kitchen come and go due to my head chef or themselves.

    Truth be told, the thought of resignation has come across my mind many times, but I chose to stay as I was part of the opening team and feel very bonded and obliged to try to hold this place together.

    What I really want to do is still to prep, cook etc. at this point of my career, yes sure it is a good opportunity to learn how to manage a kitchen but is it the right time for me yet? Is what I'm doing now a career-limiting move? Also I feel that I am getting too comfortable here as I call the shots for everything when my head chef is not around, somehow I feel it makes me big-headed and I do not want that. So I am here to seek advise from you guys here. Should I stay or should I move on and find another place?

    Thank you for reading this rant/post.

  2. #2
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    Move on. You're at the age where you should be learning about food, philosophies and the repetition of prep and service that makes you a master of your trade. You should be staying 1-2 years max in each job and moving around in order to work with the best in our profession. This guy is taking advantage of you. A real mentor would make sure you were getting the best of a situation, not lumbering you with the B.S. That B.S. only worth it when you own the place or have the wage and respect due a head chef. Get out of there and don't look back!

  3. #3
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    I'm 30 and still moving around, working at great places regardless of the money. Until I have kids I'll continue like this in order to become the best I can be. You're making life easy for this guy to the detriment of your development. I'll say it again, hand your notice in and get the hell out. If the kitchen or this guy were worth being around you wouldn't have such a high staff turnover.

  4. #4
    you are still young! you should be learning as much as you can, not picking up the slack of your chef. to be an "unspoken" #2 for being there as long as you have and without a worth adversary is a slap in the face. the duties and responsibilities you said you do on a daily basis are clearly worthy of the title "Sous".

    have you ever talked to your chef about any of this? i remember having this problem early in my career. i was always scarred to pull my chef aside and talk to him about certain issues. more than likely he has been in your shoes. you need to voice your thoughts on this to him personally.

    i always justified leaving a job if i was growing as a cook. if i wasn't learning or given the responsibilities to get better i said something. it usually resulted in me being called "cocky" and them dumping more work and hours on me and my chef treated me like a dog. but after time i would overcome it and after taking everything they could throw at me, i would earn respect. respect goes a long way in the kitchen. if you have it, and you are worthy for a sous position, you take it. its not given.

  5. #5
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    You're working as the sous. Ask for the proper title and wages otherwise walk out.

  6. #6
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    welcome to the restaurant business.
    I haven't lived the life I wanted, just the lives I needed too at the time.

  7. #7
    Senior Member marc4pt0's Avatar
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    I think you're lucky in the sense that you have the opportunity to see what kitchen management is and what it calls for. With this experience and knowledge, you will no doubt look at every dirty corner and every scrap of food much differently. As in that scrap of food cost money, and that corner ain't going to effin clean itself. I think it's important for young cooks to understand this, yet unfortunately all it seems they "understand" is how wasted they got last night, how much more they think they're worth and of course they're all "beasts" in the kitchen.

    For a chef, finding a cook with this kind of appreciation and drive is like finding a pot of gold. It's a rarity these days, sadly. This industry is rapidly being inflated by talentless egos, mired by hacks and shoemakers.
    I was quite lucky at my last job as I had gained a sous and a line cook who both understood the importance of what it takes to be Good in this business. I would have done just about anything to make sure they stayed, learned and enjoyed their tenure with me. I say this as it would appear your chef may be on the fence in the way he treats you. I don't believe a chef needs to constantly hug and praise his staff, there's no time for that crap and creates a bad environment full of soft lilies who'll throw hissy fits every chance they get. Tough love is the only way, but it has to exist in the first place.
    Personally,I think it's time you left to continue honing your craft. Your time spent in your current kitchen has afforded you a great experience that most cooks don't get this early in the game. Take this education and pack it away for now and get back to the mise en place and learning.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Geo87's Avatar
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    Time too move on for sure. But I think you already know that! Don't feel obligated to stay you've done more than enough for them by the sounds of it. Getting taken advantage of and doing tasks above your pay grade is definitely a theme in this industry! Just about every job I've had...
    And all head chefs I've had except for two are exactly like yours

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbl View Post
    I'm 30 and still moving around, working at great places regardless of the money. Until I have kids I'll continue like this in order to become the best I can be. You're making life easy for this guy to the detriment of your development. I'll say it again, hand your notice in and get the hell out. If the kitchen or this guy were worth being around you wouldn't have such a high staff turnover.
    Quote Originally Posted by jbl View Post
    Move on. You're at the age where you should be learning about food, philosophies and the repetition of prep and service that makes you a master of your trade. You should be staying 1-2 years max in each job and moving around in order to work with the best in our profession. This guy is taking advantage of you. A real mentor would make sure you were getting the best of a situation, not lumbering you with the B.S. That B.S. only worth it when you own the place or have the wage and respect due a head chef. Get out of there and don't look back!
    I firmly believe in almost every job there would be a certain degree of BS to take, at the end of the day I guess it's a happiness to pay ratio and learning to pay ratio. Imo, tolerance for abuse and bs would somehoe mould me into a better, stronger person. Given if I were my old self 5 years back, I would have probably gotten physical and walloped my head chef. At the end of the day anger does not get me anywhere.

    I am actually looking for job openings in my country, but at this point of time I would probably have to wait till March as majority of the restaurant/hotels give out bonus around that period of time and hardly anyone would leave their jobs. Those that are available I feel that it might not be adequate for me to continue growing or I have to take a serious pay drop and start from the beginning again which I wouldn't mind but I would like to save up before making a move. I would also to travel out of my country to work around the world esp Europe or the states, but the airfare/lodging are holding me back as I have monthly bills/contributions to give to my family. Thank you for your advise and I would leave in due time, I hope.

    Sent from my SM-N9005 using Tapatalk

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by crunchy View Post
    you are still young! you should be learning as much as you can, not picking up the slack of your chef. to be an "unspoken" #2 for being there as long as you have and without a worth adversary is a slap in the face. the duties and responsibilities you said you do on a daily basis are clearly worthy of the title "Sous".

    have you ever talked to your chef about any of this? i remember having this problem early in my career. i was always scarred to pull my chef aside and talk to him about certain issues. more than likely he has been in your shoes. you need to voice your thoughts on this to him personally.

    i always justified leaving a job if i was growing as a cook. if i wasn't learning or given the responsibilities to get better i said something. it usually resulted in me being called "cocky" and them dumping more work and hours on me and my chef treated me like a dog. but after time i would overcome it and after taking everything they could throw at me, i would earn respect. respect goes a long way in the kitchen. if you have it, and you are worthy for a sous position, you take it. its not given.
    I've had quite a few talks with my head chef about the anger, disappointment, pressure I'm facing. He wants to give me the post but according to him, he says that the owners felt that I was too young and inexperienced to take up a post of a sous chef. To which, I agree to a certain extent as there a tons of people out there who slogs for years but still do not get the post that they deserve. Probably I can consider myself lucky as he gave me a minor pay raise when I was 6 months into the job. All of my colleagues regards me as the no. 2 and always look up to me for advise. Somehow as of now I still do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am really considering relocating to another restaurant but there are not many that interests me at this point of time.

    Sent from my SM-N9005 using Tapatalk

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