Are Chefs Abusive?

Joined Aug 11, 2000
let's see, one was a young woman who would not stay out of my dessert area as I was slamming out loads in a rush....don't remember exactly what I said, but after saying the same thing a couple of times I get this tone in my voice that apparently (I've been told by several) sounds intimidating.....the register goes at least an octive lower it's almost a growl, combine that with eyes that shoot fire and you've got a combo that scorches. Not something I'm proud of (well not much, and certainly does not in the end make things easier to have to calm down waitstaff) funny thing kitchen guys never really are affected by "the growl".

Oh, and another time I was directing a food stage, which means I arranged two temp kitchens out of thin air with equipment behind a curtain to stage/prep for "talent chefs" and then the stage setup in front of the masses of people. Well one morning a year and 1/2 ago, one of the sponsoring grocery store manager's wife (now I've been at this gig for 5 years and have a great relationship with the manager)...wanted to walk off with my equipment. NOT COOL.... REALLY NOT COOL. I was in the middle of breakfast run down with my externs/pro staff when one of them said, "someone is taking our shtuff" I stopped everything and went over to the "wife" and asked what's up.....she proceeded to tell me that she had permission to take stage equipment.....I proceeded to tell her NO way did she have permission, and even if she did have permission from the guys who loaned the stuff to me, we needed it and the mainstage takes precident over pretty much anything else. She pulled attitude, I pulled growl. She cried. Her husband chewed me out an hour later finger pointed at my chest....was not a fun morning. My cooking staff was sitting 20feet away, didn't hear any of it.....I was told by "the wife's buddy" standing next to us that I was screaming.....that would be the power of the don't **** with me voice.
Joined Oct 2, 2007
Well. I used to work under a chef that it was a very big pain in the back; totaly in the use of that psicology that makes you feel like a little bug. I hated it. I believe that some times as a chef, you have to put things in the right path but, without losing the sense that you are working with humans, they fail once in a while....
Joined Oct 17, 2007
I've found over the years that being abusive and demanding only leads to chaos and confusions, not mention a lack of respect. As I've grown older I've found that talking to my staff in a calm and collected way produces the desired effect more than yelling and letting my head explode. Granted over the years I've had employees that just couldn't get the grasp of what I expected from them and have had to give them their walking papers. In this day and age the biggest hurdle I'm trying to overcome is the lack of a work ethic and personal accountability. I try to emphasize to everyone of my staff that "Would you eat this dish if it came out to you looking like this?". Nine times out of ten the staff sees it from that perspective and corrects the problem. I've even grown to the point of allowing my staff to produce their own signature dishes. You'd be surprised at how much cooperation you can get when you allow the staff to share in the "spotlight". They tend to see things more from my perspective when it's their name and reputation on line in the same manner that mine is.

Best regards.
Joined Oct 22, 2007
In my experience, chefs who are abusive are unconcerned with how the food goes out; it's more about dominance in the kitchen. I saw a chef scream at waitstaff for asking if he would put more cilantro in the ceviche, when he'd used parsley because he didn't order cilantro. I saw the same chef butterfly a filet, cook it to well done, beat it with his tongs (pieces of the steak were flying everywhere), weight it down, and throw it in a convection oven, mind you, it was already well-done.

The chef I currently work for plays elaborate mind-**** games that only make sense to him (not entirely true, I understand it's to show me that he's in charge, I just don't understand why he's so insecure...):

Me: Chef, I need shrimp for fried shrimp, should I defrost this box of U 12s?
Chef: Yes.
I deshell 4 shrimp.
Chef: What are you doing? I don't want you butterflying all those. Just stop. Use the 21/25s, Jesus.

1 hour later

Me: Chef, we need bacon-wrapped shrimp, do you want me to use 21/25s or U12s (there's at least 8 pounds of defrosted, uncleaned U-12s in the walk-in)?
Chef: 21/25s.
I deshell 8 shrimp.
Chef: Just stop! Use these (U-12s), Jesus you're an idiot.

This chef believes I'm stealing coats from the restaurant, has told me I need to restock my own plates (dishwashers imo) and meez (despite being the busiest station when i'm busy, and others are free to call for **** when things are slow), and gives me **** when I follow to the "T" what he tells me to do. I've actually gotten **** for wearing khaki cargo pants instead of checks (sorry, dog; it's electric or gas not chef pants or Armani suits) and I don't think my 100% cotton pants are going to melt if oil gets on them, since my ****ing checks are 100% cotton too...

I have had the opportunity to work with some great chefs/managers/cooks/whatever, and I can say assholes are not the norm (it's more 50/50, like life). You always read that a chef is a cook that manages; but, what does that really mean? The lithmus test I'm using now, as I search for a new job, is whether the chef is going to answer my question or tell me I'm an ******* for asking. :beer:


just bringing this back because a friend of mine just had a bad experience in a kitchen... how far is too far? beating the staff with a stick probably isn't ok, right?
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Years ago they were tyranicle if such a word. Today is different. If one strives for perfection and you screw it off, yes he could be.Customers are sometime

very abusive to staff. Everyone has an off day.


i didn't bother to ask, but sounded a bit excessive to me... especially since he fired a cook earlier and made him cry.
Joined Oct 28, 2008
It has already been mentioned, but constantly berating someone and yelling at them loses its effectiveness after the first few times. The person just tunes you out. I find a well placed "This is extremely disappointing, I know you're better than this" is more effective. It makes the point that you are not pleased and also re affirms to the cook that he/she has mad skillz and isn't just a bumbling f**kup.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
I have worked for screamers, and I don't care much for them.  Worked for an "Eigenosische Diplomierte KuchenChef" the highest rank Switzerland has to offer a Chef, and I kinda liked his style:  He'd ride your butt, but only to the point of "general p'o'd" never in meanness or contempt.  If he though you wre un-capable he'd pull you off the line, and if it happened again, he'd fire you.  After work he'd buy everyone a drink while we were cleaning up and could make very interesting idle conversation while we were cleaning and sipping our beers.  And then next day he was back to riding our butts.

I have been known to embarrass a few people.  My second last d/washer for instance, would come in stoned.  The first time I took him aside and explaind he would have to go home, and if there was a seond time he would be fired.  A few days later he shows up stoned again.  Sent him into the walk-in for, zuchinni, I think in.  Waited two minutes, opened the door and found him exctly as I had imagined,staring at the case of zuchinni infront of his eyes.  I walked past him, and in a 250/ second,  whipped out a handfull of zuchinnis, shoved them into his arms, and melted away from the walk-in.  A minute later he walks out,dumps the zuchinni on hte table and walks out.  Never showed up after that.

Another prep cook I had , I whinged and harped on about leaving a teaspoon of mayo,or a single, lonely pickle in a 16 ltr bucket.  "For F's sake, scrape out the last teaspoon in a 1/9 insert, willya" I'd whine.  A week later the eejit does it again, happened to be on payday too.  End of the shift I told him checks would be late.  After work, I grabbed his check and the bucket with a teaspoon of mayo in it, looked up his address, and delivered both to his door....

Or the banquet waitress.  Giving instructions to a group of 20-odd serving staff and this chic interrupts me, saying  something like at" At "X" (very large and famous catering co.) we did it so-and-so way.  My ears turned red.

"Oh, so you work for "X" eh?"

"Yes, part time for 2 years now."

"I thought "X" could train staff to follow instructions and shut up, are you sure you work there?"

She shut up..........

I'm not a screamer, nor am I a thrower of things, but I usually get my point across..........
Joined Aug 3, 2010
I have worked for a screamer AND a thrower.  She was sous at my first restaurant.  I quit there and she was fired not long after I left.  Since I live in a relatively small area, most of the chefs know all of the others so I can and do keep track of where she is and know never to apply there.  The last I heard she was working in the basement kitchen of a large pizza place doing prep.  I guess that means that she has proven that she doesn't play well with others.

The chef I am with now has only yelled at me once in two years...but I thoroughly deserved it after the fact.  When you deserve it, take your lumps, apologize sincerely once and move on.
Joined Oct 22, 2005
Worked for yellers and screamers before and it takes a lot of the energy out of the kitchen whenever the chef walks into the kitchen. It's almost like everyone is so afraid of fucking up that they forget how to cook.
Joined Aug 21, 2009
I don't yell but I do get p***ed off at times.  Most of the time when I get p'd it's because of customer pickiness or server stupidity.  I'm comfortable enough now in my role in the kichen to tell the cooks when they are out of line or need to stay to their own station and let me do my job.  It is MY job to run the kitchen and their job to get the food to the window and then MY job to make sure it is all there before tickets get sold.  How hard is that?????
Joined Mar 3, 2010
i havent really worked for many chefs yet but i wouldnt mnd the dicipline that some chefs instill in the cooks. i never though marco pierre white or ramsy were abusive(even when i 1st read about them) i just though that thier standards are high and they expect perfection. they have gone through it and and that made them into great cooks. i been yelled at when i was at school by some chefs because i made mistakes but i tell you what i will never make the same mistake again. i think that is part of it, when something like taht happens to you where a chef yells at you because u added too much salt or didnt do something right, u know u wont do it again because u will get yelled at. i think that is something that is lost these days, you have to treat everyone nice and sometimes one cant sat what they want. i perosnally think it builds one as a cook, dicipline is part of it and if it means i will learn alot then im game.
Joined Aug 21, 2004
u know u wont do it again because u will get yelled at
And this is a good reason to justify being abusive?

I much prefer not repeating mistakes because I want to do things to the best of my abilities, not because some dipweed is yelling at me.

Because that is the way I respond to mistakes, when I am chef, I try to remember that and I find that I get much better results when I get people to work "with" me, rather than "for" me.

I won't yell. I will sit you down and try to figure out the problem and what the solution is. Sometimes the solution is that you work elsewhere.
Joined Oct 28, 2008
I agree with cheflayne. You can't instill the will to do well in someone. You can scream your head off at some cook who is just working for the summer for cash and doesn't give a shit and have him/her turn around and do the same stupid thing over again. Tonight I was messing up at work and I knew it. All it took from the chef was an "I don't want to have to re-fire anything else, got it?" No yelling, no throwing anything. Just a slight change in the intonation of his voice. Like I said before I think yelling is wholly unnecessary and actually counter  productive. That's not to say you should be all sugar and spice when telling someone they messed up. There is a difference between being stern and being and a**hole.
Joined May 17, 2010
if Chef is being an A-HOLE to you (you being anyone), perhaps you should shut the F up and just do your job the it's asked of you. otherwise move on and try to find someone who will deal with your BS.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
if Chef is being an A-HOLE to you (you being anyone), perhaps you should shut the F up and just do your job the it's asked of you. otherwise move on and try to find someone who will deal with your BS.
Assuming it's you that F'd up, and not because it's the end of the month and he just got reamed out by the owner/f&B that his costs are out of whack, or that his g/f left him and stole his car AND delated his I-pod files, OR.......... You get the Idea.

Then again, if you are being a little dip-wad, a good Chef will only warn you once, then either take over you station or have one of his "boys" take over your station. 

Sorry, just worked in too many open kitchens to tolerate a screamer.....
Joined Oct 3, 2006
Been a while since I posted here (have been busy),

I believe as long as you are not abusive for the sake of being abusive, and actually trying to better someone, you can let out some steam, as long as whoever you are talking to understands the situation as well.  I can show my intern how to do something, and stress how important the details are.  If he doesn't produce like I showed him, I can calmly show him again.  By the 3rd messup, then it takes a little more "direct" motivation to get his brain thinking and his body moving.  He knows what is expected of him now, it took a few loud MOVE!!! and I NEED THIS NOW!!! or WTF ARE YOU DOING??? with a few expletives here and there to get the point across, but now he made the cut and jumped from intern to cook over here.

I can take and dish the profanity.  I dont even think twice about it anymore.  What really hurts is when my chef (who has a temper) calmly and quietly says "This is not up to standard, and you know it isn't.  Why would you do this?"  This calmly expressed statement hurts more than all the F's, the MF's, the SOB's, the A-Holes, and anything else someone can yell on the other side of the window to me.  Strange world eh?  
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