Back on the line again after years of being away

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by sherman452, Aug 29, 2014.

  1. sherman452

    sherman452

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    Seeking some anecdotes, experiences, advice, cheerleading...

    It has been close to 15 years since I have worked in a tradition kitchen.  I've been private cheffing, catering, working in small, corporate retreat venues since then. The last time I ran a restaurant/ a la carte kitchen was a long time ago.  Fast forward to present time... I have been asked to come on board at a great local restaurant as the new head chef.  This is a small, hip, neighborhood restaurant. Casual "brigade" system, 100-135 covers a night, largish menu, food costs almost out of control, lots of young kids in the kitchen and on the line.  I'm being brought on to tighten up the BOH and the menu, infuse some new yet practical ideas into the place, guide the staff in the back, etc.

    So, here's the thing... I'm TERRIFIED!  Like I said, it has been a long time since I banged it out on the line.  I'm not the young, cocky chef I used to be.  I'm now more mellow, more calculated in my approach to cooking.  I'm definitely not as hip as I thought I was and some of the foodies at the restaurant know more about obscure foods than I do.

    Anyone have any experience with this?
     
  2. beastmasterflex

    beastmasterflex

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    Sounds like they've got a pretty good thing possibly already going, maybe just need some maturity to even things out. I would say just be the adult.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2014
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  3. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    To echo Beatmasterflex, you're expected to be more mellow and calculated. It isn't surprising that food costs are out of control on a largish menu in a hip place. How much is being spent on fancy, exotic ingredients that are not used efficiently or  may not be needed at all? How much do the younger staff members really understand about controlling costs and maximizing efficiency in all areas? Has anyone done any sales analysis to assess which items are worth their menu space? Is the labor involved to make all the items overwhelming their profitability? 

    Is the labor properly distributed between prep, various service times and cleanup?     

         Hip or not, the restaurant is a business and needs to be run as one. The owners have hired you to make these and other decisions that are apparently beyond the capabilities of the current staff. Let the younger staff provide you with insight as to what's hip or not. You provide the guidance. You are not there to bang it out on the line. You are there to make sure those who are banging it out are doing so in a calm, timely, efficient manner that brings the customers back. Are there production issues with the layout of mise-en-place or equipment? Does the BOH staff know how to communicate effectively with each other during and after service? Are there coordination or communication issues between FOH and BOH? 

        Let your age and maturity work for you and guide your way through the job. Knowledge of obscure foods won't make the restaurant money. Good management will. You should be fine. 
     
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  4. sherman452

    sherman452

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    Chefwriter- that is excellent advice!  Thank you.
     
  5. chefross

    chefross

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    I just want to add this. You are a Chef. You have always been a Chef. In your heart, in your soul.

    Don't be terrified, Be optimistic.

    With your skills you can walk into ANY kitchen and simply "see" what needs to be done.

    All kitchens run pretty much the same no matter where you go.

    It's the unorganized, not planned, not directed places that need your help and insight.

    Go in there and do what you know needs to be done.
     
    mikeswoods and sherman452 like this.
  6. jim berman

    jim berman

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    I have found that having younger members for a crew to be empowering. Sure, there can be the adversity/entitlement factor. Once you get past that, energize them! Show them new things! Preach quality, practice quality. Lead by example. They want to learn. When they are bored, that's when bad things happen to good kitchens. Bring in new/unusual products and do a tasting. Go out for a meal with them and really connect to what interests them; speak the common language of food and they will follow you. 
     
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  7. sherman452

    sherman452

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    You guys are great! 
     
  8. redbeerd cantu

    redbeerd cantu

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    Do they REALLY know more about exotics than you?

    Do they REALLY know more about standards than you?
     
  9. cheffred

    cheffred

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    It is happening everywhere,young kids trying to operate in a kitchen without experience.

    Simplify everything you can teach the young ones what good solid food is, then encourage creativity.

    Remember you have answers and experience.
     
    sherman452 likes this.