Feeling lost in my career

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by KitchenRat, Dec 2, 2017.

  1. KitchenRat


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    I’ve only been cooking professionally for a couple years, but I’ve been cooking my entire adult life- some of it self taught as a housewife back in the day and the rest of my education came from culinary school. Culinary wasn’t my first choice as far as education goes. Early on I allowed myself to be talked out of criminal justice studies in favor of culinary arts. Now I feel I should travel back in time and punch myself in my stupid face for listening to these people. I do love to cook, I have a passion for it (when I’m not on the clock) and I’m pretty good at it too. I’ve worked my way up to Sous for a few different places and even ran an entire kitchen on my own most days at one of my more recent jobs.
    But there was one common factor in all these jobs that I otherwise enjoyed. I liked what I was doing, the crew I was with and the decent money I was making. But I was also paying for all of that with time away from my three kids and my now husband. I very rarely saw my kids when they were not sleeping. They are young and their bio- dad recently died. My husband and myself are all they have. My husband works wonky hours himself but makes exponentially better money than I do. Something had to give so someone could be present for these children. So I gave up being a line pirate to go corporate. First for a retirement home and now I work for a high school. I’m basically working as their private event caterer, but they rarely have need for catering. So on my downtime I’m basically a lunch lady. I can’t argue with the benefits, the weekends or having the same time off that my kids do. It’s perfect in that sense.
    What isn’t working for me is the culture. I guess I’m just used to the free spirited nature of the restaurant kitchen. This place is so fixed on rules, regulations, paperwork and conduct that I feel so unfit for this job. Of course I always try to portray professionalism and some decorum, but I feel so out of place here. No one talks to me, my immediate boss has made it clear she doesn’t like me as a person, there is zero communication going on for having such a large kitchen staff, and no training is provided for new staff. You’re supposed to “just know” and read minds. They were aware I had never worked child nutrition before yet they are giving me nothing in terms of information I need to do my job properly. I confronted my bosses about it and every time their big excuse is “ “You didn’t ask”.
    So I guess I’m supposed to spend day and night thinking about what they want me to ask because they refuse to communicate with me on the most basic level. Even when I ask questions I get the most vague answers. Then if I do something wrong they don’t even tell me about it. They write it up for a performance review that they can slap me with later.
    Today I was given a verbal warning for something my manger flat out lied about to save her own skin.
    I’m a woman, and I have never felt like that has stopped me from doing my job well or getting along with my crew. I expect no special treatment and normally get along fine with the rest of the kitchen rats. But then again, I’m usually the only woman on a crew full of men. This is the first place I’ve ever been where I work with literally all women and they are conniving as hell.
    There are cliques, pecking orders, gossip, and backstabbing galore.
    I am literally back in high school and I feel like jumping out of my skin to go back to cooking at some hole in the wall 60 hours a week with the guys.
    I need this job but it has absolutely robbed me of any self esteem or longing I had for this business. I have worked for some hard ass chefs before and it was never this bad. This is like being 16 all over again. And not in a good way.
  2. chefwriter


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    Professional Cook
    You don't need that job. Find another job. Your school isn't the only corporate job available. Check with the university, local hospital and any other institutional foodservice nearby.
    As you are discovering, the culture of any place comes from the people who work there. Your current experience doesn't reflect every corporate job, just the one you have now. And if someone new came along to run the place, that would change things.
    But that won't happen soon enough. It isn't you. Get out.
  3. chefross


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    Former Chef

    Absolutely.....spot on. Without gender bashing I've been in that situation before and it never goes away, even with someone new in charge. Best advice is to seek a better venue.
    drirene and KitchenRat like this.
  4. chefbillyb


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    Professional Chef
    IMHO, the lower quality position is managed by a lower quality manager. In other words don't expect a lot of quality decisions from a Taco bell manager that is just trained to follow the rules. I've also seen this in large chain retail stores. The people who moved up in management only had the quality of being a team player and followed the rules. These kinds of managers aren't qualified to manage people. In many cases they'll throw the employee under the bus while making themselves look good.
    This is a business that " You can't have your cake and eat it too". It's hard to find challenging positions in Nursing homes and school cafeterias. After being a Chef, and manager in many restaurants I also went into a non restaurant setting. I first worked in a Hospital helping to restructure the food service and set up new menus. I also had to work a shift while doing this. I enjoyed it because I knew it wasn't a life time career change, it was just a new place to learn and use past knowledge and experience. The next place was in a 1200 employee cafe. I managed and put my own spin on how I thought things should work. I later started my own Food Service Management Business and they became my first clients. My point is, this isn't the kind of business to work in, flip a burger and feel a great sense of accomplishment. In my career I needed to have a challenge and be challenged in order to feel a sense of accomplishment. If you have a easy cooks position with good hours and no responsibility then expect to be managed by someone that enjoys the same things you do. The managers in low stress places don't have much to worry about on a daily bases. If you rock the boat in their world they have the power of the schedule to get even. They can also change your shift and make your life miserable.
    I wouldn't quit, but I would start looking for a job that gives you what you need. Life shouldn't be a chore. We should be ale to work, make a living and enjoy our families while achieving our goals.
    spycgyrl, drirene and KitchenRat like this.
  5. spycgyrl


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    Fine Dining
    Well, I couldn't resist adding my two cents. As someone with a bachelor degree in criminal justice, if only I had gone to culinary school. I've worked overnight, weekends and holidays in my career over the years. The life of a criminal justice professional knows no set hours! (not to mention the clientele isn't exactly appreciative) The money was ok, but it won't make you rich.
    I don't work in that field anymore and doubt I'll ever return to it.
    Anyway, don't beat yourself up over it. Certainly look for a new job or even consider going into business for yourself. (that's what I'm currently working toward)
  6. phil hall

    phil hall

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    Culinary Instructor
    KitchenRat - You've taken the first step by writing down your feelings and sharing them with a seasoned community.
    NOW, take action, find a new position focusing on a healthy, fun, professional working environment, then RUN, don't walk - away from that dysfunctional nightmare. Life is too short, your kids are too important. Everyone on here is giving you the same basic advice - Leave and find your happy place!!