From Exec back down to Sous

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by deacon, Mar 12, 2011.

  1. deacon

    deacon

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    I am an experienced Executive Chef but the past summer I was let go from my place of employment by the new corporate Chef at a small but growing organization. Long story short, "I didn't fit with the concept" and there were some other issues but that's not what this post is about, I understand, it's business. I searched for a few months and landed a job as a Sous Chef, well, I'm having a hard time dealing with NOT being in control and having to report to a superior chef that I know for a fact I could take over this kitchen and run it efficiently. My problem is, he, the other Sous and the entire management staff have been there from the beginning (8 years), even a large portion of the FOH and BOH staff have been there over 5 years. Everyone is set in their ways. I was braught on with the intention of "being the guy that will help us move forward". But every idea or differnet procedure I bring to the table, I get resistance. Most everyone tells me "well, that's how we've always done it so we can't change it" type of attitude. I'm at a loss, do I give in or keep pushing buttons?
     
  2. sarah k

    sarah k

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    I'm just an apprentice and on a smaller scale i have the same problem with my head chef who seems to be stuck i his ways.
    I just keep going, sooner or later they will give in or realise that you have a lot of inititive and give it a go. Or you can just try to convince them one by one....
    I think Hang in there.. Youll get there.  /img/vbsmilies/smilies/chef.gif
     
  3. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    Hi Deacon, The problem is, they are set in their ways and can't see change. I run into this everyday, I like change and want my customer's to see new things. I feel when I'm in the process of talking to them about change, they are looking at me with blank eyes, no excitement, they just know it's going to fail. They are creatures of habit, and that will never change. I feel the only way to get a new concept going is to make them a part of the change, I need them to buy into the idea and give them the credit for it's success. The employees see things as, " if it's not broken, leave it alone" start small build up their confidence and give them the credit. .................Take care, don't get frustrated, be smarter than the fox..............Chefbillyb
     
  4. chefedb

    chefedb

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    You have to wait on line to get to the front. Your opinion is you can do his job, however he has been doing it good for 8 years. Otherwise he would not be there. You can't go in and after a month decide you can do it better. Every thing in business has a purpose and a reason. You may not know what theirs is yet..I assume this is a large place with a large corporate structure.Don't try to fight it You will lose. If you are making $ be happy you got another position in particular in this economy. Things will change.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2011
  5. prairiechef

    prairiechef

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    "I'm just an apprentice and on a smaller scale i have the same problem with my head chef who seems to be stuck i his ways."Sarah... I think you should go back and revisit what it means to apprentice under someone. If the Chef you chose to teach you isn't what you expected, then leave. But you CHOSE to apprentice... you went to this person and said "teach me, and I will listen and learn". So... listen, and learn.
     
  6. deacon

    deacon

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    Thanks everybody...

    Chefedb, this is a very structured and coroporate establishmentand it's obvious he can run the kitchen after 8 years and I can definetely learn from him, but like I said, I was brought on with the intention of helping them move forward. All of the ideas I have presented were not against corporate policy or plan but instead, ways of operating more efficiently. Take for instance line setup, there's little flow as far as grouping ingredients together so the line cook isn't going from one end of the line to the other just to make one dish. The excuse was, "that's how it's been and the line is used to it". One more thing is closing the kitchen down, when I first came in, the cooks had to take nearly 90% of the ingredients back into the coolers. I suggested that we keep the food on the line with the exception of the red meats and seafood so they can be properly counted and iced...Same excuse "that's how we've always done it" Not until the exec visited another store in another city, did he realize how much labor we can save on both the AM and PM shifts by doing this. When he came back and started making this change, I didn't throw it in his face that this is what I was suggesting prior. I supported and praised him.

    I guess what I'm looking for is a way for them not to shut my ideas down so quick.
     
  7. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    Hm, well, can you figure out a way to make your ideas appear to come from someone else, i.e. the Chef, a line cook, whomever?

    From your comments, the Chef appears to be observant, perhaps do something the way you think will work better without even saying anything, nothing major, at least at first, maybe very minor change(s) in mise en place or breakdown.

    Figure out a way to ask questions that will guide the answers to where you'd like to see things go? That way, the idea is not yours, but theirs?

    If your goal is to improve operations, it can be done.

    If your goal is to be recognized for improved operations, that's an entirely different situation. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/laser.gif
     
     
  8. chutney

    chutney

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    I think Pete's right in learning how to get the others to think it was their idea to start with. I am some what in this position in the job I have.  Cooks have been there longer than me, they have I higher position than I do.  I am hoping that I get promotion so there is some weight behind my suggestions.  But even then, you have to make people believe that they thought up the better idea and they are choosing to make the change.
     
  9. deacon

    deacon

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    Pete, you're right and I tried that approach from day one. I got some momentum with some of the cooks and hourly supervisors but the running theme is "that's how we've always done it". And even when I come up with a strategic plan with the supervisors on how to get people invlolved, implement a trial and working out kinks, it's as if the exec and espcially the other sous (whom has been a sous with the same company for 10 years) don't want to go through the process of change.

    As far as your comments about improvement and recognition...My first goal is for the improvement of operations because if that happens, recognition will follow and be even more rewarded.
     
  10. chefedb

    chefedb

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    ""Thats the way we have always done it''''''This could possibly give you a clue of the mentality of corporate, and it drips down.. They may be afraid of change . There is an old expression I use a lot. """Some people start at the bottom, And like it therre""" Seems as though they know it all and do not want to improve. Its lip service.
     
  11. chefross

    chefross

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    I have heard that same old line "...but this is how we've always done it" for so long.

    The hardest thing for someone to do is unlearn and re-learn.
     
  12. sarah k

    sarah k

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    Prairie, I have asked and basically begged. Problem is and i hasve been told that being a chef was not his first choice and there for is not his reall passion but a learnt one. His burnt out and need a new job or a full career change. I would leave but it's complicated and besid there are not a lot of jobs going for apprentices at the moment. I always keep my eyes open for new chances and options.

    So Deacon, didn't mean to make a mess of ya post... it's all yours
     
  13. deacon

    deacon

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    No big deal Sarah. As long as we all take something from this and every other post, we can all be better at what we love to do.

    Chefross, you're exactly right. I just hope I never fall into that category.This industry is all about change and improvement. I have always listened to others opinions and ideas. But when I knock them down, I have a reason and can explain exactly why something won't work...something I am not experiencing in my current situation, I just get "no". It's sad really.

    Thanks everyone for your input.
     
  14. oldfoodguy

    oldfoodguy

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    Deacon,

    Coroporate outfits are tough places to break through with 'new' concepts from the bottom up. If the Sous has 10 years and the Exec 8, they have figured out what it takes to survive there. With that much time in a particular outlet, they are going nowhere on thier own volition and see no reason to take chances in a tough business climate. With only a couple of months with them, you are still the 'new guy' and your credibility is very much unknown.

    You need to get an idea of what is important to the exec and sous. Are they worried most about food or labor costs? What do they complain about, corporate stuff or other matters? Are they reall 'by-the-book guys or do they cut corners? Do they take a lot of pride in the place or are they out the door & out of touch at the end of the shift?

    I am intrigued by your quote  "I was braught on with the intention of "being the guy that will help us move forward". "  Did the exec use that phrase, or some one else in your hiring process?

    Another thought for you. There was a stream of posts on this site a while back about kitchen logs used as a method for shifts and staff to communicate with each other. Does your kitchen have one? If so, maybe you can start listing some suggestions in the log. Creating a record of solid ideas either there or by notes or emails can incite people to taking action they otherwise might try it ignore

    Finally, and this is from someone that's had a few setbacks like your losing the exec position. You 'didn't fit with the concept' there you said. Think a bit about you and your approaches. Some times communication problems aren't with the reciever, but with the transmitter. Think very hard about how you are communicating your ideas.

    Good luck.
     
  15. deacon

    deacon

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    All good points oldfoodguy, I'll start from the beginning of your post...

    I am the new guy so I realize I need to develop my credibility with them. This is understandable to me and I accept the callenge. I was appointed by the GM to head up the "safety committee and in the first 3 months, I gained us an extra $5000 on the P&L.

    With being a corporate establishment, food and labor are at the top along with food quality. That being said, one of the first things I noticed was the amount of food both on hand and out of shelf life, this affects both cost and quality. Take for instance, mashed potatoes having a 1 shift shelf life. We make them in super bulk and they get cooled and reheated for use later that day and up to 2 days after. I used one of the hourly supervisors to help devise a plan so we can make them per shift (something I've always done with mashed potatoes). At the next chef meeting, we expressed our concerns and promoted our plan. It was immediately shot down for the reason of, it's too much work for both shifts and "that's how we've always done it" So "by the book" is almost a pick and choose with them in my eyes.

    What's important to them...based on the questions I have asked and what I have witnessed, the important thing is to not get "bitched at" by the regional or even the GM at times. As far as being "out of touch", it goes in spirts. On one hand they get through the shift and peace out. On the other hand, if they know a big day is coming, they rush around, set up partially and leave with little direction of what needs to be finished.

    The GM used the phrase "being the guy that will help us move forward". Keep in mind that the GM was the original exec and the current exec was his sous along with the other sous.

    There is a communication log, are you familiar with Hot Schedules? I use the log along with everyone else. I have expressed alot of my ideas on there.

    I have had issues with my approach and I have grown considerably in that aspect but I also know there is always room for improvement. Especially being a sous again, I have witnessed some of the same things I did that my current exec is doing....talk about an eye opener.
     
  16. chefedb

    chefedb

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    You mention food and labor cost and food quality are their concern. Yet they make mashed potatoes 2 days ahead of time. If they do this easy task like that I can't imagine what else they do"". Please give me a break"". Your idea is better. Food and labor COST are their priorities not quality,they are lying to themselves. try and show them this. In fact show them this post. In all my 50 years of working in the best and worse places I never saw mashed made never mind 2 days but 1 day in advance. No need for it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2011
  17. deacon

    deacon

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    Ok, so I've tried to get my ideas and opinions across to help with the quality. I've tried talking, asking, shelf life reviewing (with others in control) and even "fixing". This past week, I was told (by someone in control of writing the prep lists) that "we had to change some of the day labels so our regional wouldn't know the items were out of shelf life" (WTF?!!!) I close the kitchen down every night and the AM chef wrights the prep lists, that being said, it is either the other sous or the exec, and every day I come in, I see something that should have been thrown out simply due to shelf life expiration. But they are not! So this puts me in the position of, do I work my butt off day in and day out to make fresh product after throwing old product out everyday or do I work my shift and sell what is on the shelves? I've come to the answer of, instead of relying on the opener to check shelf life and quality, I've started throwing away EVERYTHING that is out of shelf life. Today I threw out 4 2inch hotel pans of mashed potatoes (prepped today, MONDAY!) and 2 1/3 pans of whipped cream (prepped yesterday with a shelf life of one shift). I know if I keep doing this that it will affect our food cost and even my bonus but it is the right thing to do. Not one week goes by that I don't see at least one item on the shelves over 7 days old...I feel like I should have done this sooner but I also feel that I should be able to rely on the people that have been running this operation since day one and actually learn something from them simply because they've been here since the beginning.
     
  18. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Dude.............

    You're on your way out fast.

    IF you feel that that stuff is ready to be thrown out, the "quarantine" it, and get the Chef's blessing, or he'll have your azz split open and roasted for b'fast.

    It is the Chef's right and duty to determine what is thrown out, not yours

    Throw out 1 shift old whipped cream?

    Take a look at the expiry date on a quart of whipped cream, how long is it?  What makes you think it's gone bad after one shift, assuming the expiry date on the liquid cream was still good for another week?  Because it weeps or is soggy?  DUHHH!!!! throw it into the mixer and whip it back into shape or failing that, whip it to butter.  It has other uses in cream based sauces too

    Throw out one day old mashed potatoes?  DIdja stop to think that that was probably earmarked for shepherd's pie for staff??

    I don't want to be around when the Chef has a "little talk" with you today.......
     
  19. deacon

    deacon

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    Foodpump,

    I understand everything you're saying but you have to understand the nature and habits of this problem. The staff has been doing these things for so long that they don't even know the little details like shelf life or even have a good understanding of what shelf life means, because noone has trained and coached them on the importance of shelf life. The problem is that we are simply making too much product and using it well past an expiration date. Everything I throw out, I record on a waist sheet and I save the prep lists to compare what is actually needed and what is thought to be needed. So I am ready for that conversation and if I get reprimanded for doing the right thing, so be it. Again, the habits are so imbedded that everyone is just in a routine. As far as staff meals and cross utilization goes, well, I've tried that and got shot down and not to mention, this is a very corporate restaurant with no room for everyday creativity. I can come up with other uses all day long but without permission from corporate, it's a waist of time to do so.
     
  20. foodpump

    foodpump

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    O.K. I think I'm getting the picture.  Save those prep sheets and waste sheets, you'll need them.  If the food cost is on the rise, the owner will come calling and want to know why.  If the Chef isn't buying into monitering daily prep, and some actual thinking from the people who prep, then he's getting paid too much with not enough "incentive" to lower his food cost.  I'm guessing you've already shown him on paper what he's throwing away, and he's not responding or backing you up.