Frustrated, stressed, worried about my future.

64
9
Joined Jan 22, 2018
Vent post,

Hey everyone, I'm 30 years old, have abound 15 years in the food industry and have been executive chef for about 7ish or so years now at a couple nice places. My whole life I've worked crazy long hours, gave up my social life amongst other things with nothing to show for it (as I'm sure most of you have lol). 2 years ago I got lucky and found an exec chef job on a lake, its a religious retreat center , 500 acres, beautiful place I go foraging on my breaks and even started a huge garden here.. I cook for monks that live here as well as guests that come to stay (up to 200ppl). I turned the kitchen into almost all scratch made, been told I have the best food out of any chef that has been here, as well as food cost, pretty proud of that. I only work 40 hours a week, I get 80 hours of paid vacation, I get paid sick leave, full benefits, decent pay I guess (19$hr as we speak). I have my own side business (catering and a food trailer) I do on nicer days through out the year so it's nice to work somewhere where I don't have to give up my life.

With covid we haven't had guests here in a REALLY long time and idk when we will get it rolling again, i'm literally solo in the kitchen and it sucks. Since we have no guests here I have to cook just for the monks and pretty much all of them are....boring eaters. Over cooked meat, don't like ANY spice, they don't even like VEGETABLES I can go on and on. Today I made them grilled cobia, coconut rice, fried plantains, roasted red pepper sauce, 2 of them really liked it but the rest would prefer fried fish sticks covered in tartar sauce, 2 days ago I make them some killer bahn mi, even make the bread from scratch, I go look in the garbage all the bread was tossed out because apparently they are on a diet (but they legit eat dessert for breakfast....I guess i'm just venting but I never would of guessed in my career that this would be as good as it gets and its kind of bumming me out. I guess what i'm trying to get at is it sucks that i basically cant cook what I want and it really sucks but im not going back to pre made, canned shit previous chefs here were doing. Ha I never thought I would end up cooking at what sometimes feels like an old folks home....but I have a daughter now and the pay/work life balance is great, so I feel STUCK and idk what to do. I live in Wisconsin, not too many good paying chef jobs here.
 
1,259
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
You have a good gig. But, are you cooking for the monks or are you cooking for yourself? If they want fried fish sticks and tartar sauce, so be it....or as the monks say, "amen." :)

So, how about this - have a talk with the monks. Get a more detailed sense of what they want and don't want and use your skills to come up with a menu. It doesn't have to be an emotional moment of pure transcendence. It can be as simple as asking each of them to write down 3 or 4 meals they like.

At the end of the day, if they want boring, give them boring. Tell them that you're going to set aside one day per week for the "weekly special" or something similar where you can prepare something of your own choosing.

The point is, make them part of the process. Give them a vested interest in what they are eating.

Good luck. :)
 
64
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Joined Jan 22, 2018
You have a good gig. But, are you cooking for the monks or are you cooking for yourself? If they want fried fish sticks and tartar sauce, so be it....or as the monks say, "amen." :)

So, how about this - have a talk with the monks. Get a more detailed sense of what they want and don't want and use your skills to come up with a menu. It doesn't have to be an emotional moment of pure transcendence. It can be as simple as asking each of them to write down 3 or 4 meals they like.

At the end of the day, if they want boring, give them boring. Tell them that you're going to set aside one day per week for the "weekly special" or something similar where you can prepare something of your own choosing.

The point is, make them part of the process. Give them a vested interest in what they are eating.

Good luck. :)
Yeah, your right and I will take your advice. I guess its just frustrating as they are all so different, two of them are definitely "foodies" so I just hate to see them suffer when the rest are drooling to get a bowl of egg salad for lunch and a meat and starch and no veg for dinner haha, the other day I got a special dinner request...it was literally baked beans and hot dogs...no buns..just the dogs and it was KILLING me inside lol... You are right though I cook for them, this is why I cannot wait until we can start having groups again so I have an excuse to make different cuisine haha. Just needed to get it off my chest, I guess im just so used to putting me heart in my food, ive been here for 2 years already and I do not want to turn into a boring chef!
 
5,508
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Joined Oct 10, 2005
The gig is good, let it be.
Whatchyaneed is an outlet for your energy— in previous times it was cooking for a larger, more demanding crowd.

One way is to restore a p.o.s. ‘82 Cutlass Supreme....

A better, potentially profitable way is to start a side line of food products, something shelf stable, say pickles or jams, or frozen stock or soups. You’ve got the kitchen and equipment, very little to no investment needed, potential customers would be restaurants or grocery stores in town, plus you still keep your current job
 
162
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Joined Nov 27, 2012
This are just my 2 cents but I think that you are in great place work wise and are definitely looking at it in a glass half-empty kinda way.

A good tartar sauce is a thing of beauty, hot dogs and beans are the shit and egg salad makes me feel like I am in heaven. Get em where it hurts by serving them some good AF fish fingers.

I think that the idea of getting feedback from them is spectacular, based on that you could design your gameplan. Getting basic things right is one of the biggest pleasures in my day to day job. Nothing better than cranking out plain but very well executed stuff. And as a bonus there is nothing that will make you grow more than revisiting the basics with all the acumulated experience that you've gathered since you've done it last.

And is there anything that its really better than Mac and cheese, a grilled cheese sanwhich(tortillas for me though), some plain stewed beef or even just a plain vanilla custard? I mean the classics are good for a reason and when done at the next level they are like a revelation. That is a very exciting direction work-wise(at least for me) and it seems that you might be missing the forest for one plain, boring tree.
 
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Joined Nov 27, 2012
Somehow I find myself in a very similar situation, last year I just hit 31 and was in good place with great pay. There are some huge differences in circumstances between us, but when I was feeling the same way as what you are describing what got me through was just getting out of my head and starting over. Basics became fun again, how make good quesadilla better, how to make a carne asada taco feel like suadero and not lose the charcoal flavor, churros, cassava, you name it.

I am now quite a big fan of going basic when possible.
 
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Joined Feb 8, 2009
This isn't about you Chef. Make what they want to eat. There are hundreds of home cooked meals that you could make that they would love. Being a Chef is knowing your customers likes and dislikes.
 
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Joined May 5, 2010
I remember 30 years old and the angst and frustration. Maturity and experience showed me what others have already told you. You are cooking for the client, not yourself. When you own your own place you may cook as you like, until then, make the best hot dogs and beans on the planet for those monks.
 
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Joined Aug 21, 2004
I guess what i'm trying to get at is it sucks that i basically cant cook what I want
At home, I can cook what I want. At work, not so much.At home, I don't get paid. At work, I do.

Even with my own restaurant and total creative freedom, I need to keep in mind what people will pay for. They don't come in the door, I have no restaurant.
 
3
1
Joined Jun 4, 2020
Vent post,

Hey everyone, I'm 30 years old, have abound 15 years in the food industry and have been executive chef for about 7ish or so years now at a couple nice places. My whole life I've worked crazy long hours, gave up my social life amongst other things with nothing to show for it (as I'm sure most of you have lol). 2 years ago I got lucky and found an exec chef job on a lake, its a religious retreat center , 500 acres, beautiful place I go foraging on my breaks and even started a huge garden here.. I cook for monks that live here as well as guests that come to stay (up to 200ppl). I turned the kitchen into almost all scratch made, been told I have the best food out of any chef that has been here, as well as food cost, pretty proud of that. I only work 40 hours a week, I get 80 hours of paid vacation, I get paid sick leave, full benefits, decent pay I guess (19$hr as we speak). I have my own side business (catering and a food trailer) I do on nicer days through out the year so it's nice to work somewhere where I don't have to give up my life.

With covid we haven't had guests here in a REALLY long time and idk when we will get it rolling again, i'm literally solo in the kitchen and it sucks. Since we have no guests here I have to cook just for the monks and pretty much all of them are....boring eaters. Over cooked meat, don't like ANY spice, they don't even like VEGETABLES I can go on and on. Today I made them grilled cobia, coconut rice, fried plantains, roasted red pepper sauce, 2 of them really liked it but the rest would prefer fried fish sticks covered in tartar sauce, 2 days ago I make them some killer bahn mi, even make the bread from scratch, I go look in the garbage all the bread was tossed out because apparently they are on a diet (but they legit eat dessert for breakfast....I guess i'm just venting but I never would of guessed in my career that this would be as good as it gets and its kind of bumming me out. I guess what i'm trying to get at is it sucks that i basically cant cook what I want and it really sucks but im not going back to pre made, canned shit previous chefs here were doing. Ha I never thought I would end up cooking at what sometimes feels like an old folks home....but I have a daughter now and the pay/work life balance is great, so I feel STUCK and idk what to do. I live in Wisconsin, not too many good paying chef jobs here.
We are looking for a chef www.thecaribbeancourtresort.com Maison Martinique fine dining and Havana Nights Piano Bar 772 532-6937 Anne Mears
 
1,259
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
Yeah, your right and I will take your advice. I guess its just frustrating as they are all so different, two of them are definitely "foodies" so I just hate to see them suffer when the rest are drooling to get a bowl of egg salad for lunch and a meat and starch and no veg for dinner haha, the other day I got a special dinner request...it was literally baked beans and hot dogs...no buns..just the dogs and it was KILLING me inside lol... You are right though I cook for them, this is why I cannot wait until we can start having groups again so I have an excuse to make different cuisine haha. Just needed to get it off my chest, I guess im just so used to putting me heart in my food, ive been here for 2 years already and I do not want to turn into a boring chef!
If they want franks and beans, give them the best darn franks and beans they've ever had. While you're at it, maybe you could show them what a really great mac-n-cheese tastes like, too. ;-)

Good luck. :)
 
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Joined Oct 31, 2012
I'm going to simply join the chorus. Cook what they want. You have an enviable situation, not just in everything else but the food too. There is challenge enough in making the ordinary seem extraordinary. No one said meatloaf has to always be made from ground beef. Can you make great hotdog and beans from scratch? Start with from scratch beans, then work on from scratch hot dogs. Ever make your own crackers? How good can you make a roast chicken? Are you sure your beef stew couldn't use some improvement?
I think creativity as a motivational driving force is vastly over blown. It's especially easy to get caught up in the "need" to be creative with all the food media these days. In all the research I have done about the great chefs of the world, the one constant isn't that they are creative. That is simply what the media focuses on. And that is as much about access to ingredients as it is about anything. Give me easy access to all the world's ingredients and I couldn't help but be creative. Any place can put out "creative" food these days with so many ethnic markets around and general ingredient availability.
So what makes the great chefs Great is the the focus on doing every step of every dish well. Focus and attention is given to each little step. They pay attention to the chemistry of each thing and how it is effected by what they do to it. They soak it in salt water for a reason, they let it rest for twenty minutes. they make sure it is room temperature before it goes in the oven. They make sure the oven is calibrated and working properly. They blanch it first. They use the tops too. They research and learn from each other about what they could improve.
When they shingle the potatoes for Potatoes Anna or any ingredient for any layered dish, they make sure they are all similar in size and placed in carefully. They use good quality cookware because it helps the process. They don't talk about searing a piece of meat, they do what is necessary to actually get a good sear. If they don't get the results they know they should with anything, they do not serve it.
They weigh and measure each ingredient and write that down so they can do it again at a later date. They make sure each ingredient, Every ingredient, is of the highest quality they can get.
They make sure that each ingredient in a dish has a reason for being there. Each ingredient, however humble, is shown in the best way to make an impression. When combined with the other respected ingredients, the effect is stunning.
So the next time you have to serve a chicken, challenge yourself. Bone the chickens, make a really nice, thoughtful farce to put inside, practice your tying and making court bouillon and serve a gallantine with a sauce you put your heart in to. And no one ever said you can't pipe those boring mashed potatoes out of a pastry bag just for presentations sake and to give yourself a chuckle.
Don't make hamburger meatloaf. Make a classic pate out of something different or a combination of meats and serve it in a noteworthy way warm with an appropriate, challenging-to-make sauce, carefully plated and presented. None the monks will know it isn't meatloaf. That's for you to know.
How good a baker are you? Make some desserts. Bake a cake, a jellyroll, some biscuits, cookies, a pie. Do it all over again but better.
The possibilities to challenge yourself are endless. To me that's the real beauty and goal of cooking. To do it well every time by living up to the standards you set for yourself and not accepting anything less than the best from yourself. I don't always measure up but the opportunity to try again is what keeps me at the stove.
 
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I dunno, I think you have a pretty good thing. I've felt that way before too, wanting to cook more interesting stuff vs simple stuff that sells. But in the last year I've gone through Bell's Palsy, a rollover that totalled my car and a bad fall that might have torn my rotator cuff (currently waiting on my ortho appt but unable to lift my right arm to the level of my shoulder). And this in addition to the pandemic! So right now I'm just glad to be alive and employed.
 
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Joined May 5, 2010
One more thing to consider is that the Monastic life of a monk suggests a more modest way of living, including indulgences like creative food. Perhaps these monks are simply practicing their faith.
 
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Joined Mar 14, 2021
If I were looking for a change I’d head for Disneyworld.
Excellent unique opportunities with the Disney company and their concession restaurants.
 
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Joined Apr 27, 2015
I'm going to buck this trend. I can relate to what you're going through. I once took a corporate gig that paid well but made me miserable. I could have stayed on and been a cog in the wheel, but I had other aspirations. I realized that at the time I had a choice: Do what is asked and become mundane, or follow my dreams and sink or swim on my own terms. I'm not saying you can't do both -- and if you can, do that, but if you're feeling unsatisfied and forced to lower your standards, remember, time is the most precious commodity of them all, and if you don't think you can live with that, the sooner you make a change, the better.
 
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Joined Jan 22, 2018
I'm going to buck this trend. I can relate to what you're going through. I once took a corporate gig that paid well but made me miserable. I could have stayed on and been a cog in the wheel, but I had other aspirations. I realized that at the time I had a choice: Do what is asked and become mundane, or follow my dreams and sink or swim on my own terms. I'm not saying you can't do both -- and if you can, do that, but if you're feeling unsatisfied and forced to lower your standards, remember, time is the most precious commodity of them all, and if you don't think you can live with that, the sooner you make a change, the better.
Thanks for the reply and that's kind of the boat I'm in but I'll just suck it up. I guess I forgot to add some details in my post. I'm cooking four 4 of them now (untill we start taking groups in again) what I was trying to say I guess is that they are all very very different, but one of those 4 is my boss and he is an extreme foodie and he actually wants new exciting things everyday and he's the one to really make happy. I guess it's just frustrating that the others don't like vegetables etc. The "main" monk told me that he was sick of the previous chefs due to lack of creativity and always giving them plain food, tuna sandwiches etc. They love love my food but sometimes they all don't agree on the meal but that's OK. When I was hired I was told that they want to upscale the place and give the food nutritional value so I'm doing what they want.
 
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Joined Jan 22, 2018
If I were looking for a change I’d head for Disneyworld.
Excellent unique opportunities with the Disney company and their concession restauran

One more thing to consider is that the Monastic life of a monk suggests a more modest way of living, including indulgences like creative food. Perhaps these monks are simply practicing their faith.
I left out a few details in my post, they actually hired me to upscale the place and my boss, the "main" monk is a huge foodie and he actually wants new exciting food. Previous chefs gave these guys pre-made shit and food cooked with no heart these guys are so good to me and actually contribute to my 401k so I feel they should have the best of the best. Just hard when the boss wants new exciting but the others can eat tuna and potatoes everyday lol. I do make the basics though to try to make the others happy.
 
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Joined Mar 14, 2021
I love that idea.

Poor Reds was a tavern on Hy 49 in Calif.
Had a terrific 5 item menu + amazing sides.
Always excellent quality.

Occasionally an inspired extra item would appear temporary at dinner time to keep the kitchen interesting the regular customers interested too

Poor Reds since sold out and went martini bar upscale and we never went back.
The 5 item idea worked for decades.

Lawrys was Prime rib only for ever. It worked.
Then the Two giant lobster tails for just $21 extra broke that tradition.
That price did eventually go up.
Now I think a full menu.
 

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