Fun kitchens

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by Benney25, Sep 21, 2017.

  1. Benney25

    Benney25

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    Edit: I should warn you that this is partially a rant, so if you aren't in the mood for one of those, I hope you have a good day not reading my problems :)

    I've been working in the food industry for 4 years. My first kitchen job was a lot of fun; we would joke around, play music, teach each other, talk, play pranks on each other, hold competitions, and share our own personal style of cooking. We did all that and we're still able to get things done, busting our butts to feed 600-1000 people a day with a crew of 3-5, pushing out 9-17 menu items per service on a menu that changed daily and catered well to diners with allergies.

    Since then, I've moved on to learn more elsewhere. Each time I move to a new restaurant the staff are cold, they joke amongst each other and harass me. I bust my ass and do my job the way I know is right, but no matter the chef, it's always wrong and I always get taken advantage of. I haven't found a kitchen since that honestly trains their staff; or rather, includes me in the training, I train myself. I can't afford culinary school, I study on my own. From recipe and technique, to food science, art, agriculture, management and philosophy, I have books stacked in my room and hundreds of pages of notes on the stations I know best. And yet all that still isn't enough. I'm busting my ass and getting nowhere. The only time I have peace is when I give up and act lazy. I could do a good job and be paraded as the kitchen idiot, or I could break plates on purpose and drag my feet while I purposelessly carry my bus stop to the dish pit and be left alone. There is no explaining to them, it's only back talk. In their eyes I am as inexperienced and incompetent as a culinary school greenhorn, and yet, I could tell them things their culinary school graduate sous chefs probably wouldn't even know.

    I want peace, I want to be able to learn and bust my ass without being put down simply because I'm new, or whatever the reason for this treatment is. I chose this career because it was fun, I don't get paid enough in this industry not to have fun when I work.

    It seems like the elder chefs think they don't have a responsibility to teach the younger generation of chefs what they know, which is ridiculous in my opinion, because then what they know dies with them, and I waste the rest of my life learning it all on my own, when I could be trained even with only a few moments a day and be able to put in the work required easier by working smarter instead of harder.

    I bust my ass working 50-80% more hours than my managers to make only a third of what they make every year, with no benefits. ...and yet my co-workers and managers call me lazy when I pace myself so I can survive a 70 hour, 90 hour, high volume service work week, don't burn the food, or put it out cold. I'm getting discouraged. I know the right kitchen for me is out there somewhere, but I haven't found it yet, and it's looking more and more like it doesn't exist.

    I need help. I know I can do better, I shouldn't redirect the blame for my own inadequacy in certain areas onto other people, but at the same time, I'm still relatively new in the industry and I'm not all-knowing, let alone telepathic. I know there's a lot I have left to learn, but I can't learn everything on my own.
     
  2. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    Your post is a little vague on specifics. How many kitchens have you worked in? How long did you work in each one? What kind of restaurants/hotels/country clubs/catering were they? What kind of menu was job number one? What kind of menu do you work on now?
    You say you are teaching yourself, you are always wrong according to the chef, you are always being taken advantage of and you don't want to be paraded around as the kitchen idiot by doing your job well. I'll need more information to really understand what that is all about.
    The only answer I'll provide thus far, based on what you've told us, is this.
    In doing anything, there is the right way, the wrong way, the way you learned from a book, the way you learned from a video, the way your mother or grandmother did it, the way I showed you how to do it and finally there's the way the chef you work for wants it done.
    Out of all those choices, the way the chef you work for wants it done is the correct answer every time. Every place you work is different. The one constant is to do as the chef expects.
     
  3. foodpump

    foodpump

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    It was an ok post until you wrote the part about " ...elder chefs think they don't have a responsibility to teach..."

    We don't. And I'm not being snarky or a smart ass.

    I train everyone the same: I show them a simple task, ask them to do it, and then I assess. If the new guy/gal says something like " I learned different at soandso", or " I'll do it my way", then I assess that I am wasting my time with them, and only show the bare, bare minimum. If the new guy can replicate what I've shown them fsirly accurate, then I warm up and show a bit more.

    But its my choice, and I'm not bound by some secret pact to train everyone that comes into contact with me.

    Its kinda like respect: There's no way you can demand it, and you're an idiot if you think it can. Respect has to be earned, regardless of your position.
     
    linecookliz likes this.
  4. someday

    someday

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    Yeah, I hear ya. It is a tough industry and it can be really thankless. Kitchens are all different, and a lot like families...some are great and everyone gets along, some have a lot of infighting, some are dysfunctional...etc. Most of the time it is just about finding your niche. Finding the right place for you to be to learn and grow as a cook. Finding that place that just...clicks. It is not always easy to find.

    Sometimes you have to kind of earn your way into the circle. A lot of places treat "new people" with neglect. This is mostly due to a world weary perspective of the industry, like they are not used to new people sticking in for the long haul and fully expect you to quit after 6 months or less. It's not really personal, they've probably just previously spent a lot of time training new people over and over and over only to have them leave right about the time they stop being useless. I'm not saying it's right or even justified but sometimes thats just how it is.

    The chef probably falls victim to this thinking as well. Why should he/she show his best tricks to someone who is going to quit or no call/no show in a few months?

    You don't say how many kitchen you've gone through or how long you've stuck it out at each one..but I say that if you want to be of use and prove your worth and learn some stuff, 1 year in each place is kind of industry standard as the minimum. If you have been job hopping a bunch these last few years then I think you've only proven my theory from above.

    My advice is to seek work elsewhere if you can...do stages on your days off and try to connect to some other chefs in your area. Find one that you click with, and go work for them. I don't know what type of food you are doing but maybe a change of type of dining is in order? If you do casual food, try fine dining. If you do high volume try a lower volume place.

    Your niche is out there...
     
    linecookliz and foodpump like this.
  5. scott livesey

    scott livesey

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    try not to laugh too hard, but join the navy and get trained as a cook. get assigned to a small ship and enjoy. good pay, good benefits, good retirement, advancement to manager status. you do a good job and people will tell you so. your boss needs you to succeed and will do what needs to be done so you can.
    I was on an aircraft carrier. the enlisted mess served 5000 people. one line served hamburgers and fries, the other line served basic two meat, two starch, four vegetables cafeteria style, plus salad bar. food was available 23 hours a day. you work 12 on, 12 off like the rest of the crew. see the world.
     
    phaedrus likes this.
  6. linecookliz

    linecookliz

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    I definitely agree with Someday. I am a new cook. I love doing stages because I always learn something. I have interviewed at fine dining. I have assessed these places do not fit with my personality. I work in a casual atmosphere right now. The beginning was hell and each day I wanted to quit. I would get yelled at, get called names, etc. It came to a point where I had to start teaching myself because they only showed me the basics. Once I stuck it out and showed them I know what I'm doing I became part of the team. Now we have fun and what not. Some kitchens will be memorable and others will suck. It is hard finding a kitchen you "click" with. Good luck!
     
  7. scott livesey

    scott livesey

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    Are there any professional cooks/chefs here who learned how in the military? the planning involved for serving meals for 7000 out of 6 different kitchens 4 times a day, plus keeping sandwich/soup/salad bar stocked 24/7, and there is no corner store, the store comes to you every 10-14 days. food replenishment might take 4 to 5 hours from start to finish and involve 5000+ tons of groceries.
     
  8. foodpump

    foodpump

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    My experiences were in the Swiss army, six cooks for 500 men. We never stayed in one kitchen longer than a week, cooking was plain, but we had to organize delivery for multiple small groups-typically 15 groups, 3 times a day 7 days a week. Most kitchens had no refrigeration, only way to work around that was planning and organization.....
     
  9. 504chef_

    504chef_

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    Our staff was young, we were all younger than 30, we put up great numbers and partied all the time. The ones who stayed at the party too long left the business.
    Burn out is serious stuff, even the best of them got hit.