Grill Cooks: Am I Asking too Much?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by linecook854, Nov 3, 2013.

  1. linecook854

    linecook854

    Messages:
    282
    Likes Received:
    19
    Exp:
    Head Chef
    So I've been looking for a grill cook for about 9 months so far, have not had one work out. I have never seen it so difficult to fill a position anywhere, I'm starting to think it's not possible. We've had a mix of experienced people who just couldn't get it done and a few people I took a gamble on who just didn't have a clue.

    I used to work that station 5 nights a week and I'm not tooting my own horn here but I could kill it on that station, partly why I am now the sous there. I KNOW it's possible to beast that station because I did it night in and night out, I picked it up on my first night and only have been weeded up twice my whole time on that station. So I'm finding it baffling that I can't get one person to do it well.

    The station is a 4 foot grill, one fryer, one convection oven and a steam table that holds soup and sometimes mashed etc. Proteins get done on the grill, things that need to be baked (flatbreads and simple things mostly) obviously go into the oven and fried items obviously in the fryer. Steam table items like soups are simply plated and garnished. Also, grill is responsible to delegate to saute (we are a two station hot line) on what tickets to walk on and when to plate because proteins take longer to cook than sauteed items. This system is kinda like grill being an inside expo and works extremely well when I'm working grill and our tickets fly out. Does this sound like too much to ask to other grill cooks? Mind you we are not high volume (we seat about 65) but we do get busy.

    I can not get a grill cook to be able to work the 3 pieces of equipment while keeping temps accurate, plating properly and everything going out hot and on time. Not to mention their responsibility of "expo'ing" is completely ignored because they are overwhelmed and ticket times sink like a rock.  Fries are continually soggy because they are getting pulled from the oil 8 minutes before they need to be sold, burger buns are getting scorched because they're forgotten on the grill, steaks are not being quadrillaged (diamond marks), soups are taking 10 mintues to sell when they should take 30 seconds, flatbreads are always overcooked, fried items NEED salt (it's not up for debate) and yes every plate needs to be pretty and tight. We do not have an outside expo and our servers are basically brain dead so saute and grill both need to be their on QC point and make it their personal duty to make sure every plate is going out right. Again am I asking too much and should I dumb down the station just to get somebody to do it correctly??? Thanks for reading my rant!
     
  2. mikeswoods

    mikeswoods

    Messages:
    335
    Likes Received:
    19
    Exp:
    Professional Caterer
    I know this is hard to do---but have you got a network of friends in other restaurants that might offer you a lead on a skilled cook?

    We once got a great worker this way----but only once---Good luck----
     
  3. meezenplaz

    meezenplaz

    Messages:
    1,390
    Likes Received:
    204
    Exp:
    Sous Chef, Event Manager
    Um, not sure I agree entirely....I see two possibilities here--

    One, the people youre getting really are incompetent--incapable

    of ever learning your grill station. And I concede some people aren't.

    The other possibility is one or some of them are capable, they can do this

    and do that but are having trouble "bringing it all together at once."

    Somewhere along the way you developed a working system in there.

    And you're the only one who can teach someone to do what you did.

    And sometimes its hard to teach what you've developed as second nature.

    Are these guys being systematically taught step by step during a slow period,

    or crash-coursed and thrown into the weeds?

    If they can do it slow they can do it fast with practice.

    Once they have the "system steps"  truly down, the lights should "come on"

    after a while of f-ups, then suddenly they're  "in the grooove".

    Its like magic when it happens.

    And bringing in an experienced grill chum isn't necessarily a quick answer--

    your combined station (especially with the expo-ing) is kind of unique to

    your place.
     
    flipflopgirl and sfgray like this.
  4. skipstrr

    skipstrr

    Messages:
    70
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I'd find a nearby culinary school or a tech college and find students eager to learn!
     
  5. cheflayne

    cheflayne

    Messages:
    4,161
    Likes Received:
    530
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I have worked similar systems at numerous restaurants. It is definitely doable. Now that you are sous, what are you doing during service? Dumbing down the station is not necessairly the answer, but many times I have adjusted systems to fit the personal that I have and their abilities. An example being on a two person line, if I had a guy that could grill but not manage expo, I would work saute and expo. Fit the pegs to the holes.
     
    flipflopgirl and Iceman like this.
  6. texchef

    texchef

    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I myself have never seem so challenged finding good cooks this day and time.  What used to be a passion for some seems like just a paycheck for most today.  I feel your pain and I see it daily.  I do not think it is too much to ask to for a skilled grill cook.  Are you compensating well for this position.  We pay our grill cook the highest due to the preparation of the most costly items for us. We do not want any steaks or chops to come back.

    However, I think you should never put the "inside expo'ing" on any one cook that is on a station unless they are in the middle and are setting up plates and putting them in the window.

    The station cooks need to focus only on their tickets to ensure accuracy and proper technique.  Your job as chef is to call the ticket items "walking in" and YOU tell them when to fire the items to be in sync with each other. 

    Good luck and hope you find your grill master.
     
  7. linecook854

    linecook854

    Messages:
    282
    Likes Received:
    19
    Exp:
    Head Chef
    Thanks for the input everyone.

    I don't ever do crash courses for anyone, even stages. I am very meticulous about giving step by step instructions and giving them tips on how I work the station. I understand people will f-ck up at first but after a while it needs to click. I don't expect an all-star I will take just anyone who can get it done at this point. I think its a combination of an unskilled workforce sending applications my way (cooks from franchises and independent turn and burn's) and a streak of very bad luck of getting qualified employees who for one reason or another don't work out (can't work nights, drunk, only want to do saute, drug addict with a temper, need more time with my kids etc.).

    As far as the expo'ing this system absolutely works at our place. It just doesn't work when saute does it, grill leading the charge on when to go on tickets works here and at another place I've worked at. Tickets times are right on and cohesively getting dishes from both stations in the window within seconds of each other happens when grill is working well . It's hard to describe but if you see it in person it makes a lot of sense, it's not expoing in the traditional sense more so telling on when to start plating because their grilled proteins naturally take longer to cook than saute's.
     
  8. cheflayne

    cheflayne

    Messages:
    4,161
    Likes Received:
    530
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I fully understand, I worked it the same way at my restaurant, the place before that, and the place after that; and I would do do the calling from whatever station I was working. It will work from saute as long as the person working saute has a complete practical hands on experience grasp of both stations and the ability to see what is happening in both stations at the same time.

    If doing it from saute, I would call fires and base my cooking on the time it would take the grill to cook their items. I didn't allow nor tolerate any pre-firing or sandbagging. We worked this system to definitely come up together within seconds of each other because by design (on purpose) the pickup window had no heat lamp. Consequently the wait staff had to be on their toes as well because food could not sit, once again by design and on purpose.

    Like most things, at first it ain't easy, but it is doable. The difficult is done immediately, the impossible takes a little bit longer.
     
  9. kaiquekuisine

    kaiquekuisine

    Messages:
    1,128
    Likes Received:
    101
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    Its definitely doable. 

    Even though i favor saute and its my strongest station , at one place i worked we also did the 2 line cook system. 

    Me doing saute , pasta, and sides while the second line cook would do grill , oven , and fryer , and the third cook would do salads and pastry. 

    I think it really depends on the person , i would see my partner beast the station daily , but anyone aside from him couldnt do it ( he had 14 yrs of culinary exp and 2 years on the station at this place ). 

    Basically i think the person responsible needs to be trained , and taught step by step. Kinda like when you teach a kid to ride a bicycle , you hold him , then let go , sometimes without them even noticing , and boom they are doing it on their own. Again though this really depends on the cook. For some the system just wont click. You probably had a bit of bad luck finding cooks , and its definetely a challenge but it can be done. Remembering it is a 2 person system and both the cooks need to be in sync.

    My opinion is just the timing , and lack of focus may be a challenge for some. You will just have to teach any new candidates for the position and see if they are able to beast the station after a few weeks ( days or months ) of service. 

    Grill was never my favorite , but after seeing many cooks do it and even have doing it mysef , i know its a challenge and calls for a responible person running the station. Its hard , but not the worst job/station. 
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2013
  10. anowak

    anowak

    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    Well, even though I haven't worked a 2 man line like that, I don't think it's to much to ask since you know it can be done.  The question is really if the people you are hiring really get what you want in a grill cook.  I don't think your system is really "mainstream" (i know every kitchen is different), but it is a lot of multi-tasking that some people might not be use to.  I think your key is getting the person able to expo or run wheel.  I find when I train my wheel/saute station in the morning, that's what they find the most difficult, because now they have to not only think of themselves but everyone else on the line, plus my food runners/front expo at the same time. And most of my guys don't have that much vision for it, so the wheel is their weakest point and driving the food out. So, if that's the issue, then might just need to spend more time with them on expo.  
     
  11. beastmasterflex

    beastmasterflex

    Messages:
    279
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Other
    My new sous chef just reached that, it really was magic suddenly he was a sous chef, not a title thats just what he was when you saw him work. First 2 days off in 2 years :)
    You need to learn to expedite from saute if you want to be able to train someone on that station.