Help!

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by crumble, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. crumble

    crumble

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    I have been in my job for around 5 months now and everything was going great until my new head chef came in. He is French and really mean! He also does things which freak me out, for example the other day he was whisking eggs and he was just staring at me while violently whisking. He also does other stuff like when he's tasting my sauces he sticks his finger in and slowly sucks it while looking at me! It's creeping me out. It's my first big job what should i do? Should i complain? I'm worried if i do i'll lose my job :(
     
  2. gunnar

    gunnar

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    well creepy finger sucking is kind of gross. I don't like cooks that put fingers in sauces to taste, we invented the spoon for more then one reason.Maybe talking to the owner about that can put an end to that at least. looking at your avatar you look like a real cutie, so I can understand a bit of staring. I can also understand your not there to be stared at and made to feel creeped out. Again you maybe should bring it up to the owner and see what, if anything they can do about it.

    As far as being mean, I have come across plenty of French people that sounded a bit mean and or rude. I have just decided it's a cultural thing with them. They have a very direct way of saying things and sound really serious about it, but they also forgive and forget just as readily. it's a bit upsetting if you've never dealt with some french people before. I used to get really irritated with a French customer we had come in all the time when I worked in a copy and shipping store. He would seemingly blow up over the smallest thing say things in French I knew (I think, i don't speak french) were insults. then when everything was done to his satisfaction he would smile, say what a great job I did and wish me a good day. I  just didn't know how to handle it. It took meeting several French over the years for me to change from disliking them in general to shrugging my shoulders and saying it's just how they are and they don't seem to really mean it.  Course I have also met some that I would gladly kick back across the pond, but that's like folks everywhere.
     
  3. leeniek

    leeniek

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     I'm with Gunnar, you should bring this up with the owner if it is really making you uncomfortable.  It could just be this person's way of working and you aren't used to it. 

    I also agree that the finger sucking is just gross.. .spoons were invented for a reason and should be used just for that reason.  I'm guessing you are in a closed kitchen.. in an open one I'm sure the finger sucking would not be an issue.

    Here in Canada we have a completely French province, Quebec and things are definitely very dfferent there than they are in English Canada.  My sister in law married a French-Canadian and for years lived in a very small villiage north of Quebec City.  She was the only person in town who spoke English and instead of referring to her as Mary or Mme LaVoie, in town she was known as "Mary the English".  She did learn French and learned their way of life but still she was always treated like an outsider.  Whenever we were there the townspeople were nice to us, well at least to our faces, anyway. 

    I hope your situation improves.
     
  4. crumble

    crumble

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    Thanks for the replies guys :) Problem is it is a closed kitchen and he is the boss of both the kitchens we work in as well as head chef. I work in a hotel so he was brought in specifically to run the kitchens. I really don't know who to talk to about this, would it be wrong to see the hotel manager? He has changed my schedule around without telling as well recently so i missed prep by a few hours and he screamed at me in front of the rest of the staff and i was close to tears to be honest.

    I moved to Manchester recently and don't have many friends here yet so i really appreciate the help :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010
  5. leeniek

    leeniek

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     Hey Crumble

    Don't let him get to you so much that you want to cry.  I know it's easier said than done but keeping the stiff upper lip seems to be the way to go.  I had an argument last month with the FOH stupidvisor and the owner that left me in tears... it was tears of frustration as they just would not listen to me so I said eff it and did what they insisted I do.  Then when the owner came to me (after crapping on the KM for my bad decision making) and asked how we can prevent disaster days, I said.... listen to me and take my word for it when I tell you I have a weak kitchen and need owner support...  He has been pretty good at taking my advice since then. 

    I just made the mistake of calling and asking for the KM.. I am on booked off days this week but the stuff has hit the fan (both dishwashers walked out yesterday) so I am giving up a day to help them out.  The owner tried to take a strip off of me because of the time my daughter has booked off (she is a buser) and I told him... I booked it too.. not last week as I was unsure as to how one of the cooks would be after her surgery but I wanted this week as I have had to give up every Holiday weekend I have booked off, and we want to hang out together as a family.  He was sort of ok with it but I suspect my daughter is going to be unemployed very soon.  Not a big deal for her... she hates busing tables and is ready to move on.  I'm sure I will hear more from him tomorrow when I get there. 

    I'm prepping for a BOH staff meeting.. it must be done as the KM and I are at our end and the guys need to know what is what.

    Sorry for hijacking your thread..

    Who is your chef's direct supervisor?  I think it would be appropriate to take your concerns to him/her.

    Stay in touch and keep us posted as to how things are going for you.
     
  6. theunknowncook

    theunknowncook Banned

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    Crumble:

    I sympathise with you. I have worked for some chefs who were very proficient and professional, but conversely, I have worked for some chefs who were utterly despicable people, and completely miserable to work for. I won't elaborate on my current work situation, but I intend and hope to find a better job next year. I cannot advise you as what you should do, but perhaps you could talk to the hotel General Manager, as the GM is above the Executive Chef. The Restaurant Manager is usually above the Executive Chef, but the GM is above both of them. Otherwise, it might behoove you to be seeking another job, and keep your options open. I understand that it is very expensive, and even cost-prohibitive, to be packing up your things, and moving elsewhere. I have done that for several years, and it wasn't adventurous nor profitable. I have gained knowledge, but have nothing else to show for it. Sometimes, I felt like a culinary vagabond or hobo, traveling the country in search of work... [Anthony Bourdain wrote in So You Wanna(sic) Be a Chef, "When you get out of culinary school, try to work for as long as you can possibly afford in the very best kitchens that will have you--as far from home as you can travel. This is the most important and potentially invaluable time in your career. And where I (expletive deleted) up mine..."]

    The job-market is dismal in the U.S., and I bet that it is likewise, dismal in the U.K. I won't tell you a trite answer, such as, "try to make the best of a bad situation," but I could only merely suggest that you try to be strong, mentally-tough, professional, but don't take things personally, it's only business, and it's just a job. You found that job, and you will find another. You seem to be a bright, intelligent, thoughtful, conscientious, attractive, young lady. You will eventually find a better job and better boss someday. I don't take it personally, when the chef excoriates, lambasts, denigrates, insults, offends, affronts, me, and accuses me of having no culinary skills, or that I am a "loser," etc. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/mad.gif  I hope that you will never meet any chefs like the aforementioned chef, and your strange boss in the trade. Conversely, there are good, proficient, professional chefs in the trade, but they are few and rare, and much appreciated by someone like me.

    Sometimes, I feel burned-out, and fed-up with the cooking trade, and feel like changing careers, but I am too old, to be changing careers. Not to mention, I do not have any money to pay for tuition, books, supplies, living-expenses, etc., to return to school. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/frown.gif

    I don't know if anything I have typed is of any comfort to you, but know that you are not alone, and I hope that your work situation improves for you soon. Otherwise, I hope that you will be able to find another job, in which, you would feel comfortable, and be appreciated for being a professional pastry chef, and not merely being "eye-candy" /img/vbsmilies/smilies/eek.gif  for some /img/vbsmilies/smilies/laser.gif  lecherous chef.

    [The Four Seasons Hotel-London(Park Lane) has a Pastry First Commis job.]

    Take care. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/chef.gif
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010
  7. panini

    panini

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    Crumble,

    I would start documenting the events that make you uncomfortable. Then seek out the personnel director.

    hth
     
  8. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Oi Vey.......

    While Pannini's advice is great and should be followed, don't go reporting anything  to anyone until the finger sucking elevates to something like:  Theft, gross ignorance of sanitation, racisim/sexism, violence, etc. etc..

    It sounds like he (Chef) was brought in to do a job, and he's having fun trying to "pigeon hole" you. By this I mean finding out what your strengths and weaknesses are, what you're capable of, and, of course, what will set you off running and screaming to someone above his head for some minor detail that will, in all likely hood, not be even brought to his attention by that person.  While this may sound sexist, I've known many a female Exec Chef behave the same way--both to male and female employees.

    Chefs are managers, hence the term "Chef, and  "Cook". They must have control over thier food and labour costs, as this is how they are judged,  and they do have the right to cut back shifts when and if they feel it necessary.  If this technique is abused, by all means, report it to the right people.  If things have slowed down a bit after Christmas and everyone's shifts are cut back a bit, let it slide.

    If "being mean" includes: sexist/lewd jokes, erratic behavior, violent behavior, verbal abuse, physical abuse, cruel practical jokes, or foul language, by all means record and report this to HR or your State labour board.  But it sounds like he hasn't done any of this, other than staring at you.  I've had more than one "staring contest" between myself and German/Austrian/Swiss Chefs  and I usually win and usually earn their respect within a few months.

    Hope this helps...
     
  9. chefross

    chefross

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    I have worked for French Chefs in a few places and yours fits the profile. The French Chefs go through some pretty difficult apprenticeships  and think nothing of denigrating  Americans for their lack of culinary knowledge, expertise or any other human frailty. We had one that so evil he ended up being offered to the French Embassy in Washington DC so he could be in his own element with a entirely French kitchen at his command. He was happy, but not as happy as we were the day he left.
     
  10. crumble

    crumble

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    I understand the need for a chef to "test" his staff but i don't think callling me an idiot when he speaks to me a very fair thing to do. Maybe i'm too weak for this? i reall hope not :(
     
  11. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Idiot?  That's the worst he called you?

    Honey, I know grandparents who call their grand kids worse.

    As the guys would say, "grow a pair", or,  toughen up.

    It's your avatar that gets me thinking.

    It ain't you in a turtleneck and tweed skirt infront of a concert grand piano, and it ain't you in Chef's whites in a kitchen setting.  It is, however the image you choose others to see of you. 

    Perhaps this is the image the Chef sees?....
     
  12. crumble

    crumble

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    Oh i'm sorry, maybe i should wear a suit with a copy of Dostoyevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" in my hand to show a side of me more suitable to you? It was a holiday pic of a great time, sorry it offended you so much. And he hardly uses my name, he refers to me as "idiot" which is rude whatever way you look at it.
     
  13. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    OK, can you supply some additional information/details, such as:
    • Kitchen staffing, atmosphere
    • What is your job/position
    • What is your culinary background, i.e. experience, training, etc.
    • How does the Chef refer to others
    • How do others respond to the Chef
     
  14. crumble

    crumble

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    There is two teams for the two kitchens, one is mainly for the daytime menu and the other for the evening. There is around 6 staff in each team at any given time.My position is pastry chef along with another, this is my first main job since i left university. He seems really friendly with others, i hear him laughing and smiling with other kitchen staff all the time, it seems i'm the one who he picks out. He made me attempt to fillet a salmon even though i haven't done that since college. He then made a huge thing about wrecking it (even though it was done fairly well, despite my lack of experience doing it) and said he was taking it out of my wages. He slammed it in the bin and screamed "useless fool" and walked out. Which was nice because that was my second day.

    I know i seem like i'm moaning but i just wanted to know is this normal? I knew the kitchen was a hard work arena but i didn't expect this :(
     
  15. gunnar

    gunnar

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    Is it normal? yes and no. Chefs give the newbies a few kicks in the pants to see how they are going to react. That being said, they should help you learn what you are doing wrong or correct your technique while calling you estupido. Compliments should follow in about a month of doing it "right" or " their"  way.  If you can stick to your guns and hang in there you should be able to earn some grudging respect. Best advice for now? Next time he says your useless ask just what it was you did that was useless and what he would have done in your position to be useful. Also don't moan to co-workers, that goes right back to Chef one way or another. tell your friends or family or your cat. Stay chipper, nothing disarms people more that don't like you  then smiling and asking with sincerity what the problem is and how can you help fix it.  as always, best of luck chica.
     
  16. foodnfoto

    foodnfoto

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    Do any of you know the term "hostile work environment?"

    Finger sucking, lewd staring while whisking, assigning test tasks unsuitable to the job description (since when do pastry people filet fish?) and singling one employee out definitely leans in the direction of harassment.

    I suggest you document all these instances and go talk to someone at the local labor board-just to ask questions and get information. Then go to Human Resources if you have what they deem legitimate complaints. 

    It's the chef that sounds like a real idiot. What fiscal sense does it make to give a whole salmon to a pastry cook to filet, then throw it in the trash? If I was that GM, I'd fire the guy. Takes a lot more energy to throw your weight and anger around at an inexperienced cook than to just teach that cook how to do it properly. The result is an asset to the kitchen brigade, not another employee too scared to take initiative and help when the going gets tough.

    It takes 3 months for a new employee to really become a useful member of the crew and get used to that particular kitchen's systems. Alienation of new hires just lengthens that time and encourages employee turnover due to a hostile environment. 

    I understand these CT chefs advice to toughen up and kill him with kindness, but there's also no need for you to put up with harassment. Toughen up your skills, work efficiently and respectfully, but don't accept  any kind of creepy behavior directed toward you either. 
     
  17. foodnfoto

    foodnfoto

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    So Pump

    You're saying here she deserves to be treated poorly because she posted a cute pic of herself here? Or, she's cute, so the chef has the right to be a creep because he's in a position of power?

    That's a reeking load of it, my friend.
     
  18. momandchef

    momandchef

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    Crumble, I hear ya. Being a woman in this industry isn't easy. I have worked in many a kitchen where I was the only female. I got a lot of what you are describing happen to me when I was in college. In all honesty I just tossed it right back. The guys would make a lewd comment to me, I'd toss one right back, just a little nastier. They stare at me licking their finger, I'd do it right back. It would make them laugh and we'd all move on. I worked at a steak house where the head chef would regularly ask me when I was gonna "join him in the stock room on the sacks of potatoes". /img/vbsmilies/smilies/surprised.gif I won't say what I said in response, but in my experience most of them are all talk and no follow through.

    Now that is when I was a single girl. I didn't mind the banter. Now being a married woman with kids, I don't know how comfortable I'd be with it. I know my husband wouldn't like it.

    Luckily I have managed to find a little cafe that is an all female staff (not intentionally that way) that I am the chef at so I don't have that issue anymore.

    Your mean chef could be posturing, exerting his dominance over the kitchen. He is new, he probably feels like he has to be an a-hole so everyone will respect/fear him. If it makes you feel un-comfortable you should talk to someone higher up. There has to be some one over him. Everyone answers to someone. ;) The finger licking thing skeeves me out tho. If he does that I can't see him washing his hands immediately after and I am sure the health department may have something to say about a chef who licks his hands then handles the food. Maybe try offering him a spoon.

    Good luck & hang in there!
     
  19. leeniek

    leeniek

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     Momandchef your comments remind me of our "30 year veteran" and how he handles himself in the kitchen.  He once said to me (and this was shortly before he got fired the first time... don't ask...lol) that working in a kitchen is hard, and it's not many women who can handle it.  I wasn't sure if he was expressing sympathy for my bad luck in the gender pool, or actually telling me I was doing a good job and could hold my own.  He is difficult to work with on the line, and as soon as the Christmas rush is over, he is going to be enjoying a shift cut as he does not work well with our kitchen staff and annoys us more than he helps us.  Today he grossed me out and then mouthed me off when I told him to wash his effing hands.  He sneezed and coughed INTO HIS HANDS and then went back to the line without washing them.  UHM...EWW.  I made him trash everything on his station, send his tools to the dish and remake all of his food.  He was LIVID at me.. hmm.. what would he prefer... remakes because of HIS bad habits or sick patrons and lawsuits?  Crumble, just because they have alot of experience doesn't mean that they are good at working in the kitchen or working with people so please always remember that when you have to deal with them.  Just do your job, say "yes Chef" when appropriate, keep your eyes and ears open and learn as much as you can. 

    Crumble, shame on your chef for making you filet a fish.. I wonder as well.. since when is that a pastry task?  I could see it if  salmon strudels or something were on your menu and you had to prep the salmon but otherwise get a grill guy to do it.  Double shame on him for wasting the fish after he deemed it unsuitable.  Could he not have turned it into filling for ravioli or tortellini, , the basis for a sauce for a seafood lasagne, part of a quiche, or even individual salmon pot pies?  That fish was salvageable with some creative thought and did not need to be wasted.  That is just my opinion and I don't know how your kitchen works or if there is room to make changes to dishes, so I may be out of line with my comments.  But, he should have looked at what you did, saw what you had gotten right and then showed you your shortcomings and how you can improve on them.  That will help the team in the end and not create the discourse his actions did.

    May I ask.. how old are you?   I know it sounds irrelevant but age can affect how we deal with the goings on in our workplace.  I am in my early fourties, and this is a second career for me.  Twenty years ago I would have been eaten alive in the kitchen and I am fully aware of that. 

    Hang in there my friend, better days are ahead.
     
  20. crumble

    crumble

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    I'm 22 leeniek

    Thanks for the responses guys :) Good to hear from your experience momandchef, good to know it has happened before and someone has got over it :)

    I guess i will just have to toughen up i suppose.