Humbling Experience

Joined Apr 17, 2001
My friend told me that every Chef has at least one truly humbling experience at some stage in their career. I think I just had mine.

I moved back to Chicago from the suburbs to take a position as a Sous Chef for a three star restaurant that was having a grand re-opening. Everything was new from the staff to the kitchen. I feel that the Chef didn't give me a fair chance. I worked for a month before he terminated me. We started cooking food during the last two weeks. I made some mistakes, but I was trying to learn an entire menu as well as sous chef duties. I'd work for 12-15 hours a day, and I'd study the menu when I got home. The Chef said I was not getting in the trenches cooking with the line cooks. Somehow he got the impression I was walking around with a clip board. I've never tried harder at anything in my life. I know that if he had given me another week I would have made a vast improvement in my performance.

Anyways, I've never been fired before and I don't know how to feel. I've decided to just take a job as a cook and not worry about being the boss for a while. Am I making a mistake? How do I know If this Chef is just a terrible manager who didn't give me what I need to do the job, or If I just don't know enough to be a Sous Chef?

Has anyone out there been in a similar postion? I'd love to hear some similar experiences and any sage advice anyone out there would be willing to give.
Joined Nov 29, 2001
I imagine you must certainly feel "fried." This experience was a disappointment but at the least, try and learn from it.

As far as humbling, I remember the first time I ruined a batch of carrot cake at a local bakery where I worked. The wife owner was a real tyrant but for some reason, she didn't take the opportunity to fillet me. She sent her husband who had a much softer touch. I offered to let him dock me for the value of the 10 or so cakes. He said it wasn't necessary but to just be more careful in the future. (The cakes were terribly underbaked even though they tested done. I wound up grinding them up and mixing them with cheesecake batter for a carrot/cheesecake. Went over like gangbusters, but that's not the point.)

I think taking a job as a line cook (if you've never done it before) and watching with an eagle eye could be the best medicine. You'll gain experiential knowledge which will help you when you are elevated to sous chef. Is it possible you just weren't ready?

Hang in there and don't let this one episode deflate you. You'll bounce back and be better than ever. If we didn't have those painful learning experiences along the way, we wouldn't be such complex people.
Joined Aug 9, 2000
About 2 years ago I took a job as a sous/chef de cuisine in an upscale restaurant and got canned after a week I was told my skills were great I was a great technician but the owner didn't like me because I basically wasn't Italian enough lol. The whole thing was even worst because I turned down another job for a lot more money and benefits because I waned the creativity go figure huh?.
Joined May 26, 2001
A couple of years ago, I was hired at a well-known, well-established, well-thought-of place that had just moved from one location to another. The chef de cuisine was new, as were most of the other cooks. Some menu items were cooked in a wood-burning oven, some on cedar planks -- both completely new methods to me. When I interviewed, the chef asked me where I saw myself in the future. I said tournant, meaning a year or so from then, once I'd had a chance to learn all the stations and recipes. Oops. That's what I got. I lasted about 3 weeks. I felt the same way as you do -- just give me a little more time. The chef, on the other hand, felt that I should have hit the ground running. Unfair? Maybe. But it was his call, not mine; and he had meals to get out and a restaurant's reputation to keep up.

Getting fired does not mean you are a bad person, or stupid, or lacking in skills. It just means that someone over you didn't see you doing the job he wanted done -- whether or not he specifically told you what he wanted, and how. That chef was still learning his job as manager of his crew, just as you were trying to learn yours. He just had the power.

Read W. DeBord's thread "What would you have done?" on one of the Pastry boards. Some people just want to cook; some want to manage. Each of us is the only one who knows what's right for us. Go back on the line for now. And keep your eyes and ears open, so that you can learn more. EVERYTHING is a learning experience. Think about what you might want, make your choice, and work toward whatever goal you set. (When you get there, set another goal and keep going.) And remember that we're here for you.
Joined Oct 28, 1999
I think when let go from a position, you discover an emotion deep inside you that has never been experienced. Hang in there, chin up and move forward, soldier!
As long as you learned from the experience, than you have gained something.
There are a million cliches and inspirational things we could all say, but it boils down to just getting back in the game! Work hard and believe in yourself.

1. When one door closes, another door opens. Sometimes, however, you need to knock HARD!
2. Go deep before you go long... if you aren't sure of yourself, be the best line-cook, plumber, bus driver, whatever and then move forward.

All the best!
Joined Dec 4, 2001
I have nothing to offer here because I am not a professional and have never been in this position. I just feel compelled to say that the support being offered to friedparsley is fantastic and it's what keeps me coming to this site. :bounce: :bounce: :bounce:

Joined Oct 13, 2001
Jim you said it ,when one door closes another door opens . Fried just hang in there and do the best that you can . 7 years ago I just wanted a break from management so I quit my job and took a line cooks position . I did this for 5 months and what a head clearer .Just go to work and just do your job , not have to be responsible for the whole darn place . it must have worked cause at the end of 5 months I was ready to get back into management and Ive been there ever since . Whichever path you choose my suggestion to you is to do that which you feel will make you happy . Of course thats just my opinion ............

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