I thought I was ready to be a Sous Chef, now I am not so sure?!

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by foodsaucy, May 14, 2011.

  1. foodsaucy

    foodsaucy

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    My name is Krystal and I am so confused. Unfortunately my only allies in this industry are over 3,000 miles away and in no way prepared to offer me a job. After cooking on the east coast for over 2 years I decided to drive out to Cali to take my chances in the sun. So far so good; until now. When I arrived it took me 3 months and about $9000 of my saving until I found employment. Little did I know that by taking a line cook job at the top fine dinning establishment in California I would have to endure so much; such as, being underpaid, under appreciated, witnessing first hand how a master chef losses his passion and attention to quality. About 1 year in and I managed to run the kitchen right under the sous chef's nose; the only on to show early, work overtime, create daily amuse, hire and train, and show empathy with out compromising my position when the chef decided to throw a plate of food at the new hire. Come time to ask for more responsibility and faced with a chef that had nothing to do but tear me down with insults. Is this how it always is? I just assumed its the price I pay to have it on my resume. Never letting them see me cry, but I spent countless drives to and from work with tears pouring down my face. My mother was actually going to pay my salary to quite, to stand up to him, to do anything to ease my pain.

    In March I was forced to leave. In order to be a part of an experience that I will forever hold onto; a boat chef for a major sailing race that would take me away from 2 weeks to a tropical island. The chef was not as enthused about this adventure, and even in the slowest month of the year and never taken a vacation in almost 2 years was unreasonable. To try to control not only my cooking like, but my personal life was the last straw. He told me if I was to leave to come home to another job. So here I am....

    I have gone on over 6 Sous Chef interviews. Its either not enough experience, doesn't demonstrate authority, we would love to have you as a line cook, we can hire you on the line and go from there... I am having a hard time with these answers. Not only am I terrified to feel trapped into another year with a Nazi Chef but I am losing motivation to keep going. After all of this cooking professionally is the only thing that makes me happy but I fear being a line cook for the rest of my life. You can only get the sous chef job with experience but if no one gives you the job how do you get experience? Just wait and hope the current sous changes professions?

    Also, I am wondering if by chance a establishment offers me a sous chef job... would it be worth taking a sous job at a less reputable restaurant just to gain experience? Or, take the line cook job at another 5 star place hoping for advancement?

    Sorry it was so long, but I needed to say it. I am on my way for what I can only imagine is another rejection to the position I'm applying for. Thanks, Krystal
     
  2. crazycookin

    crazycookin

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    Krystal,

    First I want to say I am really sorry for the situations you have been put into. I know what its like to have a job like you described, as I worked at one for about 2 years that exact same way (not in Cali though). Our exec Sous hated my guts, and even told me as much one night in a drunken stupor. 

    Keep your head up. You seem to have qualities that great kitchen would want. I'm not sure from your post how many years you have been working in a kitchen, but it seems to be about 3 or so. If I were in your shoes, I would take a line cook position at a place that you feel is a good step in the right direction. EVERY Sous position I have ever gotten was a promotion up from line cook. Go in, bust your a** and show them you can bang out every position on the line. Ask for more responsibility. Show them you know your stuff. You sound like you do know your stuff, but you don't need to convince us here on the internet. 

    The plus side of being a line cook is you aren't salary in most places. So the 60 hours you're working at 10 bucks an hour is MUCH more money in the long run then the 60+ hours you work as a sous on salary. 

    Don't give up. This is a tough business, and you need to be strong. 

    Good luck.
     
  3. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Krystal ; I feel sorry for your plight. You seem really sincere and want to do your best. Dont let it get to you. Many females are looked down on in many kitchens. I believe some guys are macho and in reality afraid of having a girl top them. Thats their problem. Example I love cats, most guys dont like them Why? because a dog will do what they want them to do and not question it wheras a cat will ignore them and walk away. Guys dont like this,

     You must decide on upscale place working line or a n average place Sous . Its your call. I can tell you there are more average places then upscale. And as someone pointed out line is hourly, sous is salary. Each has advantages and disadvantages. In any event just keep learning and applying all you can. Good Luck to you
     
  4. crazycookin

    crazycookin

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    chefedb is right. I've had a rough time being a woman in a kitchen in some places. It also doesn't help that I am only 5' tall. No one seems to take us short people seriously! *smirk

    BUT, I was just given my first head chef job, so its possible. Leeniek too! Go chicks!
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2011
  5. foodsaucy

    foodsaucy

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    Thanks for your responses.

    I am not too sure how the interview went... basically I went in 15 min early and was pushed on the line with the am sous chef. He proceeded to show me a few of the entrees and leave. The pm sous took over but with out introducing himself or really communicating what he would like to see me do. After a few entrees went out he asked me if I could handle it.. of coarse I took it on. It seems that the am sous had shown me a few bad tips... too much sauce, too much puree, not enough garnish... okay I get that I am supposed to be showing them what I can do but when I am in someone Else's kitchen executing a menu I have never seen am I going to change it? Of coarse I thought there was too much sauce but that was my example. Do I admit that the other guy showed me that way or just say OK. I shrugged it off and asked him to show me again. Sabotage?? After about an hour I realized that the guy I was working with was the sous chef and I proceeded to ask what the position actually was, seeing that I was interviewing for the sous position. He said asked me what I was interested in.. and when I said that I was ready to take on the responsibilities of a sous chef. He replied, "there is no way your getting my job"... not really sure what to think. During the interview he was asking me a bunch of questions about my personal life, more specifically Boston, seeing that we are both from there. I gave him short answers, trying not to seem too chatty. Later I overheard him speaking with the head chef about how much I talk... really? They invited me back for a cook test, secret basket style. He asked if I had ever done that before, and I answered honestly "no." Part of me wished I had just said yes... I am not scared of the basket because in everything I have to offer my creativity and ability to make something amazing on the fly is my strongest quality. I also admitting that I am aware that I do not posses as much sous experience as other candidates but that they should consider that a strength not a weakness.. that even though I lack experience, I have an ever stronger motivation to learn and very easily trained. I guess even if this is not the right establishment for me I can use the test as practice.

    I have been cooking for 5 years, with a year gap in 2007 because of an injury. My first few restaurant I really did not take seriously; being that I was 21 and still figuring things out. I am learning with every job that being a young woman in the kitchen will only get harder as I climb the ladder. At first I really didn't see that hardship of being a woman in the kitchen; mess around, mix love with work, go out for drinks; but as I have come into my mid 20's I have realized that being a strong woman in the kitchen who is there for the mere pleasure of food is the only thing that matters. As for my next job, I think I feel better about going on line cook interviews. Before, I thought I was better then that but I see nothing wrong with learning a few more techniques. Thanks again, Krystal
     
  6. momandchef

    momandchef

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    Another female chef here! HI!!! I too just made head chef and yes, this is a tough industry to be a female in. In my early days I had to deal with more than I care to mention. (Doesn't help me much being "top heavy" for lack of a better term. Eyes up here boys /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif)

    I agree with the others, keep trying. The right job will come along. I have been fortunate to land the perfect job for me in a small cafe style place that is full of women! lol, no testosterone in my kitchen!

    I grew up in Cali, I still have family that lives there. My brother is a GM of a big sports bar/restaurant in Santa Monica and he said times are tough out there. With the cost of everything so high, it's hard to make a living out there when you make decent money, let alone $10 an hour.
     
  7. redzuk

    redzuk

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    Would you still be happy in a less reputable place?  Where do you want to be in 10 or 15 years?  
     
  8. crazycookin

    crazycookin

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    I wouldn't feel bad about screwing around your first few years. A lot of us do it (I know I sure did). Working in a restaurant, where a lot of people drink/do drugs/both, make it easy to party and have a good time. The thing that makes people like you different is that you have grown out of that, and are interested in making it a career, not just 'a job'. 

    As far as the interview, I wouldn't worry too much about it. They invited you back, and that's a really good sign. They would NOT waste time if they weren't interested. The sous attitude could be a few things... he could be worried about his job, or he could just be behaving in such a way because you are a woman. Without knowing him, its pretty much impossible to say. 

    Is this job a place you consider worth your time? If it is, I would suggest taking a line cook job, if offered, and keep at it. If the sous really does have such a s**t attitude like he seems, he may not last long anyways. 

    Let us know how it goes! Good luck!
     
  9. steelbanger

    steelbanger

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    Foodsaucy, take it fom an old fart. Your plight is, unfortunately, typical of our industry. Although we have come a long way in the last forty years, the stuff going on in kitchens is as bad as what goes on on movie sets (my wife works in film, and yes, she comes home crying a lot, too). The chef and sous behaviour is despicable and unprofessional. You can tell them that from me. Too may Gordon Ramsy wannabe's. My advantage in my learning days was that I am six feet tall and I used to pump iron. I was a martial artist as well, so no one really gave me a hard time. At the same time, however, I always showed the greatest respect for the chefs who I truly thought were good, not just because they had an ego. Some of those who were the hardest on me are still my most respected advisors today. You can figure out quite soon who is giving you a hard time because they care about your development and who is just harrassing you. My advice  - don't put up with it (the harrassing kind I mean). Don't let a few bad individuals ruin your love of your career. Five years is not a lot of experience to become a sous. yes, there are places where the dishwasher becomes the chef over night, but that's not how it's supposed to work. If I was in your shoes, I'd do this: I don't know what your training background is, but I would strongly recommend a formal apprenticship, followed by accreditation as a professional chef. Go work in a hotel for a few years to round out your experience in the management department. Afterall, as sous, you need to show that you can run the kitchen in the chef's absence, while also being a good follower of the chef's directions. I think being a good sous is harder than being the chef. In your spare time, I would seek out the place where you REALLY want to work, and offer to work part time, at minimal or no pay - maybe one or two days / evenings / whatever, just to gain experience. I had lots of young cooks do that with me in my kitchens, and I have done the same in many places in Europe (Roger Verge, Le moulin de Mougins, Martin Dalsass, Santabbondio, Eckhard Witzigmann, Aubergine). Appeal to the chef's ego and let him know you would rather not get paid at all than pass up the opportunity to work with him. Even if it does not pan out into a job, you'll get a lot of experience out of it, plus you have your foot in the door, so to speak.

    Yes, it's still tougher for women to make it in this male dominated profession, but if you're smart about it, you'll make it. We're not all testosterone crazed jerks.

    Good luck!
     
  10. crazycookin

    crazycookin

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    Steelbanger, we need more like you in the industry. Krystal, listen to this man.
     
  11. durangojo

    durangojo

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    Foodsaucy,

     i don't want to burst what little bubble you have left, but i must tell you my gut reaction...i don't think you are quite ready to be a sous chef, at least not in a high end establishment. you yourself admit this..... if you do not think you are ready, then you are not. sounds to me that although you may possess the skills neccessary, you don't possess the self confidence. its hard to kick butt when you're wishy washy. i also don't think you have enough kitchen experience to be sous in a high end joint. personally, being sous is not all that much fun really, and lots more work and responsibility than a line cook..redzuk called it when he aked where do you want to be in 10-15 years.what do you want? just how hungry are you? having an ego is not a bad thing either, you just have to keep it in check, and use it to your advantage. i think you need to find a kitchen that you are comfortable in, no matter if its line....that actually may be a better fit for you right now. you are in a new town,a hard town to make friends in, find good work in, to even get around in.....you're the new kid on the block, give yourself some time. make friends... i am a female chef and have been for many years in lots of venues...boat chef, caterer, start up chef,restaurant owner(plural), private chef...its all doable for you and more,but like everything else, you gotta pay your dues.....don't think you've quite paid yours out yet....there are some really great teachers/mentors out there, male and female...go learn, work hard, blossom...the fit is what is most important. take it from me, when you spend a large percentage of your time in a kitchen, not with family or friends, you want to make sure you have the best people around you...they will become your family and you theirs....you must be good though if you are going up for so many interviews....best of luck to you chef...

    joey
     
  12. leeniek

    leeniek

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    I think if you are questioning it, you might not be ready yet. 

    I remember when I was hired at the cafe as a  short order cook (that was my title but I was the ONLY cook) I at first thought... can I do this?  Typical for me I tossed myself in front of the bus and I just went at it and they hired me pretty much on the spot.  It is because of my work at the cafe that I was able to go to my last place and do as much as I did there... and because of my experience as AKM at my last place that I have the confidence to take the bull by the horns with my new place and get the job done and strive to exceed what the owner expects of me.  He is paying me a good salary and with that comes high expectations and I knew that going in.  You're young and you have lots of time ahead of you so as it's been said here you need to look at where you want to be in 10-15 years... will you be happy as AKM/sous in a mediocre place or would you rather start off as a line cook in an excellent place and work your way up. 

    As another female in the business I've dealt with a couple of people who question me because I am a girl.. one actually said to me that working a line is hard work for a woman and I respect any woman who can do it.  It was me and another female line cook he had said that to and after he went for his millionth smoke break we looked at each other and wondered if we were just insulted for our gender or complimented on our performance.  We agreed that it was a bit of both.  He got fired a short time after that comment was made... apparently head office did not like his work and he was not suited for corporate places.  For the most part once they get to know me they realize that I have pretty thick skin and I can handle alot and I give as good as I get when it comes to joking around.  I don't do the tirade thing...I'm too lazy for that.  All of the energy I would put into going all Ramsay on someone I can put into getting the job done and at the end of the day happy customers is what I want and that is more important than freaking out. 

    You have alot of potential... just take it easy and enjoy what you are doing.  I am new to being a salaried employee and well... you want to enjoy your life before you are on salary in this business.  Yes I just today got the biggest paycheque I have ever received in my life but I am most definitely earning it for sure and I am not going to depress myself by figuring out what my hourly wage would be for the hours I put in.  The good news is that the savings account will definitly be growing alot faster as I don't have the time to spend the money I  make!

    Best of luck to you and keep us posted as to how things are going with you.
     
  13. demo121

    demo121

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    IF you want to be a RESTAURANT sous chef you need to first and foremost be the BEST line cook in the kitchen. its my opinion.but the sous that i have worked for in a strictly restaurant situation who are respected and quality are "first and foremost the best line cooks". i would like to clarify that if you want to be a RESTAURANT sous, especially a fine dining restaurant, you need to be better than all your hourly personell at their jobs because they will be looking first to you for excecutional problem solving and digging them out of the weeds during the push when they cant keep up, if you cant do that, you wont usually get their following and their loyalty, and thats a poblem. If you dont need to do fine dining its no big deal, go be a random hotel corporate sous or a middle of the road restaurant or what have you, but in a restaurant, usually a sous chef is be best line cook there is and if you dont love being a restaurant line cook; if you dont love manning a station and holding it down on a saturday service; in a lot of ways, as a general statement, you will have a tough time as a restaurant sous. Restauarant work is all about service, you have to love working it first and foremost. thats not true about service with every avenue in cheffing, maybee think it out.
     
  14. momandchef

    momandchef

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    ITA! Steelbanger sounds like good people. (as my father in law says)
     
  15. foodsaucy

    foodsaucy

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    Thanks for the responses. I went to the cook test and they said that my creativity far surpasses my experience but in order to be there sous that would start me out on the line and see where it went. I said I would like to think about it and went straight to the library to apply for resort jobs. I have 2 interviews tomorrow at 2 luxury resorts in southern cal and I am actually excited about. I fear taking the position at the restaurant if I am not jumping at the opportunity. Like durangojo said they are my family whom I will spend the majority of my time with, and if I get the creeps right away I am going to follow my instincts.

    I am a fine dining girl and can not picture myself doing anything else... I am so intrigued with plating and unique concepts. I agree that I can always use more experience but its hard to get the idea for the next step out of your hear when your previous sous chef was a joke and I spent the last year doing his job. I know I can do the job but its difficult for me to sell myself to prospective chef. I am modest and a free loving hippie soul! I am trying to be tougher but I believe in this industry as a art and perfecting that art should be a nourishing path... I have always had balls to stand up for my beliefs, family, politics, some b*tch in the bar; but when it come to others in the industry I guess I timid down because I believe we all are talented (some more then others) and I respect that. Unfortunately taking a nonpaying job at this time would leave me broke, leaving Boston really strained my finances and took a 80% pay cut in cal. Some people have the luxury of doing that, and I unfortunately even had to pass up a few opportunities due to not being able to survive on the wages.

    Well, I am looking forward to my hotel interviews! But they asked me to give an example of how you went above and beyond? If your whole career is going above and beyond what would be a good example.. better yet maybe someone out there has a good one for me??

    Krystal
     
  16. durangojo

    durangojo

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    well sistah chef,

    in the end, you gotta do what you gotta do, what you think is right and what will work for you. you're gonna be doing this for a loonng time and you are right to choose carefully, to be picky..gut barometers are such a good thing... as far as your 'above and beyond' how bout'.. you moved to So Cal...how much more can above and beyond get?...of course, they are asking for your culinary piece d' resistance...maybe you haven't done it yet..to paraphrase  alice in wonderland,''sometimes i do 6 impossible things before breakfast!!! ...best of luck to you...glad you are excited..if you are, then they will be as well....you're sincere, you'll dazzle em' for sure...

    joey
     
  17. steelbanger

    steelbanger

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    Krystal, Durangojo is right. It's your gig and it's your life. You gotta do it your way. - In the luxury resort, are you talking to some HR dude, or the chef? (The "above and beyond" question sounds SOO HR!) How big of a place is it? I have found - and had it confirmed by many an HR director- that HR people know little, if anything about the skills of a cook. They assess a candidate on different attributes, like personality, compatibility, likelyhood of not quitting, but still being successful and contributing to the team, yuddah, yuddah, yuddah... unfortunately, they also rely too much on the much dreaded RESUME. If you get past round one, maybe you will then meet someone who will see you for what you really are: a competent, eager, creative, even tempered, cool as a cucumber perfectionist who can kick butt in the kitchen. HR folks usually don't get that.

    Good luck to you. let us know what happens next.
     
  18. squirrelrj

    squirrelrj Banned

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    I'm just curious, why did you leave Boston, a city with so many cuilinary opportunities in such a small area?

    I couldn't imagine leaving this city anytime soon.
     
  19. crazycookin

    crazycookin

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    Krystal,

    Congrats on getting the job offer, even if its not something you take. I wish you a lot of luck on your interviews today. Be confident and proud of your work.

    Good luck!
     
  20. veronporter

    veronporter

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    I would think if you were ready to be a sous chef, you would be confident taking a line-cook position, while letting your employer know you want that sous-chef position/offering to take on sous-like responsibility. If/Once you prove to be the best cook on the line things should work out in your favor.

    If there is one thing I have learned about this industry: you have to earn everything! From the respect of your peers, to the measly 25 cent raise. There are no handouts. Pay your dues, put in your time, do your best and the rest will follow. That's how I see it...