Issues with Sous

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by sunnyrayz, Jun 27, 2016.

  1. sunnyrayz

    sunnyrayz

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    So, need some major advice here.

    I was hired as Executive Chef at a very high volume rstaurant. I pretty much walked into a disaster that was in the making 7+ yrs before me. It is my first Exec position and been there about 3 months now. It's has been so so so challenging and I love it. However, the staff I have under me are indescribable. I mean, I'm a 35 yr old woman and have 30 men under me. I swear they are more catty then a lot of females if worked with. Always bitching about someone, something, negativity all around. They have no drive, but for some reason they think they are all chefs lol.

    My real problem is the sous chef I hired. I made the unfortunate mistake of hiring a friend and fellow culinary student who graduated w me. She actually approached me and wanted to know if I had a spot available for her. I needed a sous chef desperately and thought she'd be a good fit.

    While I'm still trying to straighten out the kitchen and get things functioning somewhat normal I expect her to be my support and wingman. It's starting to feel like she's trying to upstage me. She makes all these suggestions that I've already made and takes credit for them. Granted she has had a few ideas that were good that weren't mine. She takes it upon herself to cut the staff when it's "slow" when I'm present. I think that's incredibly overstepping bounderies. My labor costs are 27% in a 3 million $ yr establishment. She always talks about inventory and ordering and suggest she can do it AND make the staff schedule. I mean, isn't that basically the work of the executive chef? She wants her two days off in a row and doesn't like closing while I'm putting in 60+ hrs a week. I really think I may have made a mistake hiring her.

    My question is: is this repremandable? I do plan on talking to her in person and setting some clear Bounderies. Am I wrong for feeling like this? I don't want to lose control over my kitchen because she is power hungry. It feels like competing and pisses me off.
     
  2. meezenplaz

    meezenplaz

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    First I find myself wondering how long shes been working with you. Is she still within a probationary 

    period in other words. If still a probie, she needs to KNOW shes still a probie and that you are not 

    happy with her behavior--performance is one thing, behavior is another. Taking credit for your ideas

    indicates she cant be trusted. If you can't trust your sous.....well then you can't trust your sous. 

    She sounds ambitious alright, and seems to have no qualms stepping on your neck to get ahead. 

    Don't let her. Additionally, she can only do that if there's someone "above you" for her to impress, 

    thereby doing an end run around you directly to them 

    During your boundary-talk, you might want to remind her where the power rests--who gaveth unto

    her...., and who can taketh away. 

    So to your final question....no I don't, from what you've outlined, feel you're wrong in your feeling--

    I think your gut is screaming at you that even more trouble is looming ahead, and that she's

    displaying a lack of both respect for you, and gratitude for having brought her in. 

    --M
     
  3. brewdog

    brewdog

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    I'm not sure what's with cooks being so difficult, but they tend to be very aggressive, don't they?

    You HAVE to put your foot down. It's only going to get worse if you don't. I'm a pretty nice guy in the kitchen, but I've learned when people are testing me. And if you overlook these tests, then they'll keep pushing.

    In my job offshore, I have the ability to send people home on a boat. I don't much do it because I can usually resolve things without going to that step. And I also don't want to do that if I don't have to because I sort of think it says to my company that I can't handle my staff if I have to send them away.

    But you are the boss. Don't let anyone mistake that. Another cook can be helpful and make suggestions without stepping on your toes. But if they're not doing what you need from them, then send them away. I understand this is someone you know and it makes it harder. But it will continue to get harder if you let it slide. Put your foot down. You have to, or it's going to get ugly.

    I wish you the very best. Let us know what happens.
     
  4. chefross

    chefross

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    Okay...now I'm going to take the other approach.

    First welcome to ChefTalk.

    Second, she's your Sous girl.

    She's know everything you know. 

    What I wouldn't have given for a Sous to step up and take charge to make my life easier.

    She wants to make the schedule?  Fabulous.

    She wants to send some crew home on a slow night?  Why NOT???

    If she wants to take inventory and do the ordering, you should be exuberant and happy, so I think you are misunderstanding the role of the Sous and the whole situation.

    Sit down and talk with her.  You are both not in culinary school anymore.

    My $.02
     
    passthegravy, liza and chefshanes like this.
  5. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    Hi Sunny and Welcome. In most kitchens I managed, If all was well I would take off Sunday and Monday. My Souse would be off Tuesday and Wed. This all depends on how busy Sunday is and if so I would work 1/2 a day on Sundays. The why you decide on how much your Sous does is when you know what you "HAVE" to do. There are somethings in the kitchen that have to be done but, it's ok for you to oversee them if the Sous does them. In most cases I want my Sous on the floor working and managing my kitchen. You should control the things in your kitchen that allows you to have your finger on the pulse. You are the Architect and your Sous is your site (Kitchen) manager helping the workers build the building. The Sous is a person that takes your vision and keeps it alive on the kitchen floor. As for the Sous not wanting to close "Isn't" an option. If the Sous wanted to send people home during slow times thats fine. You put her here to make those kinds of decisions. This is your first  Executive Chef Job I think your having a hard time giving up some of the responsibility. This is your baby and someone else is kind of moving in on your territory. Your not alone, I was always very protective of the restaurants I help build. 

       All that being said, don't get yourself bogged down with the small stuff. In other words, if you can work your ass off on 8hrs of real Chef work, don't screw with the 2 hrs of what a Sous could do for you. I always want to order so I can watch prices and talk with sales people to see whats new and so one. Scheduling may not be as important, this will give your Sous an understanding of the needs and wants of the kitchen employees. You do need to watch for things like "the power of the schedule" when she does it. I would sit down and tell her what you expect. Your Sous feels like she is an equal. She isn't an equal, she is your Sous........Take care ..........Chef Bill
     
  6. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    I suppose part of it is differing expectations.  My sous cuts staff right in front of me all the time, and that's part of why I hired the guy!  He's a take-charge guy and he takes charge of a lot of stuff that I don't have time or inclination to do.  That frees me up to do that stuff only I do (eg menus, orders, etc).

    Still it's important for everyone to know their place.  You set the boundaries, and if she oversteps then you have to pull the leash a little bit.  I'd suggest sitting her down in a less formal setting for a talk; if that doesn't work discuss things in a more formal, structured way.
     
  7. frankie007

    frankie007

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    I don't know why you just don't get rid of her? There must be thousands of chefs there that would snap her job. Your number two has to have your back, simple as that. I think you are overthinking it....
     
  8. sunnyrayz

    sunnyrayz

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    Thank you for all of the suggestions. They we're all very helpful and good different POV's. I had a talk w her today and she knew what it was about before I even started talking. So, now I hope we have somewhat established our roles. I think we are both learning and she's never been a sous and I've never been an exec.

    Obviously too there is always FOH vs BOH. Starting to
    Realize the depth of that too. Some FOH MOD's do not want to own their mistakes so crap always trickles downhill...
     
  9. cronker

    cronker

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    Sometimes, it's wonderful to have someone who is trying to break the ceiling.
    For example, you say she is taking your ideas and promoting them as her own?
    So what! Let her.
    What will happen is that she will receive a whole lot of accolades for these ideas, and you will seethe. Then, she will be expected to have more of these bright ideas and then...oh, she doesn't have them?
    Meanwhile, you will continue to come up with great ideas and the bosses will see the penny drop - the real innovator here was always you. It doesn't hurt to drop a few comments like "that's such a great idea from Sous Chef! At least she's listening to me!"
    Your wage % of 27 is very good in my part of the world. If she feels she can cut staff on slow periods, then good, but she can't complain about having to close. Tell her that when she becomes an Exec, she can decide to go home when she wants. Until then, there is a roster and she needs to adhere to it.

    Regarding FOH V BOH - I'm a FOH professional, but never have an issue with my BOH because we always talk about the struggles and issues on both sides. It's a shame there is even a divide, because at end of shift, all anyone wants is a successful service, money in the till and to know that tomorrow we are still open and getting paid.
     
  10. sunnyrayz

    sunnyrayz

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  11. sunnyrayz

    sunnyrayz

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    My goodness, for real! Thank you!!
     
    cronker likes this.
  12. cronker

    cronker

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    Sunnyrayz, you come across as someone who can actually do the exec thing you've been hired for. We recently had a member who just was in over their head, and it was sad to see. All the experienced members here tried so hard to give advice and help.
    You will find a wealth of knowledge, experience and yes, fatigue here.
    I would suggest grooming your sous into an exec role, if that is what she wants. Don't be offended.
    I've always had a mantra that if someone doesn't want my job, them I'm going to be stuck doing it and will never progress in my own career.
    I believe in giving power away.
    I used to work with a manager who would never help me learn rostering, how to order crockery or glassware to keep up stock. She never taught me how to deal with staff issues, or how to navigate upper level management meetings.
    Guess what? I went out and found the answers myself. And then I leapfrogged my boss and became hers.
     
  13. workaholic

    workaholic

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    I totally agree! If you're working 60 hours a week, and she's offering to take some responsibilities off your plate, then by all means let her! If you think those tasks need your eyes on them, find her another set of tasks to do. 

    If she doesn't like closing, and you need her to close, that a simple conversation. We need a strong presence on closing to build up the team. She needs to take on that responsibility as your sous. When the team is built up, and doesn't need management supervision, then she doesn't have to close anymore. Simple as that. If she she can get behind something so elemental, then she's not the right sous chef for you. Time to promote one of the 30 men you work with. 
     
  14. cronker

    cronker

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    Oh, and sorry to keep harping on, but...

    I'm not sure I wouldn't prefer a sous like yours over those staff who come in and do just enough to not get fired. You know the ones, you can't really tell them off because they haven't done anything wrong.
    But they never go an inch toward the extra mile.
    Happens to me all the time.
    I tell someone to knock off at 11, and they do - on the dot.
    Leaving whatever they were doing completely unfinished and not letting anyone know where they were up to.
    So annoying.
     
  15. sunnyrayz

    sunnyrayz

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    Ok, so with all this being said, I have been kind of winging the scheduling w her. We work in a very high tourist area and seasonal w conventions coming in and out randomly so we can get hit any time any day, but right now for the summer we are pretty much constant w 400 average cover a night thurs-sun. Should I just establish a standing schedule or keep changing it according to revenue forecasting?
     
  16. sunnyrayz

    sunnyrayz

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    I appreciate and will soak in all of the wisdom I can!! Bad and good. Mostly good would be nice though.
     
  17. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    What is the revenue forecasting based on? 
     
  18. sunnyrayz

    sunnyrayz

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    In a 20 yr establiment, averaging the last few yrs food costs, covers, sales, inventory... We also factoring in a lot more traffic now as the area is growing very much with new hotels, restaurants, and activities being added.
     
  19. passthegravy

    passthegravy

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    So important for FOH and BOH to be able to properly talk to each other.
    An after work pint has solved more issues in the places I've worked than I care to remember.
    Outside the workplace setting people become human again, issues dissolve.
     
     
  20. passthegravy

    passthegravy

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    Eat some meals together, talk about food, talk about work... the two positions in an ideal world can bounce off one another and push to improve everything in the kitchen.
    First time doing each position for each of you, and she's a friend who you studied with, pretty ideal on paper.
    You both have a great chance, if you work at it, and it works out, you'll have made a firm bond and will help each other out down the line no doubt.


    See how far you can both push it chef, where do you want to be in 6 months?