just starting as "sous chef"

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by floydian1989, Aug 4, 2015.

  1. floydian1989

    floydian1989

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    hello everyone, 

    I am transitioning from a short-order breakfast cook with experience cooking and prepping in campus settings, but never having worked on the line before i wanted to move into that fast paced environment. Searching online, I found a local high-volume restaurant with an opening for a head line cook. Interviewed, went in to work the fry section, absolutely horrendous food safety standards, so many quality issues, no organization or systems in place of any kind. At the end of my shift the owner I told the owner that I would love to speak with her about how my shift went, yada, yada, yada. I met with her the following week and brought in all of my notes and an agenda for our meeting. Explaining everything wrong with the kitchen and the lack of systems, etc. she broke down and explained how difficult it has been for her to find good employees and to maintain the level of food quality, consistency, and ticket times that the restaurant can produce. She begged for me to come back and try to work another shift to see if we could find a role for me in the kitchen. I have worked as a fry and grill cook in short order restaurants but never cooking beef tenderloin or plating the quality of food that their prices call for. Having said that, everyone else in the kitchen basically has zero clue what is going on in terms of being an actual cook. The fry station has two cooks who are complete knuckleheads and battle constantly all day. D is a 45 year old steroid user who pulls tickets before they are completed and has a strange obsession with keeping things clean without actually cleaning anything (wiping counters that are already clean while his fried items are dragging or he hasnt even thrown them down yet), J is a 27 year old who just spent 7 years in jail for assault, he is so hot-headed he says he can do everything in the fry section by himself, yet the entire service is constantly dragging because he forgets to fire items or is too busy monitoring everyone else in the kitchen that he never even looks at his tickets. Jon, the chef is so jaded and burnt-out that he barely monitors anything in the kitchen except the saute station he mans during lunch and dinner service. There are 3 dishwashers, two dedicated prep workers, and 4 expeditors. After working another shift, I was offered the position of sous chef by the owner and Jeff. Now, after having worked at the restaurant for over a week, I have been trying to implement systems like a running inventory sheet on every prep reach-in, labels on every item that is prepped or opened, etc. I ran my first ever staff meeting with the kitchen last week, explaining what the labels are and how we are implementing systems for organization. I am trying to start a new system every week while still monitoring and correcting any mistakes with the previous week's system. I really really love the work I am doing and am getting paid well, there is just so much to be done I'm trying to prioritize my tasks and decide what can be done in the short term to boost production and lower costs. Should i feel bad if i am not working on the line so much as monitoring how the line is producing and basically babysitting these cooks that cant  get their act together? What are the most essential beginning systems to help lower food costs? ami even filling the role of a traditional sous chef? I am trying to set prep levels on all items so that we can cut payroll by having the prep workers have the cooks' stations set up for their service. Is this the way to go? I know that this is going to be not only a lengthy discussion, but the first of many as I really need professional advice on how to manage people, costs, recipes, scheduling, the whole kitten caboodle. Thank you so much for any advice you can give.  
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2015
  2. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    Sentence structure ...........My eyes are bleeding.
     
  3. floydian1989

    floydian1989

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    Sorry if I offended you with my sentence structure. I am working a thirteen hour shift and only have time to write on my break. Thank you for utilizing this forum to the best of your abilities and helping me as much as you possibly can. Your advice is so marvelously useless.
     
  4. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    Posts like yours often get passed by, they are hard to read. A well written post will have 100's of years of experience thrown at you.

    I skimmed over your post but won't reread it as written to offer any of my 30 years experience.
     
    flipflopgirl likes this.
  5. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, first lesson is to not be snarky and perhaps see that chefbuba might have a point?
     
  6. chefboyog

    chefboyog

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    Haha good luck and have fun!

    My advice, really; take a deeeeeeep breath. Write down your goals for the kitchen, go over them with the Chef. Ask the Chef his goals. Work on them, cook stuff.

    Dont chince people out on the internet, calling him " Chef" is very rude. Your not going to fix the place, don't try to, just fit in have fun and LEARN.
     
  7. floydian1989

    floydian1989

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    Ok I was working when I read the original post from chef Bubba and was upset at the general attitude of the post. I apologize for overstepping, I am only seeking advice. I only have a mobile phone to respond to you on and don't mean to seem rude in any way.

    My issue is that I was literally hired as a problem solver by the owner of the restaurant. I was hired to fix the kitchen. The chef asked me to help implement these systems, the owner aked the same. Even if I am not fulfilling the traditional role of a "sous chef" that's the title I was given.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2015
  8. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    The problems you are solving 
    do not seem to be the ones that the owner mentioned
    What you are implementing is not bad, but from reading your posts there seem to be more glaring problems that need to be addressed.
    Issues like this speak more to the heart of the owner's concerns
    All the systems in the world don't matter diddly if the line isn't fixed.

    This is where I would focus my initial efforts and I would do it by working the line. Spend time with each individual in order to show them the best way to accomplish their duties in the most efficient way. Side benefit being introducing them to the practicality of your thoughts on labeling, prep lists, par lists, etc. Then let them have a go at it but being close enough to step in with corrections as needed if they start to go astray from what you showed them.

    Also working the line will give you better insight in ways to cut labor cost, because from reading your post, they are probably high.
     
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  9. flipflopgirl

    flipflopgirl

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    Best to skip names or use aliases when discussing your BOH co workers on the web.
    Chef Talk has a huge following.
    All it takes is one casual lurker ( who knows with all those employees one may even be a member) and your cover is pretty much blown.

    The owner who keeps "breaking down" and the burned out chef may take offense......

    Just sayin'

    mimi
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2015
  10. panini

    panini

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    I agree with @cheflayne  ,

      Working with the individuals side by side will give you a better indication of what's needed to be done. Lead by example. This is probably the only way for you to gain respect from the kitchen, especially if the chef is burnt. If there has been no leadership, the crew is probably hanging on. That bunch of zeros may very well be a bunch of heros. You have not been there that long. It's best to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. If after working with them they are zeros. then out the door.

      Main thing is to identify a couple of things you want to accomplish on every shift. Whatever happens, get those done no matter what. If you don't leave there after a hard day and feel good about your few accomplishments, burnout is to follow. It also is the makes of a good manager/sous. Have fun!
     
    floydian1989 likes this.
  11. chefross

    chefross

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    My comment has to do with your very first line:

    I am transitioning from a short-order breakfast cook with experience cooking and prepping in campus settings, but never having worked on the line before i wanted to move into that fast paced environment.

    If I'm not mistaken a short order cook IS working a line no?

    If this be true you have some pretty good talents going for you, especially on a busy breakfast shift.

    These are the things you teach to the line guys.

    I am in agreement with Cheflayne.

    Also please recognize that you are not a Sous Chef.

    The Sous is the second in command and should know everything the Chef knows

    From reading your thread, I can see that you are on the right track, but you must develop the means to implement your ideas while not affecting the Chef and crew already there.

    It is a hard task to do.

    The things you are asking for can not be related on an internet site.

    YOU must go out and find the answers, either by reading, or real life experience.

    Like Bubba said, we have a lot of years experience here but even with that, it is a road only you can take.
     
  12. flipflopgirl

    flipflopgirl

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    good job

    m.
     
  13. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Hi conorallen,

    I hope I'm not too late, and that you are still subscribing to this thread.  

    I have the advice you need:

    The owner has every right to terminate the Chef for not fulfilling his duties.

    From your post, I gather the Chef is not performing as per the owner\s expectations.

    And yet, the owner is still paying him a salary and allowing him to carry on.

    So my advice is, never work for anyone who bellyaches about  their Chef and yet still allows him to carry on.

    I realize that this is not the advice you want, but it is the advice you need

    Fahgettabout portion control and prep lists and cleaning schedules, if you don't have the Chef's backing, than you are just wasting time, an experience in frustration.

    If the owner can't turf the Chef, then the owner can't turf the non-performing employees, which leaves you running around trying to make everything right.

    Come back to the owner when she has a new Chef installed.....
     
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  14. floydian1989

    floydian1989

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    The chef has my back in terms of implementing systems in the kitchen. Over the two weeks I have been working, I have noticed his personality coming out more and we have connected in some ways. I have now started to transition into his true "sous chef", backing him up and trying to run the operation of every station in the kitchen.

    Along with managing the kitchen and its personnel, I try to address every issue that the owner and/or any personnel bring to my attention on a daily basis. The kitchen had no systems or "implementor" previous to my hire, I was essentially hired to create, oversee, and manage restaurant systems that are typical on our industry.

    Today i cooked and managed operations for a private gathering in our patio for 35 people. In the morning I made three variations of meatballs for the owner and chef to try ( we 86'd the bagged frozen meatballs the night before, we ran out due to inadequate inventory systems), the more "italian" meatball I made was chosen and served for the gathering! Now I just need them to get away from the canned pasta "sauce ", we can serve them some real food!

    I am working so hard every day to improve this restaurant, as I feel that someday I could move so far up the management scale (the owners are slightly older than middle aged, I am 26).

    I appreciate all of your time,
    Thank You
     
  15. sicariix

    sicariix

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    I've been doing this a while now and it seems to me your on the right track. But one thing I want to stop and say you need respect of your line staff before they will follow you, but also you need to respect them. In your first post you were doggin on people but didn't know why they did those things that irritated you. I'm not saying be best buddies but start to know and care (even if you don't) about the people that are making your food. This will help you manage everyone successfully.

    Also get in the trenches with your fellow cooks, not only will this build respect, it is an opportunity to train the people around you and train line operations (such as calling of tickets, food safety, plating, and what to do in a crisis situation). This will also open your eyes on why people do thing you don't understand.

    I see your constantly looking for issues that's you want to fix, step back and look at what is successful so far in this restaurant, but also look at your employees and see which ones are benefiting from the success.
     
    floydian1989 likes this.
  16. floydian1989

    floydian1989

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    I thank everyone for their valuable input, the comments have been wonderfully motivating! I just want everyone who suggested that I throw myself in the trenches and work the line to gain respect to know this: I do this daily. I regularly train and junp in to help whenever possible, I try to lead by example; taking out the trash, staying until the end of the night to sweep, etc.

    Now to move on to a management question, how does everyone feel about hiring culinary graduates for a dishwasher position with prep work on the side and ability to be promoted? I honestly feel that if I develop a core crew of like-minded people, culinary and intelligence-wise, that I can transform this restaurant into a fine dining establishment. I just fear the know-it-all culinary student who will try to either take my job, buck the system, or leave in a year. Thanks again everyone
     
  17. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    You have yourself in a pickle there. By your own admission you are a short order breakfast cook, nothing wrong with that a strong egg man is always a good find for a breakfast place.

    Also stating that you have never cooked beef tenderloin. Just from reading this you might be in over your head, there are a lot of things that a s/o cook would never learn unless they have worked in some more upscale kitchens.

    You may be a rock star with the paperwork, systems, schedules, etc but can you make hollandaise, any of the basic stocks and turn those into sauces?

    Can you make a proper buerre blanc?

    Do you know what sauce charon is.? It's old school but you should know it.

    Know how to butcher fish, identify different whole fish and fillets or cut your own steaks? Know the difference between a short loin and a strip loin? Some look very similar.

    Make fresh pasta, know the best way to cook different proteins and what sauces might go best with each?

    A wet behind the ears culinary student will have studied, seen demos and hopefully had hands on in these areas. You are right in fearing for your job.

    What is the chef doing while you are transforming the restaurant to fine dining? What are the owner's plans? From your own admission you have no experience in this area.

    What's on the menu now? What do you want to change it to? What does the chef know?

    I'm not trying to bust your balls, I think it's great that you got your foot in the door somewhere that you can be of some use for other than flipping eggs.

    Just remember that Sous chef titles are given out like government cheese these days, especially in problematic kitchens. It's a way to try get and keep help with a promotion or title with little reward to truly unqualified cooks.
     
  18. panini

    panini

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    Now just me talking. and you're in a professional forum.

    Um, You honestly feel that if you clone yourself, your short career and experience will  result in a fine dining restaurant run by intelligent people? Have you lost your Fin mind? How do I feel? I don't think hiring someone with an education for the pit is a good idea at all. I would understand if they were scheduled there as an internship or cross training so they completely understand the job description. The pit should not perform their job and prep also. The pit, to me, is the most important position in the kitch. If your plongeur has time to prep, you're not scheduling or supervising properly. In 40 yrs, I have never witnessed a time when kitchen sanitation was caught up and there wasn't a single thing for the pit to do.

    Know it all culinary graduates? It's obvious that people with some culinary education will intimidate the hell out of you. You're already paranoid. Or you are just completely jealous of them.

    Leave in a year? With you it won't take that long. Listen. I would be preaching/teaching them to take your job. That's how it works in management.

    Listen, a good manager does not try to clone his experience or intelligence. He or she tries to clone their style and personality.

    The pit is one of the areas where you look for a certain type of individual. Someone who doesn't yearn for another position, one who's work ethic includes happiness and satisfaction to have employment. If you don't give this group ownership in what they do, they will always be transient.

    I think you should in any type of culinary you can get without interrupting your life to much.

    I'm going to chalk up your last post to a large brain fart, maybe sleep deprivation with delusions, or a bipolar episode and  when you get some rest and grounding you'll be clearer in the morning..
     
  19. floydian1989

    floydian1989

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    I never said i wanted to clone myself. "Like-minded people" does not mean clones of myself, it means employing people interested in the culinary arts and having a passion for food. I honestly did not gain anything from your post.
    Also, I have not only worked as a shortorder breakfast cook, I have worked in multiple campus dining services and several other restaurants.
    I do not find myself intimidated by culinary students or graduates, I like to challenge myself and learn on a daily basis. I do not feel paranoid in any way, I am starting a new job (i have only been there two weeks) and have a normal amount of anxiety about taking on my first "management" position.
    I have friends who suffer from Bipolar disorder and I do not find your joke funny in any way. You should proofread your own reply before you judge others'. The end of your reply is complete gibberish sir: "I think you should in any type of culinary you can get without interrupting your life to much."
     
  20. floydian1989

    floydian1989

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    Also, I want to clarify for everyone that the kitchen is not set up in a traditional way. The menu caters to a clientele that neither cares about nor can afford any number of the dishes or preparations that people have questioned my experience in. I want to LEARN all of these techniques, recipes, management styles, etc...everything I can learn at all times. I want to transform this restaurant and kitchen into a something that I know it can be, I am literally here asking for advice on different topics. I am admitting what I DONT know and am seeking the advice of professionals.
    Thats what this forum is for, or at least so I thought. I am not seeking derision or sarcasm relating to my lack of experience or training. I would love to chat with anyone who is seeking to teach or mentor on any of the things I dont know, but can do without the judgment. I applaud and congratulate you all on your illustrious careers and accomplishments, I only approach you in total humility seeking even a drop of your wisdom.