My Kitchen Nightmare

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by solwinds, Jul 29, 2014.

  1. solwinds


    Likes Received:
    Sous Chef
    Hi Everyone

    New to the site and the business, looking for some tips on being a better chef/cook and dealing with my nightmare job.

    I started working at a local family restaurant as a dishwasher at the beginning of last September, In a small, recently opened Italian restaurant. 

    The family consist of the Mum (owner, no previous restaurant experience), her two daughters (waitress and bar) and eldest son (head chef, 15 years experience in restaurants). at the time I started there were two more staff,the youngest daughters boyfriend (a good mate of mine, he helped on bar) and another chef in the kitchen.

    That chef left two weeks after I started and my friend joined the head chef and I in the kitchen to learn to cook, with me still on potwash.

    Around Christmas (just gone) the head chef started showing both me and my friend how to cook the menu and gradually started letting us do more and more in the kitchen to the point in which he could start leaving us to do it alone.

    Around mid February the eldest sister freaks out and leaves the business, and no one is hired to replace her leaving front of house with only two staff. the head chef then decides he doesn't want to cook anymore and leaves my friend and I in the kitchen to cook, clean and wash up everything between us.

    By this point we were confident enough to be able to cook the menu well but still had little idea about cooking in general as this was the first kitchen job either of us had worked before.

    The Head chef still kept an eye on us but pretty much stopped teaching us anything.

    Things went ok for a few months then at the beginning of June the Head chef decided he'd had enough after a big fight with his mum and has also left the business.

    We're now the end of July and the head chef hasnt been replaced, infact its likely he wont be.

    So we're down to a total of 4 members of staff, My friend and I have been running the kitchen for them for the last two months. stock levels, shopping lists, extensive cleaning rotas, prep, washing up, cooking, occasional serving when busy, food temp standards, we're expected to come up with specials. And its all obviously supposed to be the highest standard.  

    I guess what I'm building up to is this. (and this is a lot!)

    I'm paid (marginally) less than minimum wage and have no qualifications or previous experience (same for my friend) we both have only the experience we've gained in the last 7 months in the kitchen with maybe 2 months of that actually being shown how to cook the menu.

    We haven't had a Head chef or Kp for months.

    We start at 4pm and open at 5pm, how is that enough time to prep and get through a cleaning rota?

    Most days the shopping hasn't been bought until mid shift so we are forced to prep whilst serving customers. 

    Our dishes and cleaning are scrutinized to ridiculous proportions by the owner who knows nothing about running a restaurant.

    The worst part for me is the arrogance and hypocrisy of the owner, it seems like she just wanted to open a quiet family restaurant and kick back with a wine at the bar and watch as the place fills with locals and lines her pockets with cash.

    Now her family has fallen apart, the restaurant is struggling and she and her daughter spend 80% of the time sat on the chairs outside in the sun whilst my friend and I work our arses off in the kitchen. If we are caught sitting down and having a break at the same time we get moaned at, even after a 6 hour busy service.

    It doesn't stop there, with no head chef we have no direction or leader and it makes busy shifts so stress full, I can already see it putting cracks in our friendship as well as his relationship with the daughter of the owner.  

    Monday to Thursday we work alternate shifts and then both work Friday through Sunday so these high standards of cleaning are almost impossible to meet when you start at 4, finish at 11 and have a kitchen to run at the same time.

    I mean, don't get me wrong, we clean our little hearts out in between services and when quiet. 

    There just aren't enough hours in the shift to do it all and inevitably something gets left and we get moaned at. 

    I was ecstatic when I got this job, 2 years of unemployment finished. And even more thrilled when I so quickly got a chance to step up the ladder and into chefs whites. I now have a passion, direction and a spark for cooking that im worried this job is going to chip away from me because it seriously is too much pressure at the moment, I mean, technically I'm working 3 peoples jobs on my own during the week for £6 an hour with little to no experience and no guidance.

    I can't lose this job in this climate it'll be too long before another comes along, I can't directly approach the owner with my issues because she is very opinionated and doesn't like being told when things are being done wrong. The family fell apart because none of them no when to bite there tongue and air all their issues instantly, usually screeching like banshees and wearing there emotions so obviously the whole world can see them.

    Basically I feel like I'm riding in a plane speeding towards the ground, not sure whether its a good idea to jump out early and parachute to the safety of another job or ride it to the end and bleed the experience dry? 

    Both of us are just about handling this job. And despite all I've said the place is doing better by the week with more and more return customers all the time,

    Our food is fresh and decently sourced and service is fast. Customers very rarely leave displeased so we must be doing alright really, just not sure how long we can keep it up before someone explodes.

    Sorry for the ridiculously long message, I have a lot to get off my chest and once i started typing it just kept coming. Any ideas, suggestions that could better my time at work, being that im stuck there...

    ...for now
  2. minas6907


    Likes Received:
    Line Cook
    Sorry I dont have much to say especially after how much you said. But you have two in kitchen and you start at 4pm? Do you serve only dinner at this place?
  3. solwinds


    Likes Received:
    Sous Chef
    Yes we only serve dinner, we used to be open for lunch but weren't taking enough custom to stay open. There are only 2 of us in the kitchen on Friday and Saturday, the rest of the time im on my own in there.

    Sorry about that, i got a little out of hand when typing this up.