Need advice with training

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Joined Apr 19, 2015
I work at a small fine dining restaurant as a newly appointed head chef. I have a line cook who has been there almost as long as me, and has 10 years experience in kitchens longer than myself. I’m trying to train him to work the line independently and he isn’t picking anything up and struggles with technique. He also questions me and argues a little bit, but also has a great attitude when it comes to doing what I ask prep-wise. I don’t want to lower his moral or lose him, but I need someone who has more ability. Should I be a little more patient and give him a chance? Just looking for some advice if anyone has experience with this kind of situation. Thank you
 
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Joined Aug 21, 2004
It is easy to sit here at the keyboard and dispense King Solomon like advice, but the real deal answer involves a ton of factors to consider before any replies can truly be effective.

A working solution can be intricate and involved. This "has a great attitude when it comes to doing what I ask prep-wise" speaks volumes but only if it outweighs his deficits. My present work environment involves a similar cook. It is always a tough scenario.

Are the day to day financials and the budget aligning? What is the size of the brigade? What is he struggling with and what techniques is he struggling with? What is your experience with training and mentoring? What does his resume reveal?

One thing I have learned is that there is no one teaching method that works across the board. Different people learn things through different methods. I experience better results when I adapt and tweak my teaching methods to better fit the personality of the person that I am instructing. At the same time, there is a point of diminishing returns and sometimes it best to know when enough time and effort have been expended.

Being a chef is like being a football coach. Some great coaches have a preconceived game plan. They actively seek and hire players that fit their goals in realizing the game plan. Some great coaches look at the players already in place and develop their game plan to fit the players in order to realize their goals.

What is the labor pool like? What is the talent of the labor pool like? What is the employee turnover rate of the establishment?

I asked lots of questions. I used lots of verbiage. I provided no real answers. I offer no apology, only commiseration!
 
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Joined Mar 1, 2017
Ask him for suggestion about what could be improved and what works well. It creates the impression that he has a measure of power or control. Sift through the suggestions and do what you'd like with them.

If he is having trouble with technique and isn't picking anything up, there is little you can do with that except be frank and tell him that you expect these standards to be met or your choices will become very limited. Devise a plan to help him improve in these areas and if he does not show signs of improvement, then, its probably time for one of those "lonely at the top" type decisions.

Good luck. :)
 
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Joined Jul 28, 2001
You'll never realize productivity until you give him ownership of the line. Not saying his way, but yours. You need to give all job descriptions ownership. You can't prevent fires. A good chef knows how to put them out.
 
51
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Joined Apr 19, 2015
It is easy to sit here at the keyboard and dispense King Solomon like advice, but the real deal answer involves a ton of factors to consider before any replies can truly be effective.

A working solution can be intricate and involved. This "has a great attitude when it comes to doing what I ask prep-wise" speaks volumes but only if it outweighs his deficits. My present work environment involves a similar cook. It is always a tough scenario.

Are the day to day financials and the budget aligning? What is the size of the brigade? What is he struggling with and what techniques is he struggling with? What is your experience with training and mentoring? What does his resume reveal?

One thing I have learned is that there is no one teaching method that works across the board. Different people learn things through different methods. I experience better results when I adapt and tweak my teaching methods to better fit the personality of the person that I am instructing. At the same time, there is a point of diminishing returns and sometimes it best to know when enough time and effort have been expended.

Being a chef is like being a football coach. Some great coaches have a preconceived game plan. They actively seek and hire players that fit their goals in realizing the game plan. Some great coaches look at the players already in place and develop their game plan to fit the players in order to realize their goals.

What is the labor pool like? What is the talent of the labor pool like? What is the employee turnover rate of the establishment?

I asked lots of questions. I used lots of verbiage. I provided no real answers. I offer no apology, only commiseration!
All good questions, All of which i've been trying to answer in my own head, and its helping. Thank you. "Being a chef is like being a football coach" I like that a lot. Thanks
 
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Joined Aug 21, 2004
All good questions, All of which i've been trying to answer in my own head, and its helping.
Sometimes when asking the questions (such as "what is the talent level of the labor pool"), the answers may not support a decision to let go of an employee that needs to move on. When that happens, don't allow yourself to be held hostage by the answers. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. Just be sure that your decision is well thought out and not done spur of the moment; although it certainly sounds like you are exactly doing that.
 
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Joined Apr 19, 2015
Sometimes when asking the questions (such as "what is the talent level of the labor pool"), the answers may not support a decision to let go of an employee that needs to move on. When that happens, don't allow yourself to be held hostage by the answers. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. Just be sure that your decision is well thought out and not done spur of the moment; although it certainly sounds like you are exactly doing that.
Yeah chef, I’m definitely trying not to make a snap decision, but I’ll try not to get stuck with this conundrum and if he continues to flop I’ll have to face the facts. Thanks again, and cheers
 
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Joined Oct 1, 2006
There was a time when none of us knew what a Roux was, until we were taught.

Depersonalize your feedback. "This dish is too______." "The presentation of this is unacceptable because__________." "No one could serve this here because______."

Try not to start a sentence with the word "You".

Avoid personal attacks, for performance issues. Make clear why a dish is not meeting your standards for service, not the person making the mistake. Making personal attacks has never worked well for me, communicating what has to happen for a successful dish has. A clear vision of what you want set down in front of the customer is what matters most. How long it should take, portion size, all components present, etc.

"This dish must be uniformly browned, placed atop the mash, and the sauce can never be thicker than this. You must confirm freshness of the greens before placing them on top. Clean the edges of the plate. The person working this station should have a 8-9 minute window to complete this product. Understood? Questions?"

Anyone that works that station MUST be able to make______ consistently, MUST be able to do this______.

"If any cook can't consistently do/make _____________, my options are limited".

Do you have anyone else on staff that could reduce the threat level of you beating him up, again and again... Someone that he could learn the missing skills from? That knows what you want?

I don't know if any of this is useful, but I tried...

Good Luck!
 
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Joined Jul 20, 2019
I work at a small fine dining restaurant as a newly appointed head chef. I have a line cook who has been there almost as long as me, and has 10 years experience in kitchens longer than myself. I’m trying to train him to work the line independently and he isn’t picking anything up and struggles with technique. He also questions me and argues a little bit, but also has a great attitude when it comes to doing what I ask prep-wise. I don’t want to lower his moral or lose him, but I need someone who has more ability. Should I be a little more patient and give him a chance? Just looking for some advice if anyone has experience with this kind of situation. Thank you
I dealt with a similar situation a few months ago, and its not easy. Definitely a lot of factors come into play. However, having a cook constantly undermining you, especially in from on other cooks is not okay. You are the Head Chef! It's important that you hire a crew that supports and believes in you. One bag egg can be detrimental to your teams moral. I would look for new hires. And don't settle on someone just because you are short handed. You may have to pull some long shifts, but it will be worth it once you start to put the right crew together. Hope this helps!
 
2,989
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Joined May 5, 2010
There was a time when none of us knew what a Roux was, until we were taught.

Depersonalize your feedback. "This dish is too______." "The presentation of this is unacceptable because__________." "No one could serve this here because______."

Try not to start a sentence with the word "You".

Avoid personal attacks, for performance issues. Make clear why a dish is not meeting your standards for service, not the person making the mistake. Making personal attacks has never worked well for me, communicating what has to happen for a successful dish has. A clear vision of what you want set down in front of the customer is what matters most. How long it should take, portion size, all components present, etc.

"This dish must be uniformly browned, placed atop the mash, and the sauce can never be thicker than this. You must confirm freshness of the greens before placing them on top. Clean the edges of the plate. The person working this station should have a 8-9 minute window to complete this product. Understood? Questions?"

Anyone that works that station MUST be able to make______ consistently, MUST be able to do this______.

"If any cook can't consistently do/make _____________, my options are limited".

Do you have anyone else on staff that could reduce the threat level of you beating him up, again and again... Someone that he could learn the missing skills from? That knows what you want?

I don't know if any of this is useful, but I tried...
Good Luck!

I'm so with you on this, but unfortunately location and labor pool make something like this improbable. Notice I didn't use the word impossible, nothing is when it comes to cooking.
Your wording and explanation of a dish would go on deaf ears here. Then what would end up happening would be the cook would stay for the whole season simply because there's no one to replace them with....and so it goes.
 
51
16
Joined Apr 19, 2015
There was a time when none of us knew what a Roux was, until we were taught.

Depersonalize your feedback. "This dish is too______." "The presentation of this is unacceptable because__________." "No one could serve this here because______."

Try not to start a sentence with the word "You".

Avoid personal attacks, for performance issues. Make clear why a dish is not meeting your standards for service, not the person making the mistake. Making personal attacks has never worked well for me, communicating what has to happen for a successful dish has. A clear vision of what you want set down in front of the customer is what matters most. How long it should take, portion size, all components present, etc.

"This dish must be uniformly browned, placed atop the mash, and the sauce can never be thicker than this. You must confirm freshness of the greens before placing them on top. Clean the edges of the plate. The person working this station should have a 8-9 minute window to complete this product. Understood? Questions?"

Anyone that works that station MUST be able to make______ consistently, MUST be able to do this______.

"If any cook can't consistently do/make _____________, my options are limited".

Do you have anyone else on staff that could reduce the threat level of you beating him up, again and again... Someone that he could learn the missing skills from? That knows what you want?

I don't know if any of this is useful, but I tried...

Good Luck!
Depersonalizing things has helped a lot. He has a tendency to take things personally so taking my time with explanations has been a good thing
 
51
16
Joined Apr 19, 2015
I dealt with a similar situation a few months ago, and its not easy. Definitely a lot of factors come into play. However, having a cook constantly undermining you, especially in from on other cooks is not okay. You are the Head Chef! It's important that you hire a crew that supports and believes in you. One bag egg can be detrimental to your teams moral. I would look for new hires. And don't settle on someone just because you are short handed. You may have to pull some long shifts, but it will be worth it once you start to put the right crew together. Hope this helps!
I could not agree more. Pulling long shifts and working the line in the absence of others is the chefs job
 
51
16
Joined Apr 19, 2015
Well a quick update.

I gave him the best training I could. I then took a step back and let him work independently without me breathing down his neck. He’s transformed into someone I can rely on for good and consistent food.
Still gotta keep an eye on things but that’s my job :)
Thanks for all the feedback
 
1,749
492
Joined Aug 15, 2003
Well a quick update.

I gave him the best training I could. I then took a step back and let him work independently without me breathing down his neck. He’s transformed into someone I can rely on for good and consistent food.
Still gotta keep an eye on things but that’s my job :)
Thanks for all the feedback
That’s awesome! Tangible progress is always great.
 

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