Need Direction ... Please help me..

Joined Mar 23, 2010
 A great opportunity has come my way and I'm seriously rethinking my options.
I've been hired as an interim Chef for a local junior college my job description is as follows... Pull together a rotational menu for the staff and students at the school cafe and make it cost effective , take over catering  win the bid in 6 months, and manage the kitchen staff ... Here are the hurdles I'm facing. The former caterer and Chef left to go start their own catering business in the process they left behind a mess ... The supervisor I have to answer to has culinary experience ... Yet, she's not around enough to help back me when it comes to cracking the whip an getting some form of order in the kitchen ... At lunch we have 2 menus a standard rotational and Mexican ... Mexican is the winner as far as the student body goes and the standard menu is the preferred choice of the college staff when i asked for standardized menus or recipes they don't exist and never did I was told the staff made up there own and just made breakfast,lunch and dinner at whim .
Next sanitation ... None,I keep asking and get from the higher ups  " I'll get to it ,but the staff doesn't do well under change and they lack English language skills ... Baby steps .
Mind you everyone on staff took servsafe in Spanish and have certificates ... hm mm?
When the staff was directed to do certain things by my supervisor before I came on board the head line cook advised the super that if she kept asking for standardized recipes, and just basic professional kitchen requests she would leave and take the staff with her ... If it was me and this said it ... See ya!
It's been 3 weeks now of up at 3:30 A.M. home by about 7:30 P.M. and the only change has been the wearing of gloves  which I personally find a complete joke ... The head line cook went to my super to advise her that her breakfast/Mexican food production cook didn't want me doing any catering production between 6:00 A.M. and 9:00 because it interferes with her production ... It's a crap kitchen in regards to equipment two convection ovens, a six burner grill and stove and a double steam oven ... I've worked with less and done better ... I'm in chaotic hell and trying to find order... Anyone out there have anything to reference,or ideas ... The best way to describe being in this kitchen is like being in a major culinary competition every single day and what I've described is only the tip of the iceberg .
Joined Feb 8, 2009
The farm animals have been running the farm, and like it that way. Your the new farmer making new rules, and they don't like it. Change is hard for employees, and they will fight you all the way. lead by example, make  a list of how you want things done, and pick one to teach every week. Your not going to change the world over night, and you will get frustrated trying, inch by inch, life's a cinch, yard by yard it's very hard. The crew needs to know you will not bend in these areas, and people will be terminated for not following good sanitary practices. It took me a long time of hiring and firing to get the sanitation level my business is at today. Stick with it, set small goals to accomplish daily, or weekly. Things will come into line, stick to your guns................Chef Bill
Joined Apr 3, 2008
the above is true. Can't advise too much, I seem to upset people. However, if you want it clean, don't let anyone leave their station till it's clean,inside out and top to bottom (yes, Enrique that means the floor under the cabinets too, pinche cabrone). If they leave with a mess, guess what? write ups till your fired.  Don't be afraid to lose people, if they walk out they didn't want to work in the first place. It's not like your getting any more sleep right now anyway.
Joined Apr 3, 2006
Maybe you could outline a plan, starting with existing problems, how to fix it, the benefits you'll get from such changes in terms of cost, sanitary, etc.  Explain to your superior(s) that for that to happen, you need 100% control of the kitchen, and this means firing /hiring staff if they're not ready to do what your say.  I think the important thing is to have your superior's / owner / director's full trust & support.  Once you have that, no one will be able to go over your head and threaten you.
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Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
First of all, seems like you have a staff that is able to direct themselves without supervision.  You have two extremes.  People who can do what they're supposed to do without supervision and people who need to be told what to do every step of the way.  You really want the former.

The way I've done it before is to sit down and outline the goals.  Make them understand your job and what you have to do, then gather input from them on how to do it.  Your part is to understand how they work and what makes them tick.  If you are really interfering with some else's production then try to understand their POV and work around it.  A lot of successful management is your ability to work around things.  Maybe 6am-9am is really a bad time to be on the line when someone else is trying to kick out breakfast.  I might actually side with breakfast cook on this one.  :D

As far as recipes go, let the staff know you need to know what goes into those recipes.  They need to do their part in trying to understand your job.  Maybe not so much about what it's going to taste like because you know the Mexican menu is a hit, but because you need to control costs and know how to handle the purchasing and inventory.  Who knows, you may have to work each station one at a time and see how things work.  The recipe may be something like 2 10# tubes of ground beef sprinkled with taco seasoning and cooked on the flattop until done.  3x/week.

Life would be easy if we can go in, make a list, and come out clean at the end of the day.  But it's never like that.
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Joined Mar 9, 2010
There's a new Sheriff in town and the town's folk are restless for you to prove yourself...and you will  .Step by step they will follow don't fret...,,and if they don't get rid of them .Everyone is replacable, Being the Chef, sometimes is not a popularity contest but you do have to stand your ground while negotiating ....everything is negotiable...and after all someone once said to me "if your having problems with your staff ,it's your fault" That one was a hard lesson for me! 

Oh the sanitation issue is a non-negotiator  .....sorry only one side to that street!

I think there is room for negotiating with the breakfast chef ...I remember being there myself
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