Need to vent, this station is eating me up

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by abrams892, Jun 10, 2011.

  1. abrams892

    abrams892

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    Ok, so here is the back story. I am a 19 year old extern from culinary school working at a michelin star restaurant in nyc. This is the first real station I have ever worked not including the salad station at the old diner I worked at. I work extremely hard and it earned me a spot on the hardest station in the restaurant. It seems that the chefs trust me enough to work this station. Every day feels like a horrible anxiety attack because I know that no matter what I do I cannot set this station up on time without a little help right before service. I organize, multitask, and bust my ass as hard as I can yet its not good enough. I make game plans, to do lists, go over everything the night before and so on. It's eating me up especially when my mentor at the restaurant told me speed comes with time and experience. I told him that's not an excuse and he said its not, its a fact. Last week on my Friday my chef cursed me off so much and told me I didn't give a sh*t about the food enough to the point I treared up a little in the locker room. I care so much about the food, the guest, and this restaurant. It feels like a lose/lose situation. I want to beat this station so badly. I don't know what you guys can tell me but I could use some wisdom
    . I'm too stubborn to give up and I worked too hard to get to this point yet I can't win against this beast. It may sound like I don't have a great attitude but after weeks and weeks of constant ass beatings I can't really help it. Thanks for reading :)
     
  2. rgm2

    rgm2

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    Well dude, I can say that I kinda feel your pain. I was being run into the dirt when i first started with the prep for my station. I found my feet by making a list of everything that I had to do and how long it took me to actually do the prep for those items... say slicing onions for this case... Then I broke that down to the tasks I did for slicing onions and figured out I spent most of my time on mes en place and clean up between tasks. 

    It is one thing to make a list... it is another thing to plan ahead and instead of slicing onions for 2 minutes and spending 5 on the setup and break down... you can instead do 2-3 days of onions in 9-11 minutes or do 1 day in 7... it is up to you. I just know that it made a HUGE inpact for me.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2011
  3. panini

    panini

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    Do Not Give Up!!!!!!!  It takes time. My God you're only 19. You might not get this opportunity again.

    Get the mental stuff out of your head. A lot of chefs rule with the sharp stick in the eye routine. That's inexperience on

    your chefs part by thinking that motivates people. That mental crap is taking up a percentage of your working focus.

    As time goes on you will speed up as you mentally grow. HEY!!!! If he didn't see potential he would curse you out the

    building. Take some time and go through these boards and you will find 100s of stories from chefs about what they went through coming up.

    Just remember that anxiety is not coming from the task at hand.

    Good Luck

    Jeff
     
  4. someday

    someday

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    Oh man, please do not quit. In hard kitchens like the one you work in, this is totally normal. The best thing to do is to fight through it and keep doing the best you can. Trust me, most of the other cooks/chefs at the place you work have been in your position in one way or another. You WILL get a hold of your station, and you will look back on your time there as invaluable as you grow as a cook. 

    What station do they have you on? How long have you been doing it? If you stay, gut it out, and learn as much as you can, this job can and will open doors for you down the road. Think of it as boot camp. 

    Seriously, just double your resolve, stick it out, and you will get through it. We've all been there. 
     
  5. thetincook

    thetincook

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    I don't want to tell you to 'toughen up, buttercup,' but well, you gotta toughen up. It's really easy to take all that stuff personally, especially at that age. I was, maybe still am, sensitive like that too. It would really throw me off my mental game. What really helped me was to pick out and focus on 1 or 2 things that went well that shift. We have a natural tendency to remember only the bad things that happen, and this affects our mindset.

    I totally echo what every one else said. If you want to post more details about your station and prep, we could probably come up with specifics to help you out with time. Back in the 'day,' it was not uncommon to be expected to come in early to work unpaid for an hour or so just so you wouldn't drown. I'm not suggesting you do that.

    I did a week long stage at Norman Van Akin's west coast outpost on Sunset Blvd here in Los Angeles (It's been closed for a while now) as part of an extended job interview. I got teamed up with the gardmanger girl. One of the signature dishes was summer rolls. Every day they had to be made fresh. By fresh, I mean every single component was done fresh every single day. Had to grate carrots by hand, etc. Even the fricking dry nori seaweed used for sprinkling had to be run through the pasta cutter each day. Talk about a lot of redundancy. It took up a major portion of time for something that maybe sold 10 - 15 plates a night on the week end (also had lots of wastage as the unsold rolls were tossed at the end of the night). My real bette noir was doing the amuse bouche every day. That was my responsibility during service as the stage. I'm a big guy, with big fat hands, so I don't do as well with small fiddly things. One night I had to make little three tiered shrimp toasts. I think the breads were 3/4" square. God that sucked, I was so slow. Also had to pit olives with a paring knife for some dish, FML.

    Enough grandpa story time, lol.

    My point is, work smarter, not harder. (Like you haven't been told that 100's of times, right?)

    So yeah, water off a ducks back, don't take your work life home with you, cowboy up, don't let the b-tards grind you down, *generic platitude about perserverence*
     
  6. abrams892

    abrams892

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    Of course I'm not going to quit. I worked too hard for this beating lol. My station is seperate from the main kitchen. It only has two people on it during service with a different menu than the main dining room. It is an open kitchen with a wood burning grill that has roast, and garnish. I'm basically the entrement (sp?). I do eleven pick ups most are 1 pan some are 3. There's so much mise for this station I need to make two trips with a deep lexan full of qt containers of different prep. We have a prep list that has the amount of something we have and the par amount we need to have. A lot of surprises tend to pop up. I'm going half an hr early today to get a head start. Along with the prep there's a ton of knife work and cooking daily to set the station up for service.
     
  7. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Does chef scream at you in front of others? or does he tell you on the side in private?  If he screams at you in front of others, he needs a course in management. One day down the line however you may look back and thank him for maybe making you better. You have to develop tough outer skin in this business. If in your heart you know that you are giving it your all and it's your best, then be content in yourself and confident. You will only get better. Time is a great teacher/
     
  8. cosanostra

    cosanostra

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    Hey man.

    I'll let you in on a little secret. I'm extremely tough on all my new guys. Why? Because I want to see how tough they are, how they handle pressure and whether they are here to work and learn or for some other reason. Once I think they'll fit in and are worthy of the time I'm going to invest in them (usually after 3-4 weeks) I ease up and have a little chat with them about why I have been riding them and what my plan for them is going to be for them to get as much out of working for me as they can.

    Oh and get used to working under constant pressure, the chefs life is a constant battle against the clock and guess what, when you finally are able to get your prep list finished on time, I'm going to give you another couple of jobs to do. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lol.gif

    The thing that stands out for me is when you said there is a lot of knife work. This is something that you get better at with time. I always teach my guys to get it right then get it fast. No one will realistically expect you to have great knife skills straight out of school. Your chef is just testing you to see what you're made of.
     
  9. demo121

    demo121

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    Yeah, sorry,  its a complete lose/lose situation on a daily basis. Given your situation; NYC, top of the line quality, fresh outta school, your screwed, you cant win. im NOT trying to be rude but it its all experience and its all your age. This guy is gonna beat your a$$ no matter WHAT you do, he lives for it. Im doing the same thing in DC but im in my 11th year and 8th kitchen, im still young by all standards but when you start at 15 almost 16 yrs old, its a little different for me right now. the really new guys who come to my kitchen with maybee one job or even no jobs and plan to just grind it out get beat on a daily basis. and a great many times i watch and chef just beats them if they are right or wrong, on time or late, it doesnt matter, you cant play the game well enough, he knows it and he is just gonna ride ride ride you. 

    THE BRIGHT SIDE : : your there. your experienceing it, and it really doesnt matter if you are doing high class new york or turn and burn middle of the road, or just some really good french guy who has a really nice local joint, your still gonna get your a$$ beat, SOOOOO you might as well take advantage of it, take notes, draw plate ups, write down recipes, deconstruct flavor profiles on dishes, when you leave, you should have a 2" thick folder of loose paper with everything you did, because you cant remember it all, i PROMISE YOU, you cant remember it all. and 5-6 years from now, when you can hold your own on any line, you will be able to tell horrible stories to all your co-workers no matter their age or experience about all the stupid $hit you would do way back when, working for so and so. I do it ALLLLL the time, its just part of the game.  

    the best thing you can do is get out of your head, and just grind, relax and try and make it happen, and if you cant get it done in 30 x-mins, show up 60 mins early, who cares. no one does anything cool in NYC before 10pm anyway. good luck with service tonight. :)

    -J.
     
    rgm2 likes this.
  10. abrams892

    abrams892

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    thanks for the advice guys. things are going smoother now. i started going in 30-45 minutes early and it makes a world of difference. i'll just keep grinding till i can't grind no mo'. i'm not gonna let this station or these sous chefs win.
     
  11. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    Remember, "Illigitumus non carborundum"!

    (If I recall my HS Latin correctly, this roughly translates to "Don't let the ba$tard$ grind you down!") /img/vbsmilies/smilies/crazy.gif
     
     
  12. Iceman

    Iceman

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    OK. I can't argue with anything said so far, but I'll tell you what I would do. I would think to myself and figure out if I really was doing the best I could for the situation. Is anyone else in the kitchen gonna do my job better than me? Am I doing the job well or do I need to adjust? Is what being said to me gonna change anything or just make the job suck? After figuring all of this out, I would have a conversation on the side either before opening or after closing with that chef doing the yelling at me. I would explain that yelling at me was causing me great difficulties. I would then see how it goes, and either ask him to help me improve, or tell him to STFU before I gigged him with a carving fork. I never could understand people that needed to yell and act tough just to see what happened. 
     
  13. cosanostra

    cosanostra

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    There is a difference between yelling and acting tough and upping the pressure to see how people respond. Also if you've just come from the current molly coddled state schooling system (in the UK anyway), kids are not used to people just being straight with them. I'm not talking about yelling and shouting abuse at them, but merely constructive criticism has some of them already close to tears. I'm sorry but I just can't be bothered with people who are so over-sensitive. If someone did a good job on something I'll tell them, if someone did a s**t job on something I'll tell them. When I go through something with someone for the third time and then they are still f***ing it up , I can feel my blood pressure start to rise and there may probably be some yelling involved. I try not to yell at anyone, especially the over-sensitive types, but sometimes......................................
     
  14. Iceman

    Iceman

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    First off, "upping the pressure to see how people respond" is clearly a case of a boss with neither brains or self-security. Your only purpose is to see people fail so that when things do get hard you can blame it on someone else. Secondly, don't blame the rest of the world for the "molly coddled state schooling system of the UK". I went to a very good school and I was treated professionally, nothing less. In my kitchens I always work with everyone as a team to get the job done beast as we can (pun intended). As an example just as you used, I'll go through something with someone three or four or five times if it helps insure that we don't get plates coming back. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong but I like my kitchen to run smooth, easy and clean the whole shift long. I don't need any unnecessary pressures causing any extra difficulties. 
     
  15. cosanostra

    cosanostra

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    This doesn't make much sense to me to be honest. I don't think self-security makes much sense in that first sentence, do you mean self confidence or self esteem perhaps? Either way, from my experience a great deal of being a chef is how you can deal with pressure, so why would I hire someone without seeing whether I think they can handle it or not? I'm not talking about mental abuse here, just putting them under time pressure and making them realise the standard I'm looking for.

    Why would I want them to fail? I wouldn't have offered them a job in the first place if I didn't think they could do well? If things go wrong in the kitchen It's me that gets the blame not anyone else. Do you really think I would pass the buck to a commis chef, and more importantly do you think the owners would buy that? Obviously not on both counts. The reason I am testing them in the first place is so that when I give them more demanding roles I and the rest of the team know we can rely on them.

    I can't remember blaming the rest of the world for anything? Why would I give a s**t what school you went to? You clearly have more patience than me, I congratulate you. If I'm going through something for the 5th time with someone I'm seriously questioning whether they have some sort of special educational needs or something. The reason why I train people to withstand pressure is so that service does run smooth and easy. Train hard, fight easy and all that.
     
     
  16. Iceman

    Iceman

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    Well OK. "Self-security" was meant as having poor feeling of one's own opinion that if the staff under a manager's responsibility is weak it says something about their own skills to build a team of good performance. That person then tries to highlight others inabilities as a shield to protect them self of blame. Why would you hire anyone that you felt you needed to constantly test, making that staff member feel uncomfortable? Have not previously communicated your standards clearly enough? Do you have that much fear of being replaced? I prefer to just hire people I know are good in the first place. A good team shines on it's own without anyone taking a spotlight. 

    Your statement here expresses to me a blame on the culinary educational systems:

     Quote:
    I know you will correct me if I'm inaccurate. Silly me, but I much rather have to explain things to staff so that they can get things right over the possibility of dishes coming back. My time and patience is much more economical than having dishes come back, and the customers not coming back. 
     
  17. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    Hm, "dishes coming back"??

    Why did they ever leave the kitchen in the first place?
     
     
  18. Iceman

    Iceman

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    Dishes come back because the expedition person won't let them go out. They get refused and sent back from the hot plate area. 
     
  19. petemccracken

    petemccracken

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    Ah, now I understand, from the reference to customers not returning, I mistakenly assumed they were being served to the customers, my mistake!
     
     
  20. cosanostra

    cosanostra

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    Ok, ok. When I was talking about school I was talking about high school rather than culinary school. I wasn't trying to be a smart ass before, just trying to understand the point you were expressing. Why would my team's performance be weak? Like I said earlier, I take full responsibility for everything produced in the kitchen so how is this shielding me from blame? I give people plenty of chances, spend plenty of time with them but sometimes it just doesn't work out, maybe they need someone to hold their hand all the time. That's just not my style and it's not the kind of person I want working with me nor the type of chef I want leaving my kitchen when they decide to move on. I don't berate people, I don't call them names or try to belittle them. I "test" them because it is better in the long run for me, for my team and for them if we can ascertain early on whether they will be good for us and whether we will be good for them, or not.

    I don't constantly test them, just the first few weeks. I don't want them to ever become comfortable. If they do then it's time to move on. I don't have some sort of magic dust I can use to instantly tell if they're going to be good or not. I assure you my standards are very clearly communicated and I try to train my staff so that they can become better than me, I get a real buzz when they go on to become very successful chefs in their own right. A head chef should always be king in their own kitchen, like it or not the spotlight is always on the head chef, I lead the team, that is my role within it. Am I replaceable? Everyone is, but I have a good enough track record not to be short of offers. My employers are lucky to have me, not the other way round. My chefs are lucky to work for me, not the other way round. Does this make me an arrogant jerk? Maybe. Do I care? No.  

    Who says I don't explain things to staff? Once a new team member has proven themselves to me and the rest of the team they are fully welcomed and are given responsibilities to match the level of trust I have in them. Do you really think I'm going to give someone anything important to do in those first few weeks? They are tested so that I know they don't need molly coddled, they don't need their hand held every minute of the day, they don't need anything explained to them 5 times and so because of this we have a very strong team. If you hire people that you need to explain things to 5 times, then may I suggest that perhaps you and not I are the one with the flawed hiring process. If you don't have the "self-security" to step into the spotlight, then why should a team follow your lead?

    We clearly have very different strategies of running a kitchen but please don't be pompous enough to believe that only your way is the correct one.