New Line Cook, Not Permitted on The Line by The Chef

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Joined Sep 22, 2013
I graduated from culinary school last May, and was hired a few months ago by a luxury senior facility.  The chef who runs that kitchen, was impressed with my skillset and work ethic.  He also was impressed with my food and presentation.  I had never worked in a professional kitchen before and he knew that, but liked my resume and how I attached my instagram food pages to it.  He put me on the line the first week and gradually, I started catching on and took advice from the pros and got along with everyone.

Fast forward two weeks later, he told me the brand new facility across the street was now open and there was only the executive chef and a breakfast cook working and they needed a line cook to help them and I was put "on-loan" to them.  A sous chef from an out-of-town facility was also "on-loan" to them to run the lunch and dinner shifts to help out.  Corporate put her up in a hotel during the week and she drove home on the weekends.

I loved working with her, too.  She was kind, smart, worked cleanly, and gave me a list of tasks to perform and I completed them quickly and efficiently.  She complimented me on my work ethic and skills as well as the first chef.  When the sous chef from my original facility came to visit me, she told her I was an asset to their team.  I felt really good working with people who have the same passion for food as I do, but the good feelings would be tested time and again.  The breakfast/lunch cook and executive chef called corporate and told them they didn't want the sous chef to come back and help them; that I was all they wanted.

The breakfast/lunch cook and the executive chef called corporate and told them NOT to send the female sous chef back to help them because she reorganized their dry storage and lowboys.  Truth is, the place was spanking brand new with top-of-the-line appliances and gadgets, three dining rooms, and only 16 residents, but the chef and breakfast/lunch cook couldn't handle them.  I'm serious, they could barely get the memory care residents they meals.  All the sous chef did was clean up their mess/neglect.  Hell, I went online my first day over there and took the meat slicing machine apart, which was laden with grease and old meat and other foodstuff.  I even printed out a guide for it, which the dishwasher, breakfast guy jumped for joy that finally someone knew how to take it apart to clean.

I don't understand why this guy is still working there.  He gets flustered on the line, if more than three orders come in, he was shoving every cambro under the sun into lowboys for storage, when all he needed up front were the foodstuff needed for that shift. You couldn't even make a salad because the components needed were in the walk-in, not in the lowboy, which meant leaving the line to find them.  Corporate sent the company's executive chef down and he reorganized the walk-in and freezer and told us to keep the place clean.  They have since hired two new cooks, who came in like gangbusters and everything is on time, runs so smoothly and we all get along.  One of the cooks was a semester ahead of me in school, except he has 2 years working experience over me; it's cool.  The guys really good and easy to work with.  All three of us get along and they appreciate my skills; except the this chef will not allow me to work his line.  I am the official prep cook and told I have to crawl before I walk.

I get along with everyone, except the chef and this breakfast/lunch guy.  The minute I told him that I was a recent culinary school graduate, but know my way around a kitchen, he began treating me as if I didn't know what a fork was, how to slice, dice, or even cook an egg.  The breakfast/lunch cook can't even prep his line.  The chef preps for him, which I think is ridiculous.  Aside from making breakfast and lunch for the regular residents, this cook hardly finds time to restock his line.  He is supposed to make lunch for the memory care residents, too, but when I come in to help, nothing is ever ready, so I have to do it myself or it will be late.

HERE'S MY QUESTION:  Why am I being treated poorly?  I've demonstrated myself time and again.  One day the food wasn't ready when I came in to work and I asked the breakfast/lunch cook if sandwiches he put in the pass were for me, and he screamed at me, "Take the fuckin' sandwiches!" and turned and then turned and screamed, "Aw Goddammit!", and threw a whisk into the servers station; leaving a dent in the brand new cabinet.  He was suspended for a week, but the fuck-up is back, acting like nothing happened.  Chef told me he told corporate that every task he's given me, I didn't finish in a timely manner.  Tasks, what tasks?  I arrive at work 30 minutes early and ask if he needs help, which he always says, "No, I'm fine" and he and the chef both laugh.

Everything he said is untrue and he is intimidated by the new cooks because they are on auto-pilot and when chef isn't there, they teach me the fundamentals of working the line.  Also, I am in charge of plating desserts and I take my designs up a notch.  I am not the average culinary school graduate.  I went to school BECAUSE I ALREADY KNEW HOW TO COOK, and went for the documentation and to sharpen my skills.  This is a second career for me and I love it since I was a child and have been cooking since I was 12.  I am 59 years old, keep myself in good shape and spirits. 

Honestly, I feel abandoned my the first chef I worked with.  Every time I turn in my timesheet, everyone asks me when I'm coming back.  The new cooks tell me I'm one of them now and want me to stay.  It's the chef and breakfast/lunch guy that are mysteries to me and I don't feel welcome around them.  Why corporate sent me to work across the street to be humiliated by a chef who caters to men, tells me I have a lot to learn.  Oh really, so if that be the case, then why aren't you "teaching" me?  Why are you showing me internet awards and pictures of you in the past, but treat the men like stars?  Why am I an afterthought?  Why are you prepping for a line cook, when he should be able to hold his own?

Lastly, when chef sees my plated desserts, he says, "Oh, you're learning".  what a dig!  He's not teaching me anything, except to clean up his messes he makes and walks away.  I got tired of it and now I leave it.  He eventually comes back and cleans it; on a good day.  

I just do my job and work with the two new cooks.  They make it bearable.  I only speak to the breakfast/lunch cook when the job requires it.  He is an unnecessary communication as far as I'm concerned.  But here's a mystery, when I'm working quietly, the chef will run over to me and ask me how I'm doing or will start teasing me.  I feel stupid because he'll say something funny and I'll laugh.  He'll share personal information about himself and I'll feel he's opening up a bit, but then he's sullen again and, if I need to ask him a question, he'll brush me off.  But, then he's back.  Geebus!  This manic behavior reminds me of my mother.  She was crazier than a bag of weasels!

I just don't get it.
 
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Joined Oct 31, 2012
     First let me say, I thought I was the only one  Unfortunately i have had similar bad experiences in too many kitchens.  So I completely sympathize. Some people are just obnoxious. 

     One trick I learned that has served me well is to not engage. When the other person is exhibiting obnoxious behavior, don't respond or respond minimally. This has the affect of highlighting them as the one with the problem. 

As you mentioned, you get along with the other cooks. Enjoy that. 

As time goes on, the bad cook will get fired or leave of his own accord. Of course he may have driven you crazy by then. I have no idea why the chef tolerates him.

     You're post was a little unclear about who told corporate but I think you meant to say the Chef told you that the bad cook told corporate you don't complete tasks in a timely manner. 

If that's the case, and it wasn't the chef who told corporate, don't worry about it. 

     Remember that this guy has been suspended once already for poor behavior. Corporate is already aware you are a good worker and they know to take what the poor cook says with a grain of salt. When there is a jerk in the kitchen, everyone knows he's a jerk. It may be that the chef tolerates him because he hasn't found a replacement yet and doesn't want to have to do his job as well as his own.

   I wouldn't say you are being treated poorly by everyone. The other cooks treat you well. The chef treats you well sometimes.  Don't focus on the negative part of your day caused by one jackass. 

     Your last paragraph would indicate the chef needs some back bone. He wants to be nice to you but for some reason is concerned about the other cook being aware he is. I couldn't say why. Or he's just nuts. 

      If the original chef and crew keep asking when you are coming back, you might consider going back. You stated you are supposed to be on loan. For how long? Put in for a transfer back to the original kitchen. Do it quietly through corporate and only after speaking with the original chef to make sure there is room for you.   Corporate hasn't heard from you and may feel the staffing problem is over. 

     In any event, keep working hard.  I have found that no bad situation ever stays that way forever. Something always comes along to change it. So set up a time line for your stay in the current kitchen, talk to the original chef and let things develop. If you remain a quality employee and avoid unnecessary interaction with the bad cook as much as you can, things will work out. 
 
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Joined Sep 22, 2013
Thanks so much for that. I will keep doing what I love and I too, believe a change is coming.
 
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Joined Feb 1, 2015
Hey,
I have gone through something similar. Just keep doing what you are doing, believe in yourself and do not let anyone control your emotions in the kitchen. Sounds like they are rude and arrogent and self absorbed, we will meet such characters in the kitchen. Just keep working hard and learning and never let them see you sweat smile you are living your dream and doing what you love . Keep calm and carry on !
 
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Joined Oct 23, 2013
Your question; " why am I being treated poorly".

Im just stabbing in the dark here but because your post was extremely thirough and I read most of it I feel I know you my whole life. You are every cook! Haha.

The answer; they treat you this way because you are their bailout, the oneo sent to " save" them. Basically they suck, you may or may not time will tell.
Good luck.
 
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Joined Mar 6, 2015
Look, in this business, you are going to run into chefs, managers, sous, executive chefs, pastry chefs that overall suck as human beings. 9/10 they either flame out, burn out, whatever you want to call it and job hop because they treat people like shit.

How do I know this? Because I used to be one of those people. I'm not proud of it. But looking back and my advice to you is to simply shut down and ignore the chef. Take everything in stride. It's horrible. But people like your chef will always shoot themselves in the foot because they'll say something to the wrong person, get multiple complaints, etc. 

One of the things I learned the hard way was treating everyone as a valuable member of the team. They aren't just slaves. Granted, you're doing slave labor for moderate wages, but this experience will wind up helping you down the road because when you run your own kitchen you will have learned how NOT to do it. 

Took me til I was 28 to learn that lesson. I started when I was 16. But now that I'm a little older,  I realize you can't just make people your bitches to get the job done. 

I know this post sounds outrageously gratuitous and somewhat unbecoming, but hey I'm a chef. That's all part of the job.
 
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Joined May 5, 2010
 
Look, in this business, you are going to run into chefs, managers, sous, executive chefs, pastry chefs that overall suck as human beings. 9/10 they either flame out, burn out, whatever you want to call it and job hop because they treat people like shit.

How do I know this? Because I used to be one of those people. I'm not proud of it. But looking back and my advice to you is to simply shut down and ignore the chef. Take everything in stride. It's horrible. But people like your chef will always shoot themselves in the foot because they'll say something to the wrong person, get multiple complaints, etc. 

One of the things I learned the hard way was treating everyone as a valuable member of the team. They aren't just slaves. Granted, you're doing slave labor for moderate wages, but this experience will wind up helping you down the road because when you run your own kitchen you will have learned how NOT to do it. 

Took me til I was 28 to learn that lesson. I started when I was 16. But now that I'm a little older,  I realize you can't just make people your bitches to get the job done. 

I know this post sounds outrageously gratuitous and somewhat unbecoming, but hey I'm a chef. That's all part of the job.
"...outrageously gratuitous and somewhat unbecoming" though it may sound. is truth on a platter my friend 

Ohhhhh if it were only about cooking the food.
 
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@Etherial,

This is your welcome to this industry, that's all. It's frustrating, but you are quickly learning the difference between a professional with a title, as opposed to, just someone with just a title.
 
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.  The breakfast/lunch cook and executive chef called corporate and told them they didn't want the sous chef to come back and help them; that I was all they wanted.

I just don't get it.
And there's your answer.

The "boys" are comfortable. 

Like the others have said, no one from Corporate gives a rodent's posterior about how the place is run as long as the numbers are met and no one dies from food poisoning.

You might not like this explanation, you might not agree with it, but that's what this is all about.

Nothing will change until the "Chef" leaves.

It's been my observation that there are only two types of Rulers/Leaders/Despots/Paul-ticians:

-The first kind are those who are building their power base

-The second kind are those who are controlling their power base

The second kind will always be more ruthless and brutal in his/her controlling than the first kind.  Always.

Can you, or will you stomach the behavior by the Chef?  If you want to "bring down" the Chef, you can bet there will be retaliation, as his power base is threatened.  Questioning how he organizes is perceived as a threat, offering observations about his staff is seen as a threat.

You don't have to agree with any of what I've explained, you don't have to like it, and you don't have to stay.  What I'm offering is an explanation, and that explanation is based on may years in working in the industry.  Watching how management behaves is never boring.............
 
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Yuck!

Haven't done corporate in a long time. I don't think I could go back to it; just not my environment.

Can't you asked to be transferred back to the other place?

If the chef doesn't like you, for whatever reason, you're pretty much up the creek w/out a paddle.

On the other hand, I was working on a cruise line that hadn't left dock yet, and there was a new chef in the galley. Awful person. Just ... I can't begin to explain this person. I was in tears almost everyday because I knew that I couldn't quit because I needed the money. On the day before the boat took off, the chef was fired. He had gone to a hotel that the passengers were staying in the night before they got on the boat. He was making a ton of noise (partying) and was told to quiet down twice. I guess he said to them "Do you even know who I am?!" or something to that effect. It turns out that all of the management and corporate were just waiting for him to slip up so they could fire him. Maybe your chef has something similar in store for him.

I had gone to one of the managers and confided in her that I was worried about me being able to work for this guy (I had a previous working relationship with her). I'm pretty sure that all of the returning cooks had lodged complaints. Maybe you should express your concern to HR or someone from across the street. Maybe there's a fire started and it just needs some more fuel...?

gl
 
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Joined Sep 22, 2013
Now this is a riot:  The chef stands in the kitchen this evening before leaving and brags about his ability to pick a winning team; he only named the two male cooks.  He told me I needed to learn to crawl before I was invited on the line by the chef.  How rude.  Yes, we got into a heated discussion of how he treats me as an afterthought.  How he looks at my desserts, even when our residents (luxury senior facility) call me out to the dining room and thank me.  All he says is, 'Your learning."  He's NOT teaching me anything.  He came out today to show me how to avoid crystals in the caramel I was making.  I didn't need his help as I've made caramel for flan many times, but I wasn't going to tell the chef to go away.  I let him "teach" and I thanked him.

Why did I do that?  He used a moment during our debate to yell, "you didn't even know how to make caramel!"  OMG!  I've been making desserts when he's not there.  I get requests and he says something like that.  It was very hurtful.  He brags about his yacht and how he gave his son a ticket to Japan for getting straight As.  He also allows the cook whose back from suspension to come in late, not have food ready for the residents on the first floor, has me prepping for this guy, he even roasted the beef for tomorrow's lunch for him.  The idiot cook took the meats straight out of the oven, put a lid on them, and stuck them in the walk-in.  I went in and saw steaming meat and heat and couldn't believe a trained cook would do something so stupid.  I still don't have anything to say to him after the cussing incident, so I told the other cook and he advised him otherwise.

The chef lets one of the dishwashers skip his dishwashing duties, by assigning him to receiving and dating incoming product.  The guy can barely read and if you ask him where a product is after he shelves or refrigerates it, he doesn't remember.  The dishes pile up, I have no clean dishes to put food on, and when the other dishwasher's shift begins, sometimes the dishes fall and crash to the floor because they are stacked so high.  

I really and truly want to report this guy to HR, but I also don't want to make waves.  I may not have line experience, but I'm not the average culinary school graduate who knows absolutely nothing.  My boss from across the street just sent me a message when I sent him a picture of the anti-pasto platter I made for the 4th of July and he said I am full of talent and he wants to train me on the line and nurture my talent because he saw it the first day I staged.  He also said he is making some changes and wants me back soon.  I sure as hell hope so.  The sous chef over there cannot stand this chef who thinks he's the second coming.  All he does is brag about his accomplishments.  He even showed a server pictures of the "models" he dated.

This guy is 57 and I am 59, I just don't look my age (thank God and good genes).  I had to get him out of the habit of calling me "girl".  He claimed because I looked so young.  I have to correct a lot of young people from doing that, too.  It's one thing to obey your supervisor, but it's another if they talk down to you.  Starting tomorrow, he'll probably act like nothing happened and I'll go about my business.  But the crawling part, really got under my skin.  If I'm so bad, why am I still there.  He has two competent line cooks and I work very well with them and he could easily send me back.  I just don't understand why this guy (who was let back from suspension) is still working there.  The chef says he has mood swings and is always in the weeds.  Why is he putting up with this type of behavior from an inept employee, and why is he telling us the guy is absent minded,  at 7:00 a.m., and never preps for the line for today or tomorrow, and all I want is to do the job of line cook, I was hired to do.  I'm already prepping his line and prepping the next day's ingredients.  I even roast meats and vegetables.  I definitely make the desserts.  I always wind up prepping for this incompetent person, but the chef refuses to see my accomplishments.  The other day I came in, he hugged me.  Maybe both of them are on something.

It only took 30 minutes to cook oatmeal, plate croissants and danish, slice deli meat for sandwiches and I portion them out, so there's no guess work.  Everything is cleaned and dated and put in its place, but this guy can't do it and he still works there.  I think it's drugs.
 
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i know why you took his caramel "lesson" politely and thanked him after.
It is the generation we come from.
Us "girls" we're being told on one hand to work hard to push the glass ceiling while at the same time our moms and other female family members were urging us to mind our manners , get married and support the man in our lives in every endeavor while running the car pool and the church bazaar.

I ALWAYS listened to my mama lol ;-)

mimi
 
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I absolutely agree with Chefwriter.

If I were responsible for that kitchen, I wouldn't even concern myself evaluating the actions of either side. There is obviously

some sort of personality/work/respect/intimidation/jealousy/ conflict. The situation will not get any better.

The solution is seperation. Just that simple.

  Bite the bullet, and accept any consequences that may result. Go to his immediate supervisor and explain that your presence

in the kitchen is just an exercise in futility. You don't need training in personality adaptation, you need training in food.
 
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I would go in tomorrow/the next time your scheduled early. I would talk to the higher ups and explain your dilemma. Tell them everything in confidence and ask them if there is any possible way to move back to the other kitchen. This situation will only get worse unless you handle it. The only other option is to try to stick it out...and that very rarely if ever works. You will just be punished unless you go and talk to someone that can handle the situation.  
 
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I agree.  This chef does not have my best interest in mind and even though he is an excellent cook, he is not a chef.  In my opinion, a real chef knows how to manage his kitchen and supports/encourages growth in his staff.  Yesterday morning, he told me he got a job offer for $125k.  Really?  What was the purpose of telling me that?  Probably because we got into a heated discussion about his treatment of me and my refusal to be a pushover.  That just shows me that he's not making anywhere near that at this job and he may feel resentful.  I don't think there was even a job offer.  He just wanted me to think he's important.  What for?  He's a misogynist.

Today is my Friday and I'm going in today, knowing nothing will be prepared for me to take down to the memory care floor.  He and that excuse for a cook start work at 6a.m., hardly anyone is in the dining room, yet nothing is done.  I come in and make salads for them and dessert.  The only thing that's plated is desserts; everything else is sent down family style.  When the other two cooks are on the breakfast shift, EVERYTHING is ready to go; even the line is prepped.  

I was wracking my brain, trying to figure out why both of these guys are still there and something just occurred to me that this place has only been open for 3 months and every place has initial hiccups and how staff changes all of the time.  Perhaps if I keep my head down and work with the other two cooks who encourage me, the Universe will make major decisions for me.

Yes, it's truly official now:  I'm going to play the waiting game.  I can hardly wait to see how this unfolds in 2, 4, or even 6 months from now.  I'm expecting major changes; I hope for the good of all.

Peace everyone and thanks!/img/vbsmilies/smilies/lever.gif
 
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@Etherial,

I personally think you are making a mistake. If this Chef is not going to let you learn anything or work the line, the three of you are being cheated. You, this Chef, and the Company.

I'm n
 
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Joined Oct 31, 2012
Panini.

     Don't edit the post. A little passion never hurt anyone.  From where I sit, I agree that it is time to go back to the other kitchen.

There are two instances in my career where I might have been okay staying put and waiting it out but I didn't feel it was worth it at the time and I won't second guess myself twenty years later. 

Etherial has described the situation well enough to draw the conclusion that it is time to move on. If it were me, I'd be gone. What ever the chef's problem is, chauvinism, spinelessness, whatever,  it isn't worth waiting around when another chef in the company has offered an opportunity to come back. 

     On the other hand, now we find the company has only been in business for three months. So this isn't a long standing situation and for that reason, more likely to change in the near future. The chef may actually get and accept his $125k offer and take the other cook with him. Or he is playing with corporate, not just etherial and hoping for a bigger pay increase or something else. 

As an older employee, I can sympathize with staying put. It gets tough to find work out there that compensates you appropriately. I'm no longer willing to jump ship for less money so I can have a fancy title. Now I have decent pay and benefits. My situation isn't ideal or what I'd like, but I know finding what I want won't happen tomorrow either. So for now, I stay. 

   Etherial, I would maintain good relations with the chef in the other kitchen, offering to help him and work in his kitchen whenever you can. He sounds like a great one to have on your side. Since you have decided to stay, maintain the high road where you are. Work hard, help out, get along as best you can. As I believe I stated earlier, when someone is a jerk, everyone knows they are a jerk. When someone is a helpful, hardworking, talented employee, everyone knows they are. You won't need to toot your own horn. Your work will speak for itself to those who are listening. 

But no matter what, give yourself a time limit and plan an exit strategy. If things don't get better in ??? months, you will leave and go ???. This plan should be known by no one else but you. Keep your resume updated, your mouth shut and your hands busy. Life may go one way or the other. Prepare for both. 
 
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Joined Sep 22, 2013
As I stated before, this guy doesn't seems unbalanced to me.  On Thursday evening, before he left for the day, he said he noticed that I have the desserts and plating down and am doing a good job. Really?  He also said that I should stick with it.  Perservere.  I just nodded; no comment.  Later that day, he told me that a woman he'd been trying to date, agreed to go out with him this weekend. Why is that of any interest to me?  The other cook overheard him and said he knew it and that I'm not going anywhere.  The place will change and to hang in there.  The two other cooks and I rock our services and support and communicate with one another.  

The chef runs hot and cold and he also took the time to fine-tune my connell technique w/o using a piping tip.  He's never done that, but as I mentioned earlier, he runs hot and cold.

I think it's time I protected myself and pay a visit to HR to put my experience on record.  No. 1:  Why did they permit that cook who lost his temper back?  The chef told me that he said everything he gave me to do was not given to him in a timely manner, which is 100% untrue.  The meals for memory care are the breakfast cook's job, but nothing is ever done or ready.  I don't report to work until 10:30 a.m., he reports at 6:00 a.m.  However, I reported an hour early a couple of days to assist, but he and the chef told me they had everything under control.  They did not and the nurses had to come upstairs to the kitchen to retrieve their lunch.  What happened then?  The chef gives me a lecture of how important it is to get the food downstairs and wouldn't allow me to ask why he was telling me something I already knew and why did both of them say they didn't need my help.  As a matter of fact, the chef wouldn't let me start work until 10:30 a.m.  I had to wait 30 minutes, while the two of them chit chatted.

Just writing the above statement gets my blood boiling and I'm going to copy and edit it and send it to HR this morning.  This has got to stop.  I'm too old for this crap!
 
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