Pastry chef needs help dealing with Head Chef, please?

Discussion in 'Professional Pastry Chefs' started by w.debord, Jul 20, 2001.

  1. w.debord

    w.debord

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    I thought I should post here since most pastry chefs have the insights to the problems inheriant to the job...but I was also hoping for feed back from non-pastry poeple too? Just like Momoreg I finally desided enough was enough. I went in to talk to my manager and give her my notice today. I was as calm as possible, totally sincere and completely honest. I told her I'd stay until everything was covered but I can't continue with the way things are currently.

    There's been 3 years of confict between the chef and I (it's really not about me and him, it's about him not wanting a pastry chef in his kitchen). He's managed to run out all the other pastry chefs in months, I'm the only one who's ever stayed over a year. The manager knows most of the problems and has neglected some issues, handled some where it made things worse but in the long run shes' helped me alot by giving me "power" over my job, my menus and letting others know that they shouldn't mess with me. No one but the head chef messes with me, which is nice but since their all his relatives (this is not a family owned business it's a country club) they also don't trust me or talk to me so work isn't much fun (but that's o.k. most of the time, I enjoy what I do enough that I have a good day all by myself).

    Well the manager told me she'd kind of do anything to keep me. She offered to have the chef repremanded by the board of directors, anything to keep me....but that's a horrible solution that's like throwing fuel on the fire.

    So I'm here asking for advice/help. How can I be seperate from the chef (she offered to make me my own department) yet share the same space, same people, same equpiment, etc...and not have this be one big set up for more retailiation? How can she put a stop to his over active ego and need to dominate but at the same time not turn it harder onto me?

    Have any of you ever seen this work...seperating the pastry chef from the head chefs' control? But we still need to have a working relationship? How can I set up a safety zone so he doesn't want to and can't, play even worse games with me? Like "oops I forgot to order that" or "oops I forgot to tell you we have 200 more for tonight?"

    I really don't want to walk away because I've gained so much and I know I'll never find another job with as good hours in this industry. Can anyone think of a solution that might work for the chef and myself?
     
  2. momoreg

    momoreg

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    Hi W.,

    After reading your post, I'm not quite sure whether you intend to (or want to) stay at your job. I am proud to hear that you stuck up for yourself and gave your notice, but then you go on to discuss solutions, and working things out. So I am guessing that you do not want to leave there; you just want them to help you get along better with the chef.

    If you 2 have been at odds with each other for 3 years, chances are, you will never feel as welcome there as you'd like.

    But if you truly do not want to leave (or can't, for whatever reason), maybe you can consider staggering your schedules, so that you only need to work together for short periods.

    In my opinion, it's impossible to separate the pastry from the rest of the kitchen; they need each other.

    In terms of him possibly forgetting to tell you about count changes, you can deal directly w/ the manager for that kind of info., no? And if you fear he'll stiff you on ordering certain things, give him your orders in writing, keeping a carbon copy, so you can show him what you ordered, should your items not show.

    Honestly, these solutions will not solve the deeper problem, but they may help make your time there easier until you can find something better. Have you looked around for other work? I know you like the pay and the hours, but maybe you can find something even better!!

    Anyway, I thought you wanted to move to the Rockies! :confused:
     
  3. angrychef

    angrychef

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    I'm glad you're doing something about it, but it sounds like you want to try working it out one last time. I know, it's kinda like that were I work. The perks of the hours, pay and non-commute are a big influence on deciding to stay.
    Here's a little description of how it works here at the company were I am: the pastry department is semi self-sufficient from the kitchen. "Semi" meaning I have control over the produce I order, as well as the everything that we use in the bakery(all ingredients and paper products), we have our own little walk-in, reach-ins, mixers, stove(4 top) and freezer. Our food and beverage manager is also our executive chef(though he doesn't have the title) and our "executive chef" is more of a glorified garde manger. I answer only to my F & B, and he's anal about informing me of count changes and menu changes. Do you have your own mail box in the office were they drop off all menus with counts, revisions, etc.? I meet once a week with my boss to go over the menus and write down the counts. Even when the party is over I hold on to these menus because if there was a mistake in the count and such, it's good to look back on and prove you weren't at fault.
    I wish you the best, and hope you work it out somehow.
     
  4. isa

    isa

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    Wendy,

    You have to decide if you would stay should the conditions change. If so, the management of the club should have a talk with the chef. I don't mean the manager but someone higher up in the food chain. Someone who usually doesn't deal with things like that. The Chef needs to be made aware that there will always be a pastry chef in the kitchen and he needs to learn manners because the club can not continue to loose pastry chef because of him. They should add that they are trying to convince you to stay, that you didn't complain about him (that would make things more difficult for you). Should you agree to stay, they want to see him change his attitude and that should he continue to be like that he'll be one step closer to the door.


    Will it work? It does often. Is it worth the trouble? Only you know that. The question is though are you ready to move on or do you really enjoy working there, beside the kitchen staff problem. If you do then fight for your job.


    Good Luck Wendy!
     
  5. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Thanks for taking the time to help me. I obviously find the whole situation confusing or I wouldn't keep looking for advice on this topic.

    There are good things and bad things about this job as there would be at any job. But I know the problems here. There have been MANY, but I can say alot of them have gotten better. I don't really want to start at square one in a new place and have to struggle to get dishes, oven space, freezer space, etc... So I guess I want to stay, I'm partly comfortable and hugely afraid of landing in a worse situation. Yet at the same time there are some aspects like the chef that effect my work and private time so badly that no job in the world is worth it.


    Everything will depend on what happens from the managements end to resolve this.


    I did find your discription very help-ful angry. It sounds like a good situation. Someone obviously thought about how to set up your job so it works. Were the details all in place before you began working there or did you have to push to make things work?

    How do you get your product to them? Are you putting you trayed products in their coolers or do they pick up from you, what happens on your off hours? How do they handle left-overs from the party, are they returned to you?

    I know sometimes your making plated desserts where you won't be present. Do they meet with you before each party and get dirrections from you? Or do you write them on everything?

    It takes alot of time to do your own ordering, time to write things down (to cover your butt). Your assistant must be at the point where they work fairly indepentantly?

    P.S. Off topic...you can use parchment paper but when you drag your comb through the cigerette paste the paper doesn't co-operate it wrinkles easily, you'll need extra hands to help. As far as a release difference I've had it stick to parchement. I don't know what would happen if you sprayed then floured the parhement like you would for hippen...but I tend to think it will gunk up too much as you comb. Have you tried exploring the route of a different recipe or different oven temp?
     
  6. w.debord

    w.debord

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    P.S.S. again, sorry...angry have you tried freezing it on the silpat after baking then releasing while it's frozen? That works.

    I still struggle with it sticking to my ring molds with my finished product. I just read where they line the inside of the molds with cocoa butter and then use heat to release. I've tried everything I can think of but heat, so I'm hoping that's the answer. Don't you also have that problem?
     
  7. lotuscakestudio

    lotuscakestudio

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    Hats off to you for handling this egocentric chef so maturely. If it was me, I would have keyed his car and cut his brake line by now.
     
  8. angrychef

    angrychef

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    W., to answer your questions:
    It was sort of set-up that way, but depending on how smart/organized of a pastry chef they got, I guess. Once I got there I assumed more responsibility and it evolved from there. My boss tells me he's really glad that he doesn't have to deal with my inventory and other orders. Since we have our own little walk-in, I leave the items needed that day boxed or packed(according to the names assigned to the parties), and they look at the party log and pick up the stuff. Since this is catering, I don't really have to deal with day-to-day plated desserts and such. Majority of our bulk work is for Thurs.-Sunday. Days off are Sunday and Wednesday(a lot of times I do work 6 days). Since food is taken offsite, we never get back left-overs. For plated dessert presentations, I always make a sample plate on a half-sheet pan with the items "glued down" with chocolate so they don't move and send that to the party, as well as showing one of the cooks who will be working the party.
    For ordering produce and food items: create an inventory list or table of everything you use in the bakery(flour, sugar, chocolate, etc.), with a columns for your par levels and how much you need to order. We order all the dry items on a once a week basis, so pick the day before ordering to check all the stuff through your list and write what you need. It doesn't take a lot of time. 15 minutes tops. For the produce and dairy orders, the kitchen has separate order forms where I add my orders in and write "pastry" next to the item so they now it's for me and deliver these items to my walk-in.
    If you need more detailed info., just e-mail me. Glad to help you out.
     
  9. blanchtoque

    blanchtoque

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    Make it perfectly clear that the reason your leaving is the Chefs behavior.

    Ask them what the Chef is going to do to correct his behavior.

    The Chef needs to "buy into" any solution to your problem.

    You should have a completly autonimous department.
     
  10. w.debord

    w.debord

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    Where I work isn't nearly as oganized as your caterering company angry. I'm envious!

    I can't think of how I could model my dept. like yours. The physical closeness and the sharing of all the equpiment makes it impossible to seperate us. There no way to keep my produce seperate...I'm lucky to have a cart in the cooler for my finished product. I had to verbally fight with the chef to get 1/2 a shelf in the freezer in the kitchen so I don't have to waste so much time everyday carrying product up and down to the walk in freezer. I could order my own dry goods but then I'd be expected to put them away myself and the store room is at least 400 feet away down a flight of narrow stairs. I physically can't carry some of my items that far.


    As I start to think about this the only solution would involve some extensive remodeling and relocating. I highly doubt they'd do that, even though it's long over due and would benefit everyone.

    I can't think of any solutions.

    So I guess I follow my husbands dirrections and wait for them to figure-out how to make me want to stay. :(
     
  11. angrychef

    angrychef

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    While you're waiting, get your resume together, look at the want ads and start sending it out to anyone and everyone. That's how I got my present job, and I was really scared that it wouldn't be a good a job as my previous one. The fear is there but you never know, maybe your next job will be soooo much better. Go to interviews even as you try to resolve your current work situation.
     
  12. w.debord

    w.debord

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    I'm abit confused.......chef was way wierd yesterday, I'm thinking the manager spoke to him....with-out talking to me first (like always). It's nice to have a manager that takes the bull by the horns but that isn't always the right way to go. So apparently there won't be any visable department changes, it will just be up to the chef not to loose me?

    I don't know, I guess I hang in here a while longer and see if things HONESTLY are better (no more cra*)! It feels like da ja voo (sp?) because it pretty much is..................actually most issues have gotten better and this one is the last big hurdel, so I'll try to shut-up already!

    I sent out resumes with photos to all the clubs in driving distance when I landed this job. There really aren't ads in the paper for pastry chefs in this area. Flooding the industry works, I got alot of responses that way, but I only later realized the club managers have an association and it's not everyday they each get such a resume....so they talk among each other......I'm also starting to be "known" among the people in the area so I can't move with-out being noticed. That's good and bad!

    I'll just wait and see for now, thanks again for the support! Last time over this job!