Question about boss/owner

Joined Nov 24, 2009
Hey guys, I have a relatively quick question for you...

So I'm 25, have worked in the best restaurants in the country since I was 20, and am nw the executive chef of a progressive catering company and inventive "gourmet" lunch service. My boss/the owner is someone I respect as a person and has very high standards in every facet of this industry. Him and I have been working with elite chefs and him coming from the front of house, the service staff of those elite chefs. He has very good knowledge of food for someone that has come from the front of the house, so much as I would venture to guess that he's on the same level as a very good line cook, without necessarily knowing how to cook any of it. He knows how things are supposed to look and taste, he just rarely understands how to get it there, which is my job anyway so I'm not that bitter about it.

That said, we are a new company (catering less than 3 years, and lunch less than 4 months). He has no investors and that said, we are doing really well in a struggling economy. I am wanting to get some advice to help me decide if my frustrations are valid, or completely normal and being a new chef, need to get used to.

1. Being that we're so small, we essentially only have staff for events, so I prep 80% of the events myself, while also prepping and assembling lunch for 50+ orders a day. I understand that with no investors that we can't afford full time staff, but I feel along with all my other roles I need to fill, I can't be expected to have enough time to be in the kitchen 10 hours a day, then go out and do everything else that has to be done. Am I right to feel this way?

2. Regardless of who prepped something, and especially if I didn't, my boss is extremely critical with what is going out the door. Understandable, but I almost expect something to be said about what I've done less than 5 minutes after I've done it. It's more like a "Are you really going to send that out" situation, than a "How come you have to send that out? situation. I'm mainly speaking of how our sandwiches look, as we don't have the facilities to bake our bread and while delicious, our bread purveyor is extremely inconsistent with sizes. This not only throws off our food cost, but the appearance. I am 100% a flavor before appearance person, and he is the opposite. How do I manage this situation?

3. I work on average 60 hours a week unless there is an event, and that'ss drive it to 75-80. My boss (gratefully) closed us down for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for thanksgiving. This being the eve of the eve, and I couldn't prep for upcoming days, I decided I would get home from the kitchen early to avoid traffic, completely planning to work on logistics and menus for future events as I got home. Less than an hour after I got home, I got a call from my boss (who is out of state), who called the kitchen and was mildy upset and confused. Was I wrong to leave? I feel like I deserve it. While I admit I should have checked that it was ok, I don't understand why my boss wouldn't automatically think I expect it and deserve it, and give me the benefit of the doubt that I would get what I needed to done, as I always do.

4. We have a very small kitchen. We are just now getting to the point of having enough containers and equipment to get the job done. We have a large event coming up in december and that along with our lunch delivery service (which I have to run concurrently) will most assuredly not fit in the same 2 door reach-in. Why is it that I am looked at like I'm unreasonable when I tell him this?

5. I work for a very driven person, and I'm the guy that works in the best places and asks the mosts questions to learn the most the fastest. He wants everything to be perfect, with extremely imperfect equipment and situations that are needed. While admittedly we always seem to pull through, to pull of the type of food in the venues and makeshift kitchens that we do, we need a lot of things. I've been the chef of this company for 6 months, and have been cooking for it for 2 years. I'm really getting tired of having to make things work. I knew what I was dealing with this coming into it, but it's really wearing on me. I'm no sure what to do.

6. I have no problem saying that I make $28,800 a year, and that's not after taxes. I get paid the full amount then am 1099'd at the end of the year, meaning I have a considerable tax burden coming up. I feel like I'm extremely underpaid. I know that my boss doesn't look at like it he scored by getting a young chef with very high culinary knowledge as well as a lot of mechanical knowledge in order to also be the handyman and everything else, but he did. He's getting a great deal. The company can't afford to pay me more, and I actually make the most out of him, and another full time employee. His goal with this company is not to make millions of dollars and be rich, but to provide a superior product that doesn't exist anywhere else in the country. I'm no saying I need to be rich, but I'd like to be able to pay my bills every month without worrying if that's going to be possible. Should I be getting paid more?

I don't expect anyone to answer any questions specifically, but just get some insight into how I should be feeling. I feel very taken advantage of. In the 2 years I've been with the company, he has been through 6 chefs including myself. I'm getting to the point where I'm looking through classified ads for jobs. I don't want to quit, but I'm not sure I can take this the rest of my life. He's never threatened to fire me and wants me to be working there in 30 years, but I'm not sure if I do.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Sounds more like you're a partner rather than an employee---might be an option worth exploring.....
Joined Aug 21, 2004
You are talking feelings. There is no right, no wrong, when talking feelings.

I don't know about you, but when justifications are in my favor, it only increases my frustration. They do not make it go away.

Justifications that are not in my favor, usually cause indignation to crop up, which when coupled with frustration, well you can imagine.

Will you be able to get past this feeling. I would have a hard time.
Joined Sep 2, 2009
if your work load is stated correctly you are greatly under paid IMHO also you said you had a quick question......ah, right
Joined Oct 18, 2007
As stated earlier, your feelings are your feelings.
You and I may feel differently about the same situation.

1. If you've proven that you can do it, naturally you will be expected to. Point #3 alludes to the fact that there are others in the kitchen (for the owner to call), so you should be able to train people to do enough so you can trim your hours a bit.
2. Communication is key, both with your boss and your purveyors.
3. The boss may just feel more comfortable knowing you are there taking care of things, and may not be considering your needs. Again, communicate. If he continues to react the same way, you'll have to decide if it's something you can tolerate.
4. No answer.
5. "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it Fred". (sorry, Super Chicken reference). Having worked there as long as you have, and having seen what was required of the previous Chef(s), I'm surprised you have an issue with this. But sometimes there are things you think you can handle that get old after awhile.
6. I would say that yes, for the workload you should be earning more. But if the company can't afford it, it really doesn't matter what you or I think is appropriate. Your decision is to remain or go.

It seems to me that whether it's you or someone else, things will continue as they have been. If you leave he'll find someone else who is eager and who hopes the situation will improve, or someone who is desperate and just needs a job, who will then move on when something better comes along.
You need to have a serious conversation with the owner about what both you and he expect. You need to find out if things can and will improve, whether soon or eventually.
And only you can answer the question of whether it's all worth it or not.
Joined Oct 18, 2007
On a side note, your username is so close to the Tommy Tutone song it's frightening.
Joined May 29, 2006
Since its like his money and your bck, I would start asking about some sought of partnership agreement. How he gets away with a 1099 iws beyond me. You are NOT an independant contractror. YOU supply NO food or equipment he does, therefor YOU are an employee. He is getting away without paying your social security which in the future you will count on. He probably does not carry workmans comp., so if you get hurt you will have to sue him. All around not a good arrangement, start looking around 28000 is nothing,


Joined Mar 2, 2006
First at 25 years old you are still young and I think you are being taken advantage of somewhat, but aren't we all. I think you may need your boss in the kitchen to gain an appreciation of how much work it takes to bring things to his "standard". Knowing how a house should look is no way comparable to actually building a house.

If you are doing well in this economy then I would assume you are doing a good job, I would first look at seperating your lunch business from the catering, see where the hours lie on each side of the fence so to speak, possibly you could train someone to oversee the daily lunch production and you could focus on the new catering.

1-For events I would suggest you could get some part timers who would be available on an on-call basis for the catering and retain your full time staff for the lunch part of the job and also for most of the catering.
I do not see where investors would help with the staffing, it seems the lunch is the core of your business and the catering is the icing, this is where part time staff would be an advantage, the bill for the jobs would pay for the increase in labor.

2-Again the bosses criticism is justified but you should also check your orders when they come in and refuse the ones that are not up to your standards. Not making money would quickly put your bread purveyor in line, perhaps look into another?

3-That is nice he closed for you, but work is work, I like to come in when I am closed as the prep needs to be done, your boss needs to trust you and you should talk to him about that. Maybe he would like to come in with you to see how the back works and what your daily production is, could be an eye opener.

4-You should not bite more than you can chew, perhaps your boss can come in and organize your fridge for you, if he can get to to fit then no problem if not maybe he will realize you do indeed need a bigger fridge and more equipment,

5-If you knew what you were getting yourself into then you have no one to blame. Even though you always pull through I can see that as being very stressfull, you should talk to your boss about reinvesting some of the $$$ you make back into the kitchen,

6-You should be getting at least that much take home, and have your taxes taken out every week, that should not be your burden at the end of the year. Again you are being taken advantage of especially for the hours you work, if you are salary I would ask to be hourly at least 15-20 dollars an hour O.T. after 45 hours. If you are salary then I would want at least 40-45 a year with a %. Maybe I am dreaming here but that is not unrealistic. How much is your boss paying himself? Are his hours the same? Something to think about. What about benefits? You need them. Retirement? Think about that now before you are a 60 year old chef with no retirement plan-I see that all the time. A very scary thought.

I would stary looking in the meantime, when you find another job then I would lay down the law, if he says no then I would walk.

Again these are my opinions only. Good luck.
Joined Oct 13, 2001
I would deal from strength (having a job) and start fishing for better. Right place and right time and you will keep moving up (money wise) and perhaps find a happy home for a bit. Life is change and our industry kind of leads the field in lots of changes but remember that the more different outlets you work
the more knowledge you will pick up which will just make you better. With your ability to work the long hours hard and a dedication to putting out good food you will do just fine:thumb:
Joined Nov 24, 2009
Thank you everyone. A couple more points to consider though:

1. My bosses intentions are good. He makes less money than I do and I'm sure works more hours than I. The problem lies in the fact that he doesn't charge enough. Our lunch boxes are ten dollars, but the food and packaging cost alone is 6 dollars, not considering labor/office supplies/rent/utilities etc etc.
2. We have no full time employees other than me, him and a severely underpaid all around FOH and other stuff guy. I am the sandwich guy. When we really need help, we call in someone, but I would say no more than ten hours a week for him. We can't afford it because we don't charge enough.
3. Catering is what is paying our bills, the lunch thing is new. We have been doing it about 3 years and have doubled our revenue this year, but its still only 250,000. It's hard for us to muster up business because people want cheap crappy food, and we don't do that. Thus my boss lowers his price in order to get the business. I figure that his rational is it's better to have a discounted party than no party at all.
4. We really can't afford staff. We can barely afford us. I have faith that the company will grow and have already been set up to be a future partner, but at the time I am an employee of sorts. We have staff for events, but event days are hard for any catering company, what's hard for me is the days leading up to it along with lunch business.

Don't take my frustration as me thinking my boss is out to get me. He isn't. We're just in a season where we can't afford more as a company. We've always been in that season. We are growing and we actually have a kitchen now versus renting a kitchen, but it's tiny. It's just really hard for me and I don't want to give up, but I also don't want to waste time in a job that's going nowhere. My bosses intentions are good and is completely willing to supply us with what we need, we just can't afford most of it. Have any of you made potato puree for 80 without a food mill or tamis? I have. I make 80 orders of potato chips daily out of a stock pot and thermometer. Even if we could afford a fryer, the health department wouldn't allow it because our hood is only wide enough to fit a 6 burner stove.
Joined Nov 24, 2009
I guess I just need/needed other people's perspectives. As a new/young chef, I've never actually seen the total workload of an executive chef. I've only seen what goes on in the kitchen. My short questions must have it normal to work this much for this little pay?
Joined Aug 21, 2009
It sounds like you know what the issues are and it has to be hard to do parties when they want to pay next to nothing for junk.
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