Starting a cafe

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by chefjess606, Apr 22, 2017.

  1. chefjess606

    chefjess606

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    Hey everybody! I just recently got a call of a lifetime (thus far in my life at least). A little background, I am a 23 year old executive chef. I have been in the industry a very short amount of time comparitivly, but I don't settle for just going to work to make a paycheck. I have been searching for a new job recently given the lack of communication and obscure priorities at my current restaurant. I had planned on going back as a line cook to get more experience and ultimately improve myself as a chef. However, today I received a call from a very succesful restaurant vet who likes my resume. His plan is to open up a cafe shortly and he wants me to run it. I am beyond honored that he would consider me. While I feel adequate to accomplish this, I am worried that I will miss out on the opportunity to go back as a line cook and learn more about food. Does anyone have experience with going ALL the way up the ladder and starting from the bottom again? I feel like I am at crossroads and my future in the industry will depend on my current career decisions. Perhaps I am over reacting.
     
  2. chefjess606

    chefjess606

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    I got a little off topic there. I am meeting with this chef in a couple days and would love to be prepared for our conversation. What are key questions that you consider important when undertaking a business venture such as this? I have a general idea of what we will be discussing but I would love some other points of view.
     
  3. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    Jess, I can only tell you about my career and climbing the ladder of success. I will tell you I wasn't ready to manage a kitchen or anything else at 23 years old. I learned while being involved in about 25 food services along the way. I learned something from each of them. I come from restaurant management, Food and Beverage Hotel Director, Private club management, Coliseum food management. I did all these while learning how to cook and become a Chef. I fell back on the knowledge from all these to make  the right decisions on how to manage people. Cooking is only one part of being a chef. If you can't manage people you'll have many hard days managing your kitchen. There's a reason it take's time to become a chef. It takes time to learn under other chefs how to make the right decisions. 

       You said yourself you wanted to work the front line to learn more. I'm not sure how much you'll learn without learning from someone who knows more than you. I think you need to work as a Sous under a talented chef that can teach you how to manage a kitchen and learn food and labor cost control, menu costing and design and so on. 

      All that being said, if you really want this position then be truthful in the interview with the chef. Tell him your interested, but you not sure your qualified. Explain what you know and what you need to learn. Tell him your ambitious, that you have a great work ethic and willingness to learn. You don't want to mislead him, you want to be upfront and honest. This will give the chef an idea of what he's getting. He can then figure out if he could teach, guide and train you into the kind of chef he needs. Anyone can take a good game in an interview but sooner or later the proof is in the pudding. At 23 years old do yourself a favor and learn as much as you could from others. It will pay off and benefit you in the future.......Good luck.....ChefBillyB
     
  4. chef buck

    chef buck

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    Hey chef! I'm also a 23 year old chef with a few years experience, it sounds like u have a good offer. from my experience, I know I've come a long way to get to where I am, only I known im still learning a lot everyday and I still have loads of questions to ask to more experienced chefs and I wouldn't want to loose that just yet. I can run my kitchen very easily but That's because I know the menu back to front, I don't think that would be the case walking in to a new kitchen. I would choose not to run before I can walk coz the truth is we have a lot more to learn and I would keep learning Coz when ur running the kitchen, people turn to you for answers and your going to want to be able to answer them, jobs come and go and there will always be another opportunity, hope this helps mate
     
  5. foodpump

    foodpump

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    Running a kitchen is kinda like comparing a coach's job to the quarterback's:  It's a given that the coach HAS to know the game, and almost always the coach is an ex-player, but the job is not the same.

    You will be judged by how well you manage your resources: Specifically that is your food, your labour, and lastly your equipment.  In that order.  If, by 3 mths your kitchen shows a loss on the books, you will be more than likely asked to leave.

    This sounds cruel and harsh, but its the reality of running a business, and a restaurant is a business.

    If you feel you are ready to take on this challenge, go for it!  If you feel you need more experience with things like inventory, hiring and superivising staff, and keeping costs in line, then work a few more years under someone else.
     
  6. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    Very true.

    Where is your true interest at this point in time? Do you want to be the best player that you can be or does coaching appeal to you more. To be the best coach that you can be doesn't mean spending more time on the field. The skills needed and learned on the sidelines are a totally different set than the ones learned on the field.

    Where does your heart lie at the moment? There is no right nor wrong answer; and decisions made today can always be changed tomorrow.
     
  7. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    I'm not sure anyone is ever *** ready *** for their first chef job/marriage/baby/etc.  There's always more one could learn but some stuff you can't really learn until you actually have to do it.  At your age and experience level you probably aren't completely ready but you will never grow unless you move beyond your comfort zone.  Keep your eyes, ears and mind open and you will be fine.
     
  8. chefjess606

    chefjess606

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    You guys are all incredibly encouraging. Thank you!!! I can honestly say that I was not ready for my current executive chef position. I have made mistakes that ultimately lead to me losing a few great cooks. However, I have learned a tremendous amount and currently have a solid team that genuinely cares about the success of the business. I would say my strongest point is the paperwork. I have designed whole new menus, I absolutely love food costing and recipe mapping. I like the mathematical sense of running a kitchen. I just really feel like my culinary skill level is sub par and that is disappointing to me. You guys have a great point about a coach and a quarter back, I really just need to find my priorities and decide from there.
     
  9. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    staying with the football analogy...

    Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots didn't ever play pro ball. He played Division 3 college ball. He didn't start as a sophomore. He didn't play as a junior. As a senior his position was taken by a freshman player. His playing abilities are no reflection on his coaching abilities. During 17 seasons with the Patriots, he has won 14 division titles, six AFC championship games, and five Super Bowls.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2017
    phaedrus likes this.
  10. phaedrus

    phaedrus

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    Very true!  There's a very old and very dumb saying that goes, "those that can't do- teach".  It's an idiotic statement and profoundly wrong.   There are lots of guys that slash and burn on the line that can't teach worth shit.  Even before I was in management I was the go-to guy for training other cooks.  It's one thing to have a skill, but to teach that skill is another kind of skill unto itself. 

    A chef needs to have culinary skills but in a business you can go farther with strong business skills and average culinary ability than the other way around.  Not to belabor the point but look at Chiptle and McDonalds- their food is hardly cutting edge but they've refined the business end to a science.  Ultimately what should a restaurant be "making"?  If you answer with any other answer than "money" than you're wrong.  It may not be just about money but if you can't stay in the black you won't be open for very long.