Surviving life as a Commis

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by slipp000, Nov 30, 2016.

  1. slipp000

    slipp000

    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    So I wanted to get some thoughts from you all about your experiences during your junior years in the kitchen. Now don't get me wrong, I love my job and want to do it for as long as Im working but some parts about it are damn hard and sometimes demoralising.

    E.g Always being told that youre not good enough despite grafting untill your body aches for 12 hours a day with no break.

    No praise, always last to leave during cleandown, only getting to cook during service on a quiet day, never being allowed to give an opinion ect. My Chefs believe in a head down mouth shut ears open policy to commis chefs, which I fully understand but it sucks when theyre in the bar while Im still mopping out the walk in and checking lables. My skin has thickened a lot from this and I really do hope it pays off.

    Id be fascinated to hear some experiences.
     
  2. phaedrus

    phaedrus

    Messages:
    1,579
    Likes Received:
    143
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    I'm sorry to hear of your experiences. That's a very old school environment. Not all kitchens are that way. But you do have to pay your dues. Keep working hard and learn everything you can. It gets better but even at the highest levels it's hard work. Especially at the highest levels. :)
     
  3. ljokjel

    ljokjel

    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    15
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    How long have you been working there, and what professional background do you have from before?
     
  4. chefross

    chefross

    Messages:
    2,783
    Likes Received:
    418
    Exp:
    Former Chef
    That question has no bearing on this issue.

    I understand what you are trying to ask but experience or none, professional background or not, NO ONE DESERVES to be treated in a demoralizing manner, condescended to, or made to feel inferior. The job or any Chef or manager is to motivate employees positively and give support.
     
    phaedrus likes this.
  5. slipp000

    slipp000

    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    I've worked in kitchens for 2 years, the first year I was just a potwasher and the second as a commis. In this job Ive been there only a month and the Chef said in my interview that he wanted to help me get my first Cdp position but he thinks I'm still at least a year away from that. It doesnt help that the sous is a alcoholic burnout with a short temper who is often late and doesnt do much cleaning.
     
  6. peachcreek

    peachcreek

    Messages:
    1,135
    Likes Received:
    174
    Exp:
    Retired Chef
    Back when.....

    The Kitchen Manager was having us peel 100lb sacks of potatoes... Whenever he would walk by he would tell us to do it faster! Then one day as he was walking past he reaches into the garbage can and rummages through the peels to find one with excess potato on it. Then he looks at me and says 'The next time you want to ask me for a raise? You already know where it went.'
     
  7. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

    Messages:
    2,172
    Likes Received:
    513
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    • slipp000, I never cared what job I did while learning, moving up and keeping my vision and goals in tack. One thing to remember, you will do any job requested "BUT" you will demand respect and never loose your self-worth, dignity and integrity in the process. If the chef has you on a schedule and a process of you learning at a steady pace then it's fine. If you feel like your just being used, unappreaciated and abused then leave for greener pastures. A lot of chefs are good at promises, but, few are good with follow through. Most Chefs don't even look a year ahead, most are happy to get through the week. The ones I'm talking about are old school chefs that got their asses kicked all the way up to the top. During the interview everything looks wonderful, sounds great, can't wait to get this job. When you find out all the bulls-it that was thrown around isn't true then realize it never will. Start looking for a better place to hang your hat. We all take faith in people hoping things will work out in our favor. Also realize what looks a bit gloomy today could materialize in a better opportunity for you to learn and succeed someplace else......Always make sure your career is headed in the right direction. The mistakes you make in your early years will prevent you from making those same mistakes in the future..........Good luck..........Chefbillyb
    •  
     
  8. someday

    someday

    Messages:
    1,615
    Likes Received:
    390
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Great advice. You should always be treated with respect. Not necessarily kindness or friendship, but respect. Make sure you are learning. In a lot of kitchen the absence of criticism is the highest praise you will get. 

    Unfortunately in a lot of places you have to "pay your dues." This means that you might be, as you said OP, mopping up the walk in while they are sipping cocktails at the bar or going home for the night. That is your lot in life until you move up. It won't be forever, and eventually you'll no longer be the "new guy" and someone else will do that stuff. 

    I mean, I hope they at least say thank you and shake your hand, etc while you do the cleanup. If you feel like you are learning a lot then it might be worth it to stick it out for a bit and such. Only you can decide the risk/reward for continuing to put up with it. 

    Don't put up with anything physical or even emotional abuse. It can be a fine line. 
     
  9. chef brah

    chef brah

    Messages:
    117
    Likes Received:
    17
    Exp:
    Culinary Student
    why not quit job and move to another restaurant?

    people do it in white collar jobs all the time and are usually satisfied with the results

    i once had a horrible manager who blocked my promotion...so i quit job and i never looked back...later she got sacked coz CEO was unhappy with the way she managed me.

    talent will always be recognized....cream floats to the top.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2016
  10. slipp000

    slipp000

    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    Thanks for all the advice. It is a fine line and I don't think that I'm being used or abused, but I do feel a bit more feedback or thanks would do me some good but they're not the kind of chefs to pat you on the back all the time. I don't want to move because I've been here only a month and the menu is really good and I have learned a good amount, I just desperately want to reach higher levels but if the Chef says I'm not ready then I'm not ready. It's a tough world and any given day can be make or brake but ultimately I feel like the kitchen is a great place to work on self discipline and many other skills that people in other trades may not learn, at least not as fast as a chef must.
     
  11. someday

    someday

    Messages:
    1,615
    Likes Received:
    390
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Thats a good attitude. Right now they want to know that you are going to work hard and do the work required of you before they commit to you. Just remember it will (most likely) be temporary, and that sometimes in the next 6-months to a year it will start to "click" and you'll be a lot more useful. People will be nicer to you, your chef will start to recognize you and your work, and you'll be given increasingly difficult and prestigious tasks as you develop as a cook. It is not an easy road, and you have to remember that it takes YEARS to get to a point where you are really any good. 

    Don't get discouraged. Those of us who make cooking and food our trade do it because we love it and we care. It also means that when it goes wrong, or when it is hard, it hits us worse than normal. We've all had moments of doubt, pain and struggle. I know I've cried more than once after work, or in the walk in when I was going through my "formative" kitchens. I don't feel embarrassed or anything about it, because it shows how much I care about what I do. There is no shame in that. 

    Your chef wants to know you'll be there for him/her for the long run. They have probably seen too many commis/externs/newbies come through the kitchen with attitude, or lack of work ethic, or thinking they are the next great chef so why peel potatoes?...etc. Many probably don't last very long. It is why it is so hard in the beginning--there is a steep learning curve, and your chef won't give you any time until they know you will stick it out. Why waste hours on someone if they are just going to not show up for work one day next week? 

    You WILL turn the corner, keep the faith. 

    Good luck. 
     
  12. slipp000

    slipp000

    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    I needed this, thanks so much for your kind words. I do sometimes get disheartened when I cook something badly, or forget to do a job, or if the chef is rude to me but there's no way I will let them know it bothers me. Gotta soldier on.
     
  13. chefross

    chefross

    Messages:
    2,783
    Likes Received:
    418
    Exp:
    Former Chef
    As a Chef who has worked in this world for many years I can tell you that these words are very true.

    Try to put yourself in the Chef's shoes while you are pondering all of this.

    The Chef plans, organizes, and executes food.

    It doesn't matter if it's for plated or banquet or restaurant service, the food requires prep, attention to detail, seasoning, and presentation. 

    The Chef plans all of this and in doing so gives a cook like yourself a task to complete.

    If it is not correct and has to be done over, that's money lost to time, and product.

    Of course Chef gets angry, says a few expletives, then moves on.

    The point is to learn from that and do it correct next time.

    Now it's the next time and the same situation happens...you do it correct and no peep from Chef.

    And take this for what it's worth young person...

    You do not have to get handshake.

    You do not need to get a slap on the back and a "job well done."

    You do not need any kudos for simply doing your job.

    After a few months, your job will become second nature, even automatic.

    The Chef is watching you.

    He can tell when you are ready to step up to another level.

    After you've mastered your position well enough to satisfy Chef then and only then will you be allowed to step up.

    Now mind you if it's politics that's keeping you down, then the only recourse is to submit your resignation.

    There's too much drama in the world to put up with it at your workplace.

    Best of luck as well.
     
  14. slipp000

    slipp000

    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    Unfortunately there is a bit of drama at my workplace but its mainly the concern of management not mine. I just keep my head down and try to learn my trade.

    I trust that my chef knows what he is doing and I hate letting him down but I fully understand that he has to know I can do the basics before I move upwards. What I find frustrating is watching him and the sous sending out stunning dishes over and over again with amazing skill and timing while I'm making salads, peeling spuds and washing pots. I want to be on that stove and on the char grill but I fully understand that I need to work my way up.

    Thank you to everyone whos chipped in with some advice, I really enjoy reading your responses.
     
  15. cheflayne

    cheflayne

    Messages:
    4,195
    Likes Received:
    554
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    What you are doing is building a foundation of  "amazing skill and timing". It is all about repetition, sequencing, and muscle memory. Like learning to ride a bicycle, it doesn't matter what bike you start on, the skills necessary to stay upright, pedal, and balance are the groundwork to becoming a successful rider. Salads, peeling spuds, and washing dishes are no less important to the operation of the restaurant and allow you to work on your skills just as much as "sending put stunning dishes'. Be the best damn spud peeler you can. Look for ways to improve your speed, efficiency, and methods. By the way, speed comes not from fast motion but by working on the second two things mentioned. Be patient, humble, and teachable. Great things will come if you do!

    FWIW from what I have read, I would hire you in a heartbeat. Soldier on!
     
  16. phaedrus

    phaedrus

    Messages:
    1,579
    Likes Received:
    143
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    That amazing skill and timing didn't come overnight!  Your Chef and Sous rock it because they worked hard, paid their dues and learned on the way up.  There is no unimportant job in the kitchen!  NONE!  It might seem like "only" peeing potatoes but it needs to be done and done correctly.  The chain in the kitchen is only as good as the weakest link.  Hang in there!  You'll move up the ladder in due time./img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif
     
  17. ljokjel

    ljokjel

    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    15
    Exp:
    Sous Chef
    I fully agree with you. That doesn't change the fact of it happening.But as (s)he says, there is no ill treatment.
    But there are two completely different ways of replying to someone who is completely new, compared to someone more experienced. And also there's a difference if you have been with the same people for two months or years.
    We have all been exposed to these people.

    Give it six months, see where things are going, and make a decision. But be sure, when you are given good feedback it will feel so much better.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2016
  18. slipp000

    slipp000

    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    11
    Exp:
    Line Cook
    Today we did 112 covers in one service. (All day sunday service) I had to cover for our pastry chef and despite a few hiccups we smashed through it and the feeling you get after getting slammed like that, you cant beat it. My Chefs are tough but fair, when I fuck up they tell me straight that I fucked up, when I do well they give praise of its due. Its damn hard work but nobody can say being a chef is never rewarding
     
  19. phaedrus

    phaedrus

    Messages:
    1,579
    Likes Received:
    143
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Congrats, Slipp!  After all these years I still get that high too when everything goes great.  We got pounded Sat nite- everything came in at the same time.  But instead of going down the kitchen swamped FOH with food faster than they could carry it out.  We dialed it back before they crashed but it was nice to see my guys and gals bangin' it out like that.
     
  20. someday

    someday

    Messages:
    1,615
    Likes Received:
    390
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    Sounds like you're in a good kitchen. A few more nights like that and I'm sure things will start getting noticed. Welcome to the grind.