The impossible customer...mother!!!

Joined Apr 28, 2003
Never in my life have I met someone so stingent, ungratefull, and demanding...

Last week, I made a very basic but very nice looking chocolate fudge cake for someones birthday where my mother works but since the blackout, it was sitting in my fridge for 3 days and deemed not good enough for the people at work :rolleyes:...

So my mother requests today at 3pm, an orange cake...not chiffon b/c its too dry but something dence yet moist but light... :confused:

Working for 6h making up the recipe as I went along and running out of what I needed in a 5x5 work space with a stove with 2 or 4 working burners that can barely fit 1 of my cake pans let alone 2 while entertaining my mothers guests with coffee.

And my mother not only requesting something new of me at last minute. She proceeds to stick her head into the kitchen and not only "suggesting" ideas but also critisizing..."HELLO, YOUR NOT DOING SO STFU" (thought it, not said it...something like that would get me booted out of the house for a good decade)...

End result...a very oversized tall cake with exposed sides because the icing didn't want to hold nor did the crumb coat succeed in helping.

Ranting over...heres a question for you. How can people expect me to provide the same results as what I make in class???...I had 80quarts Hobart mixers at school, working ovens and stoves, an endless supply of proper ingredients, a partner to aid me, a huge working space...everything I don't have access to at home basically. My moms kitchen is almost as unsanitary, unorginized, and as unequiped as a greasy spoon chinese resturaunt.


Staff member
Joined Oct 7, 2001
Oh, the joys of mothers. They seem to, at times, have an infinite capacity to drive us nuts, yet still inspire us to be our best!!! We can be 50 years old and they still treat us like we are 10, and yet no one will ever love us like our mothers do!!

Though I do have to say that being able to cook in kitchen that is less than ideal is what separates the men from the boys (the girls from the women). It is easy to cook well in a great kitchen, such as at culinary school, where all the equipment works and everything is top of the line. It's a whole different story when you end up working at a place that was designed to do 100 ppl a night and you are pushing out 250-300 dinners, one oven is on the fritz, your cooler's compressor is making funny noises (looks likes its going to crash any time), it's 90 degrees and 99% percent humity outside and your hot line is registering well over 115 degrees, and you are sweating so badly that you can hardly see the plates because the sweat is rolling into your eyes, stinging them.

Your story also reminds me of a story from one of my old pastry/baking instructors at school. Years ago he was working at the Mayflower, in DC, and was doing a cake tasting for a wedding coming up. The wedding was a super high-end affair, with the cake costing thousands of dollars alone. The first tasting consisted of various genoises of different flavors, soaked with different syrups. The mother said all the cakes were too dry. So they did another tasting, still too dry, and another, still too dry. Finally on the 4 tasting (approx. 40 different cakes) they slipped in a Duncan Hines cake mix with pudding (you know the kind). Well, guess which one the mom went nuts over. So their $10,000 cake was made from a bunch of boxes of Duncan Hines!!!
Joined Aug 11, 2000
that's a great story Pete! My home kitchen is a throw back to the 50's I have NO counter space only a table that I prep on...I have a tiny ref up stairs and a monster in the basement. MY oven is tiny....does not fit a normal cookie sheet...half the oven is storage...2 burners need to be lit...and I don't cook that much here. Yesterday in camp I cranked up the convection oven and the strudel that would have taken 35-40 minutes took 12. There is nothing like improvisation....just imagine cooking outdoors for 200 folks... in the woods. Or doing a cooking demo in the middle of tehe street with NO electricty...SOOOO many of ST. louis finest chefs have the hardest time working without their shtuff. As to broken equipment, most of the time the restaurant I cater out of has NO idea where shtuff is I shlep in my own and take it when I go...including staff.
That's the joy of cooking, working the challenges put to us.
Joined Apr 28, 2003
True, I do enjoy a challenge like trying to make this cake with no recipe and completely from scratch but when high expectation is riding behind it with very little time, ingredients, and working equipment in a workspace only a mouse can use, it is asking the near impossible of me.

As of late, a lot of my products hasen't turned out proper and I'm beginning to have second thoughts into the culinary world because I know its a similar enviornment. Can I handle the real world...the professional world???
Joined Jan 5, 2001
Yes you can! As long as you recognise your mistakes and always try to understand why things didn't go as planned. We all have streaks in the professional world where nothing seems to work. Sometimes they last a few hours, sometimes a few days. You'll get over your bad streak too. Just keep a positive attitude and stay focused.

Joined Jun 18, 2003
Why is it, when it needs to be perfect, it turns out less than.
And when we dont care as much, you get a masterpiece?!!
this always bugs me. It never fails.
as for kitchen space, try cooking kosher holliday meals
for 2 hundred to be for 3 days lunch and dinner.
in a kitchen the size of a small home kitchen, with the
stovetop shooting sparks. (it couldnt hold the soup pot)
these ovens were sears special cir 1903.
And they wondered why we hated cooking there.
Only 2 people could fit in the kitchen at once and
the counter space was maybe 2ft by 4ft. Now that's a challenge!
anywho, I feel your pain. :crazy:
Joined May 26, 2001
Dear Chickie (I mean that lovingly),

The hardest thing imaginable is not working in an unworkable space; nor is it having to substitute ingredients for what's lacking (Jim's quote is dead on!); nor even trying to shift the relationship from "loved one" to "customer," as difficult as that is -- the hardest thing is having realistic expectations for yourself, and conveying them clearly to others.

In other words, recognize first that you simply WON'T be able to do the job you would want to, under those circumstances. But know that you will do THE BEST JOB YOU CAN. Then, set the ground rules: you are doing this as a professional, not as a daughter, and if they want the best product, they'll have to treat you as a professional. Which makes it okay for you to tell you mother, "Sorry, but I really have to concentrate on what I'm doing; please save your suggestions for later and I'll see if I can incorporate them the next time. Now please let me work."

As for how you'll hold up in the "real world" -- again, as long as you accept that circumstances may be less than perfect, often WAY less, and react with "I'll still do my best and not let it upset me," you'll be fine. "Should be" is meaningless; all there is is "is," and the only correct answer, EVER, is "Yes, Chef." And we deal with it, without letting it get to us. Afterwards you can tell great stories of how you cooked that dinner for 350 with nothing but candles and sterno and chafers -- but you have to actually DO it at the time. You can't let yourself get in the way of doing your job.

If you think you really can't adapt and learn to take a deep breath and "just do it," whatever the circumstances, then you might want to rethink what to do with your education. There are possibilities in which you can have greater control over your environment, if you really need to. Just be aware of what you're getting into BEFORE you get into it. And know yourself.
Joined Nov 20, 2000
Here is a trick that I learned from an art book a long time ago to prove why this happens. Write out your signature as usual. Then try and reproduce it exactly as you just wrote it. The harder you try, the worse it will look and in no way resemble your usual signature. The key then is to relax, let it flow and not try so hard and it will look great!

Hey Pete, I used to work at the Mayflower in the Nicholas Restaurant, total and complete ****! Nothing worse then an old kitchen in Washington, DC in August! Ahh memories!

I had a very wealthy "step aunt" who was the Chefs best and favorite customer at the catering company I worked at. She wanted the Wedding Box Cake she saw on the cover of a book by a great cake decorator whos name escapes me at the moment. But we did a dummy one for a couple of thousand dollars. Her wedding designer (for her daughters wedding) a very flamboyant fellow totally redesigned it. My chef an old Swiss gentleman was fit to be tied over this guy. Funny enough his redesign of the cake improved it dramatically (think "Queer eye for the straight guy" for the difference in the cakes) Well we ended up doing a dummy version for the ceremony with a real cake on the top for taking home and a section for the cutting ceremony. The guests were served individually decorated small rectangular cakes in a bow tied gift box! The thing ended up costing a fortune and I think that was when my uncle put the brakes on her caterings!
Joined Dec 26, 2002
Life is full of adversity; it is how you handle it.
Love your mom, respect your mom, she can take you out.
Joined May 16, 2003
You unveiled the solution in your post.

Tell her to STFU and get booted.

Sharing DNA with someone is no reason to take their abuse.
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