To give or not to give

Joined Mar 17, 2010
So I've had this cook who for the last 9 months of working for me has gone from extremely promising to abysmal and I'm just waiting out the last days until he moves back home.  He's younger, came in with a lot of ambition which seems to be fed by the whole celebrity chef culture and thought he was the hottest thing since sliced bread (lots of attitude, ego).  Over time it came to light that he was improperly rotating raw proteins, not seasoning his food, talking back to management on the regular and just generally doing a half-assed job.  He finally put in the notice and when he did, he asked my boss, the owner, if he would give a referral/recommendation to his next prospective employer.  My boss said it was up to me and I've since marinated on the subject for a couple days and while my inner compassionate self wants to help him out, the fact is he did a crap job and spread a lot of negativity through my kitchen during the process.  Aside from confirming the person's employment, I feel no desire to go out of my way to praise or recommend this individual.  How have some of you approached bad apples like this?
Joined Jul 28, 2001
Consciously spreading negativity?

It doesn't matter if his next employer was my best competition or my worst enemy in the field, I just don't pass on baggage. Yes, Johnny worked with us for 9 months, period.
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Joined Dec 23, 2004
+1.  You aren't doing him any favors in the long run, and you're helping to pass the buck along to the next chef.  Plus, I wouldn't personally vouch for someone that I didn't believe word has to mean something.  For legal reasons I'd give the dates of employment but that would be it.
Joined Jan 6, 2015
If you wanted to avoid friction and oblige him but still be fair to his next chef, you could provide a reference which says something like "he is a free thinker" and "not afraid to challenge authority".

Prima facie, it looks like a positive reference but most chefs will interpret that to mean stay well clear. Also, what chef would want someone who, as per the reference, won't listen to instruction?

Joined Aug 21, 2004
I wouldn't personally vouch for someone that I didn't believe word has to mean something.  For legal reasons I'd give the dates of employment but that would be it.
This is spot on. It also speaks volumes about the employee, due to it's brevity, without bringing on any potential legal issues.

A great employee, I can actually speak volumes about, using extra words, without worrying about legal issues.
Joined Apr 7, 2015
ive been in the same position.

I gave hire and last day dates....and that was it.  I did not feel right "giving a recommendation" as i did not feel it was equal to what was demonstrated.
Joined Feb 22, 2014
I should emphasize that he's also trying out for a pretty high end place where they won't take even half as much of his crap so even if he gets the job with it without my help, there will be some important lessons. It's just a waiting game at this point.
Joined Apr 1, 2012
There are simply too many people who do not have what it takes to be in this industry.  Personally, I wouldn't have given him the chance to make it to this point, once he was not a valuable member of my staff, he would have been let go.

A little back ground: I have 30 years in the industry.  Started in Canada where cooks are regulated as a skilled trade by the government.  I've worked as a corporate chef with large hotel chains, with CMC's, and in 27 different countries.  I currently own my restaurant, and teach at a Culinary College.

If you don't stop him now... he is doomed to be a second rate cook for the rest of his life. There are too many talented, hardworking, deserving individuals out there to do favours for some one like you describe.

I am tired of seeing 60 year old line cooks who never owned a house or a car.  Unless this guys changes his ways, that is where he will end up. 

If I were in your shoes and really wanted to help... this is what I would do.  I would sit him down and explain that the reference I provide would only hurt his chances at any new job.  I would then offer him the opportunity to change the situation.  I would suggest he postpone his resignation for two months.  At the end of which I would write him a letter of reference that was a reflection of those two months.  Take it or leave it.

I truly believe that our profession (cooking) is one of the most difficult there is.  I have respect for anyone who chooses to do it for a living... but many shouldn't.
Joined Feb 22, 2014
I'm pretty sure the only things the state laws allow you to comment on are the dates they were employed and if they're eligible for rehire. Weird.
Joined Jun 29, 2015
Coming from someone who did everything I was supposed to. Who work hard, clean and fast. Who followed directions and made effort to learn and become better but stayed humble, but got FIRED from my first ESC position for "showing up to work" I now have the experience but zero references. There are too many people who actually deserve the recommendation, rather then some dirt bag hot shot who doesn't.
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