Would you allow a cook you've never met to prepare your food based solely on a written recipe?

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by daverdown, Jul 27, 2014.

  1. daverdown


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    Professional Chef
    Hey, y'all... My staff and I make pre-packaged, grab-and-go health food for a company in Austin that is mostly known for serving fresh juice and smoothies-- the food accounts for about 10% of sales.  When I started with them in 2009, we had 2 shops.  I worked in the back of one of them, making the food by myself.  I now work out of a remote, commercial kitchen with 7 employees, and we have 9 shops in Austin with 4 more in the works, and we are currently opening one in Huston, and one in Brooklyn, New York with no intention to stop expanding throughout Texas and the rest of the country.

    I was under the impression that, initially, the new, out-of-town  locations would not be producing the food (only juice), but the manager of the upcoming  New York location wants to start off selling a few of my dishes, and our GM has sent me an email requesting detailed recipes and production instructions to be sent to Brooklyn.  I expressed my discomfort with the idea of having a stranger who is 1700 miles away, preparing my food without my supervision or approval, and stated that I think I should be sent to New York to accompany Mel, who is the shop manager who's job is to run new locations when they first open and get them up to company standards.  The GM's response was this:

       "With us thinking about opening more stores out of the city, Im honestly not sure how feasible it would be [for you] to travel to each new spot & show them. What would you think about a Skype call? Or teaching Mel how to make the food & having her oversee?"

    I have yet to respond.


    -First of all, Mel is a bad-a$$, firecracker of a worker/manager/human being.  We've been friends for five years, and I don't doubt her ability to learn and achieve anything she sets out to do, but she has never been a line cook, or a prep cook, or even a "sandwich artist", (she's only done juice production) and I've got guys on my staff who have been cooking for 20 years and, after being on my crew for months, still need their work checked by myself or one of my managers. The Brooklyn shop is already being staffed and I doubt there's time to train Mel appropriately.

    -Secondly, to say, "With us thinking about opening more stores out of the city, Im honestly not sure how feasible it would be [for you] to travel to each new spot & show them," implies that the bigger the company gets, the less important it will be for it's executive chef to have a hands-on connection with food production facilities and the people working in them.  Am I wrong?

    -Thirdly, it would be super fun to take a business trip and hang out with Mel in New York!

    -Fourthly, Skype call? LOL

    I'm not gonna make a big deal about this.  I have not yet talked about it to the owner of the company who is on the tail end of a month-long family vacation.  I'd like, though, to be prepared with a better idea of how a situation like this should be expected to work out.  I understand the need to be financially careful, especially when we're only starting to expand nationally, and they only want to begin with a couple food dishes in out-of-town shops, but I expect the demand for variety to grow at distant locations just as it has here in Austin where I am being moved into a larger kitchen for the second time in three years, and have been asked to expand the menu from being strictly vegan to include many new dishes involving locally sourced, naturally raised animal proteins.    

    -Should I just keep my mouth shut, give them the recipes (or train Mel to cook), and just hope for the best?  

    -What would an established corporate chain do?

    -Isn't the price of a round-trip plane ticket (and the upgrade of a hotel room from one bed to two beds) worth the security of having product consistency and quality control when trying to make an impression on a new market? 

    -How would you feel about having some kid, who was probably hired to juice carrots, make your food with nothing but written instructions and/or mildly experienced supervision?

    I don't want my ego to have an influence on how I deal with this situation, and I don't claim to understand the inner workings of the finances of the company.  Everybody in upper management has faced a huge challenge keeping up with our growth, and I'm not gonna get pissed off just because the GM doesn't understand or have the right answers right away.  I guess I'm just looking for the possible validation of my opinion that traveling could be a reasonable addition to my job description.  Keep in mind that this is a juice company, and if this were football, my operation would be merely special teams.  

    I intend to discuss this with the CFO, GM, and CEO as soon as possible.

    Any thoughts?
  2. grande


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    Sous Chef
    Here's my two ¢:
    1: you as the chef.
    You have nonidea if the location is set up to produce your food, if they have space(in NY?) or equipment (none of the other stores do) to make it, much less who is going to train the staff to make food at all, much.less YOUR food. Your name is attached to this, of course, but more important is that you have a vested interest in the overall success of the company and want to see.it done right.
    2.Changing tack.
    You produce the food for all the other stores in commisary, if i understand correctly, and now they want the store farthest away from home to produce its.own food? Why the change? Do they even understand the implications of producing food on site? I'm not saying it's a bad idea, just that it's not acasual one.
    3. If this were a chain....
    I had a friend who was an opening sous chef for the Daily Grill. When they opened a restaurant, they would fly in a sous chef for each station, to set up and train the staff. They would stay on their one station for as long as it took to make it right... days, weeks, months. Big chains might not be able to make good food, but they make darn sure its the same.
    By the way, Texas shout out, grew up in Denton, been living in Seattle since 99 though
  3. chefross


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    Former Chef
    It's your food and your recipes that are making the company grow right?

    So it stands to reason that in order to keep all your places consistently making the same product from Texas to New York, they need your

    insight, your knowledge, and your presence to keep it as such.

    Somehow you need to convince them of this. Dollar signs in the eyes always gets in the way, but I say spend a little money to train and the rest happens.
  4. flipflopgirl


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    Retired Hospitality
    Just wondering what it says re food service training in the policy and procedure manual ?

    Corporate, departmental... should be one specific to each department.

    What does it say about food service ops training?

    If there is not one pertaining to your area maybe you should write one up and present to the peeps that sit in the corner offices.

    Be serious about it.... do you really need to be onsite to train the chefs (who IMO you should be the first to interview) or can they come to the "mother ship" for instruction and then you fly up for the soft opening and put out any fires at that time.

    Believe me travel for work gets old really fast.


    OBTW... make sure you get to "own" your FF miles.

    That is IMO the big reward for all that travel.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2014
  5. chefmannydlm


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    Sous Chef
    But isn't the point of standardized recipes that anyone (at least with culinary experience) can follow them and make "your" food?  I get what you are saying but at the same time it's not as if chef with multiple restaurants are at all of them all of the time inspecting everything produced.  I would definitely try to get a trip to New York  just so you can get an idea of what they are working with.
  6. grande


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    Sous Chef
    I would agree with you chef manny, except it sounds like they don't have an established procedure to set up new foodservice spots. Flipflopgirl hit the nail on the head, if they don't have a procedure, thats what needs to be developed, IMO