Young kitchen manager. In need of advice.

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by mongoose, Mar 17, 2013.

  1. mongoose


    Likes Received:
    Restaurant Manager
    I recently pushed for promotions at both of my jobs. I got them both which was unexpected. I was offered kitchen manager positions at both jobs. One a high end, high volume, healthy cafe. The other a family owned inn on the line of fine dining and casual.
    I ended up picking the latter due to money reasons and hopes I would learn more at a culinary level, weighed against learning the business of the cafe.

    I am only 21, with about 6 years kitchen experience. I know I don't know everything and think everyone has something to teach me. I think my success in the kitchen rests in the fact that I am always trying to learn, and have learned something from everyone I have worked with. I started off at a deli when I was 15, ended up managing it at 18. Got a job at a real nice fine dining place where the chef took interest in teaching me because I was eager to learn and truly listened.

    Anyway back to the advice I am looking for. I was promoted over certain people who feel like I was not the best person for the job. One is a line cook who has been a great help since he started, and honestly he has a better palette then I. He knows techniques for the type of cooking we are doing that I am still learning a lot from him. And I have told him this..(which I probably should not have. Went right to his ego.) he is older and has more experience but I was chosen for the job. Next up there is someone who has 37 years experience in The same kitchen.. Yes the kitchen we are currently working in. He doesn't show any resistance but it is real hard to tell someone how to do things when they have literally been doing it since before I was born... In that same kitchen. Next up, we hired the woman who was a kitchen manager when I first started as a prep/line cook. She acts like she is just there to help, but I have a feeling of their doubts.

    I believe I got the job because I do know what I am doing, and have learned a lot. I keep a level head at all times and I can run a line. That's where i shine. But on a culinary level I know there are people better then me in my kitchen and recognize this. Because honestly I am still learning from them.

    I apologize for the long post, but I guess what I need help with is that I feel like people are doubting me. I don't doubt myself, I know I can run this kitchen. But I feel the need to act superior to claim dominance of my kitchen, while this is not me. I still have the principals that I can learn from everyone even the dishwasher. But I want other people to recognize my authority without me having to be mean.
  2. squirrelrj

    squirrelrj Banned

    Likes Received:
    Sous Chef
    You do doubt yourself, or else you wouldn't have made this post.

    Just do what you do best, don't worry about everyone else. If they don't do things correct, tell them to do it a certain why, and why you want it like that.

    Somebody saw something in you, or else you wouldn't have gotten the promotion(s).
  3. recky


    Likes Received:
    I must admit, I would have a certain amount of self-doubt if I were in your position, and I do think this is healthy, unless it's the all-dominating feeling. In any industry, oftentimes those are promoted that the management believe to have the right mindset and leadership skills, and not necessarily those with lots of hands-on experience. It may well be difficult to exert your authority over those with far more experience, but my stance would be to do this on a friendly basis. Let them know that you completely and utterly respect their skills and experience and that the business depends on these. Possibly even ask for their advice on things that they are more knowledgeable about, just make sure that the last word is always yours. Depending on those guys' personalities, there may be friction at times. Hopefully you will have the management's backing when you have to make unpopular decisions, but also support your kitchen staff with any (reasonable) gripes towards management. If you play this right, you will garner respect from both sides, yet ensure you don't end up the piggy in the middle.

    Sounds like an interesting challenge for you at this time in your life from which you can learn a lot. Good luck!

  4. junglist


    Likes Received:
    Professional Chef
    I went through a similar scenario; years ago I started out as a catering cook in a kitchen that did about $20K sales on a normal day. Six months later I was promoted to KM, and had to supervise 20+ employees in BOH during the busiest shift, in addition to some responsibilities in FOH. And I was promoted over people who had easily 10+ years working at the establishment. 

    One part that made this job one of my favorites I've ever had, was the relations between myself and the other employees. I was already aware of their work-ethic, reliability, and just overall good nature, and so always treated them with respect. In turn they treated me the same, and never had a problem tackling tasks I asked of them, even as far-fetched as some of those requests were. When we were in the weeds, I knew I could rely on them, and them me.

    Like Squirrel and Recky have mentioned, your superiors recognized a quality in you for you to get your promotion. Exercise your authority, but in a respectful way, keep communication open with your co-workers, and just because you are a kitchen manager now, don't hesitate to jump in and get your hands dirty when needed. This will help show why you got the position.

    When you see mistakes made, be sure to point them out and constructively share what needs to be fixed. Likewise, don't forget to pass on a 'good job' when warranted; those two words go a long way and IMHO aren't expressed enough in today's workplaces.
  5. mano


    Likes Received:
    Mongoose, If they wanted a manager to "act superior to claim dominance of my kitchen" they would've picked someone else. The best managers are not usually best at any one thing, but they bring out the best of everything. In fact, some of the worst managers are those that are promoted because they're the best at a particular skill, but they don't know how to organize a kitchen, order, put their own issues aside and get along with people.

    Be who you were all along. Enjoy the job, get knocked on your ass, deal with difficult people, brush yourself off and move forward. 
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2013
  6. leeniek


    Likes Received:
    Professional Chef
    I agree with Mano...

    Do what you do and do it well, and never stop learning.