Young sous chef, need advice!

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by freshbaked, Jun 20, 2016.

  1. freshbaked

    freshbaked

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    Hey guys, I'm 21, female, and graduating from Culinary School next week! My current workplace is opening another concept in 5 weeks and I have been asked to be the sous chef. I feel confident about my abilities but I'm worried about getting grown men to listen to me or take me seriously. Any tips/advice for a young chef? Much appreciated.
     
  2. chefross

    chefross

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    Welcome to Cheftalk freshbaked.

    You have a long road ahead of you.

    Firstly, know you are not a Sous Chef freshly graduated from culinary school.

    I hate to say that your current workplace has given you a name...pure and simple.

    You are going to have to grow into that name through hard work and respect.

    I can't tell you what to say or do to earn the respect of your peers. That's something that is either part of your personality or not and only you can figure that out.

    Worry is useless energy. Try not to think about that. Be clean, Work clean, Never ask someone to do something you wouldn't be willing to do yourself as well....( and that means cleaning toilets if need be)

    Best regards and good luck
     
  3. jimyra

    jimyra

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    "Firstly, know you are not a Sous Chef freshly graduated from culinary school."  Chefross is it possible that if she started at sixteen in this kitchen she might be a sous chef?  That would be five years experience on top of culinary school.
     
  4. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    Hello and congratulations to you!! What an exciting opportunity for someone so young. No matter what happens remember that someone thought enough of you to put you in this position and they would not have done so if you hadn't earned it. There will be good days and there will be bad days, but nobody can take that away from you although Chefross just tried a little didn't he? No I'm not down for that at all, you've been given a job that was deemed appropriate for you amongst all your peers. So the skills are there and you'll find a way to grow into them over time.

    The advice I have to offer is not kitchen related because I've never worked in a pro kitchen, I'm just a humble home cook. But, I am a woman in charge of my own business and being a chick in charge is an uphill battle no matter your profession. First realize there are some people who will never take you seriously no matter how great you are at your job. It's a fact of life and although we do much to combat this evil it will probably always reside in the shadows so we must find ways to cope. If you're nice and apologetic you'll get railroaded over. If you're tough and decisive you'll be called a b****. Everything you do will be under scrutiny, along with how you look and what your personal life is like.

    I know it is in your personality to earn respect, respect is a human right so just be yourself and do your job unapologetically and fairly. I disagree that worry is useless, it's a nervous energy that can be channelled into great action. I'm quite a worry wart on the inside and on the outside I'm perceived as a tough cookie. Stress in not good on your body so find ways to cope with that (I meditate and exercise) but don't be afraid about worrying or even crying. Most importantly do not be afraid to stand up for yourself. Men will do terrible things to make you feel small but if you call them out on it they will stop, that's my experience. Rise above.
     
  5. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    Good luck with the new job! I'm not going to get into anything about if your totally experienced for this job. They offer, you took, lets get to work. At 21 years old this will be a tough position for awhile. What you need to do is be professional and not go in as being everyones friend. I would recommend you work along side your cooks being a part of the kitchen just like they are. Everyone likes the idea of everyone working toward the same goals. The problem with kitchens are, one or two people think they are doing everything and everyone else is a lazy ass that gets away with everything. In your case organization is a real key with the idea these are the rules and we "all" follow the rules. The employees will test you until you break. If you know this you can be one step ahead of the game. Managing employees is the worst part of running a kitchen. There are a lot of strong personalities running around, you need to be the calm one. At this point the best thing for you to get would be a mentor. At 21 years old you don't have all the skills needed to manage a crew. Managing a kitchen isn't like managing a Verizon store. Find a person you can talk with that knows the business and hardships you will have on your plate daily. This will help you and give you a chance to talk things over and get the best results for each problem that arises. If being a Sous Chef was only about cooking I wouldn't worry as much. When you throw in managing employees it could be your worst nightmare...........Chef Bill
     
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  6. mike9

    mike9

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    Welcome to Cheftalk and congratulations on your new challenge!  Do you know the new chef?  Have you worked with any of the crew before? Like any new concept there will be a shake out period, but so as long as you know that going in you can ride the waves till your team get things running smooth.  Remember this is a team sport from the foh to the boh everyone is a spoke on the same wheel.  As co-captain you have an opportunity to learn and direct at the same time.  Ask questions and get feedback from your team and confer with your captain.  That will help direct what's best for the concept - that's your end game.  Worry is a waste of energy and so is anger - good luck and be water. 
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2016
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  7. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    Doubt yourself and you will foster doubt. You can't make people listen to listen to you, but quiet confidence and ability to do the job will tend to induce teamwork. The more that teamwork occurs, the more that listening occurs. Also remember that listening is a two way street. Environment is filter down and it starts with you.
     
  8. freshbaked

    freshbaked

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    Well, Chefross, regardless of what you say or how you feel, I was also given responsibilities to go with that title... So it's not so much of a name is it?

    As to reply to some of the other responses, I have been working is restaurants since I was 16. I met the executive chef of this new concept (that I was offered the job) who was working on menu items in our prep kitchen, after a few days of good conversation and watching me work, he asked me to have a seat with him. We talked about culinary school and how I learned a lot, but was disappointed overall by the lack of challenge. We discussed the new concept and I asked if this restaurant will follow a more traditional brigade system (executive chef, sous chef, etc.) and he replied "I would like it tO, but I still have to pass that by [the owner]" (my current workplace does not have official sous chefs, just a kitchen manager and a few line cooks who think they know everything)

    A few days later he came up to me and said, "I have a challenge for you" and offered me the position to be his sous chef. The company has never formally hired a sous chef before but the head chef is very experienced, a total wealth of knowledge, and has offered to take me under his wing (and throw me into the fire at the same time). So, I realize this wasn't a traditional interview/offer, and he is "throwing me a bone" but I did earn this, there are responsibilities that EVERY other sous chef I have met before must and follow the chef is eager to teach me everything he knows... How could I refuse?
     
  9. freshbaked

    freshbaked

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    Thanks for your response! I do know the chef, we met a few weeks ago while he was working on menu items in our prep kitchen. We had good conversation, and more than anything I think chef sees my loyalty and ability to work hard. As for the rest of the crew, so far I don't know any of them. I'm glad this opportunity comes with a new restaurant so everyone will be the new kid, so to speak.
     
  10. panini

    panini

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    @freshbaked  , 

    A Sous is really an extension of the Chef with additional duties.

    These are just my personal thoughts. I think these are the two most important things for you to succeed and accomplish your job description.
    1. Have a serious sit down with the Chef. Teaching and training is one thing, but
    you need to leave that first meeting knowing the Chef has your back unconditionally.
    1. First meeting with crew has to include you and the Chef. The chain of command must be addressed. Every crew member (whether new or from within) has to confirm they understand the chain. The Chef must express that you have his unconditional support on all issues.
    A lot of young hires fail due to having their authority undermined. Cutting off this type

    of action at the knees in the beginning will alleviate some of the natural resentment that will be in the crew. They will think twice before they try you.
     
  11. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    A sous chef needs to be the best cook in the kitchen, a beast. You need to know the menu better and do it faster than anyone else, be able to guide or correct your cooks when things are wrong.

    Don't walk away at the end of the night, help the crew close up. I know that is one of the biggest resentments from cooks is when the chef or sous disappear at closing. Even if you have other stuff to do, help them out for a bit then take off and finish your paperwork, ordering, etc. This goes a long way to boost morale.
     
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  12. chefross

    chefross

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    She may very well be a Sous Chef, but only there at that place.

    My response to this pattern where job titles are handed out with abandon without the experience and qualifications has left me confused.

    I went back and re-read the original thread...

    "Hey guys, I'm 21, female, and graduating from Culinary School next week! My current workplace is opening another concept in 5 weeks and I have been asked to be the sous chef. I feel confident about my abilities but I'm worried about getting grown men to listen to me or take me seriously. Any tips/advice for a young chef? Much appreciated."

    No where in that thread does it say anything about working in a kitchen since 16 years old.

    That did not come up until several threads later.

    I responded to what was initially posted.

    What do we know? That this is a 21 year old female who's going to graduate from culinary school next week. She has a job and has been asked to be a Sous Chef for a new concept.

    Explain please how YOU would take this?
     
  13. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    I have to side with Chefross on this.  Sure, I have a known a couple of chefs that took their first Sous job right out of culinary school and they excelled and went on to much better things, but for the majority of those that have gone this route, they have regretted it.  They took a Sous job fresh out of school only to regret it.  Firstly, when they left that restaurant future employers saw their very short resume and deemed they as not "having enough experience".  This resulted in those people having to take major pay cuts as most of the jobs offered were line cook positions or, if offered Sous positions, it was at lower level restaurants.  Now I'm not dogging little neighborhood joints, I love them, but if you have greater ambitions this is not the route to take.  Secondly, I've seen many a restaurant owner and chef prey on culinary school grads, offering them "Sous chef" positions.  They often underpay these people, who jump too quickly at the title chef, and work them to the bone since they are on salary and all they really are is a glorified cook-the one that always gets stuck staying late to complete tasks as they are salaried and the other cooks are salary.

    Again, I am not saying that it can't work out, but more often than not (from what I've seen) it does not work out well in the long run.
     
  14. Iceman

    Iceman

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    Don't worry about vocabulary words. If you can do the job ... that's it. You can do the job. Skills trump everything else.

    "We work in kitchens ... It ain'te rocket surgery."
     
  15. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    A so called Sous Chef in one kitchen couldn't shin the shoes of another Sous Chef in another kitchen. This business loves titles that allows our egos to fly high in April and get shot down in May. The only time I needed a Chef was in multiunit operations or large hotel with a lot of catering. In a smaller operation I just need people I could trust to get the job done. The front line cooks would never get anything done without someone keeping an eye on them. Every Chef needs that person that just follows through and gets it done. If a person wants to call that person a Sous Chef so be it. 
     
  16. jimyra

    jimyra

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    Chef Ross,

    I think Pete's post is right on.  I have found that youngsters put in charge have trouble managing and leading.  That is something that usually comes with experience.   There are exceptions.
     
  17. panini

    panini

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    @ChefBillyB, Spot on!   

    For the giver of Titles, it alleviates some of the guilt associated with the abuse of long hours and under compensation.
    Over the past decades in this business, I've learned to separate the terms experience and maturity. A person can have 50 yrs. worth of experience and not be able to manage others.

    I personally feel management is 30% knowledge of task at hand and 70% maturity. A Sous Chef is part of a management team. As far as being the best cook or beast in the kitchen, let's face

    it, kitchen tasks are all very similar.

    A great manager is one that has reached his or her level of maturity. I feel age has nothing to do with being a good manager

    With maturity comes an awareness of the environment. Always conscience of gaining organizational skills.

    The ability to identify strengths and weaknesses and address them with associates. Having an open mind.

    Taking responsibility for all mistakes. I've witnessed kitchens crash and burn when cooks are afraid to make mistakes. Humans can't learn without making mistakes.

    Basically grounded with the ability to address issues with a calmness but not losing site when there's a senseof urgency.

    I have had numerous young managers overseeing employees decades older and experienced.

    Just my thoughts. Over the last 10+ yrs. I have met many very mature 19-20-21 yr. olds. but I've also seen quite a gap between the younger mature and people the same age that appear

    to be very childish.
     
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  18. freshbaked

    freshbaked

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    [quote name="Pete" url="/t/89792/young-sous-chef-need-advice#post_540236" Secondly, I've seen many a restaurant owner and chef prey on culinary school grads, offering them "Sous chef" positions.  They often underpay these people, who jump too quickly at the title chef, and work them to the bone since they are on salary and all they really are is a glorified cook-the one that always gets stuck staying late to complete tasks as they are salaried and the other cooks are salary.

    [/quote]

    Thanks for your honest feedback, that definitely gives me some things to think about. Since my current manager is bitter, thinking that I was "stolen" from her restaurant to work at the other (I gave her my 2 weeks and THEN was offered a spot at the new concept) the chef, owner, and myself will not be talking full details of the sous position until later this week, to avoid "stepping on [my managers] toes"...
    Now I know there are a LOT of things that play a role in this situation but what do you THINK I can/should expect my salary to be? I'm in Phoenix, Arizona, graduated with high honors from culinary school, have worked in restaurants for 5 years. This is a new concept for this business, but the original chain has 19 locations and is a $50 million profit/year company. I know that I will be helping chef write the menu, and plan menu items, but I don't know my full job description when the restaurant opens (I will find out later this week)... Any ballpark range would be appreciated, just not sure what to expect.
     
  19. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    fb, job description and what you can accomplish is the key for you at 21 years old. I would not only look at what their vision is for you but, also vision what you expect your position to be. What you don't want is to be a baby sitter with no input and the Chef getting all the credit. This will end up with you walking into the job with high hopes and leaving you with a bad taste. Listen to all these Chefs that will tell you that promises are many and follow through are few. I think a 41,600 would be a nice start.
     
  20. Iceman

    Iceman

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    $41,600 ...???  

    I'll be happier than happy to take that.  I'm 54-yo though, and my experience is only since the mid-'70's.