Life in the restaurant business in rarely without drama. No matter how hard you try to minimize it, it flares up at varied times for various reasons. It’s often easy to deal with, but sometimes there are conflicting solutions within your own head. We are not always one person with one view of a situation.
Is there a difference between Dominic the chef and the Dominic the person?
I know the answer. Well, I sort of know the answer. It’s impossible to separate yourself from your occupation and think only as one or the other. I wish I could sometimes. What’s best for Dominic the chef is not always what I as a person would like to be able to do.
As a person I would like to like everybody, like to accept everybody, and like to help everybody. The problem is Dominic the Chef has requirements and responsibilities.
Over the years I have had an awful lot of people working under me in a lot of kitchens. It’s true that our workforce predominantly people with few marketable skills outside the kitchen. There’s nowhere I could work at my salary level with my skill set. All I know how to do is cook and manage a kitchen.
It’s not that kitchen people aren’t smart, it’s that so many of us commit to the restaurant life early and never develop other skills. One of the reasons however that so many people commit early is that it’s a place where people who drink hard, use drugs, may have dropped out of school, and are occasionally acquainted with law enforcement personnel. There’s a bond among that group, a group too often straddled with difficult upbringings, broken homes, low-income families, and/or a series of emotional problems.
Within that group I’ve continued to employ a lot of people who would otherwise be fired from any other job. It’s hard getting a solid and reliable dishwasher or line cook. So, rather than churn through cooks and dishdogs I’ve often put up with some crap.
The other reason Dominic the chef often put up with the misgivings of many dishwashers, cooks, and even sous chefs is that Dominic the person is a human being with feelings for others. I’ve often tried to accommodate the shortcomings of employees because I’ve looked at their lives with empathy and perhaps a bit of sympathy. I’ve always looked at others and been able to put myself in their shoes either through imagination or even through experience.
It’s difficult when you have control over whether someone has a job or not. Knowing that putting someone out of work may cause hardship on top of an already difficult life just ain’t easy. I’ve always considered the person’s life I’m dealing with when making decisions at work as it relates to my subordinates.
Writing on this subject was prompted by a dilemma I have been wrestling with. See, I have been wanting to replace one of my kitchen staff. The problem was that another employee depended on him for a ride to work. So, my quandary was do I put up with someone who didn’t meld with my style in order to keep a guy I liked or do I risk losing him if I let the other person go. The guy I didn’t want to lose necessarily would find a bit of hardship in unemployment. Dominic the person was being patient while Dominic the Chef knew what was best. The bottom line is that my loyalty is to my employer, to myself, to my coworkers, and to our customers. I try to provide a great work environment and treat my crew with respect and understanding, but was recently reminded that how everyone gets to work in the long-term is not my responsibility.
As it turned out, the individual who need to go decided that Monday would be his last shift and the time to leave was as service was beginning. Unfortunately, or so I thought it was unfortunate at the time, the other individual decided he should go with him for the ride. My advice is that if you’re going to follow someone, make sure it’s someone on the right path before you set out. Your mentor should have a record of success that you’d like to mimic in your own style. Best wishes, and I sincerely hope both of you find your way in life.
Yesterday I started training my new sous chef, a quality individual that I’ve worked with before. Also my new garde manger, who has tons of promise and an actual desire to work. She’s going to be a star.
I typically have plan B in place for most situations.
Such is life in the restaurant business.
Have a great day. Both Dominics are looking forward to a quiet, neat, and professional kitchen.