One day last week while trying to recover from a difficult day at work with a cold Ommegang Hennepin and a fine turkey and Swiss on great peasant bread. I admitted that I quit quitting drinking. I’ve been having a beer after work or a glass or two of wine with dinner. Probably more than I should but not nearly as much as I’d like, but that topic is for another post.
Last week wasn’t busy, but it was stressful. I really won’t go into too much detail about what happened, but it caused me anxiety above and beyond my normally abnormal level. What did transpire has caused me to look at the role of the chef in a non-chef owned restaurant.
We are considered management level employees that are typically in close communication with ownership. Over the years of my career I have found myself talking with my employers about many things from baseball, to literature, to farm raised pork, to the Gypsy Kings, to the existence (or non-existence) of God.
I have also spent a great deal of time talking about personnel and the issues that go along with those people who do the largest portion of work in restaurants. Dishwashers, cooks, servers, food runners, hostesses, and bussers make up the bulk of the workforce in our business and the leading of those individuals takes a large deal of effort from management.
As I have typically been a chef with ownership above me I guess you can call me middle management. I should probably go to JC Penny and get a short-sleeved button down and a polyester tie, so I can look the part. Middle management is exactly what it says, the middle.
I sometimes find myself working to advocate for individuals who work under me. Believe me, I do not advocate for just anyone at any time. I do choose worthy people, or people I believe are worthy. I’m often right, but I also get burned on occasion. One of the things that can sway my thinking is the possibility of an individual getting fired or quitting and the domino effect it will have. I also do try to watch out for people I think deserve a bit of leeway in life.
On the other hand, I am paid to do what is best for the restaurant and paid to the things I’m asked to do. I’m also obligated to accept the decisions that are made and to work within the framework set by ownership. It’s an easy equation when we agree, but as individual thinkers we do not always. It’s those times when I must decide who is worthy of my support and who is not.
The chef emails everyone the weekend specials on Wednesday or Thursday. The chef posts a paper copy on the wall. The chef asks if there are any questions about the specials at pre-meal. A server asks the chef to explain the specials at 8:00 pm.
Trying to change the oil in a fryer at 7:30 on a Friday (or any other night is a bad idea. It can be done, but I don’t recommend it. I made the mistake of giving an individual a bucket we use for the old oil, so we can bring it to be recycled. I wasn’t considering that he may pour the hot oil directly into it before putting into a pot to cool. Hot oil in bucket, bucket on floor, oil on floor. It’s a good thing it’s a small table-top fryer with only three quarts of oil.
I started my work day on Friday by discovering that the garde manger cooler had shit the bed during the night. My kitchen staff did a great job reprepping everything in time for service. Thank you for the effort!
Question: When the weather is beautiful do you give up some food quality and go to a restaurant that may not have great food to sit on a patio? I do.
On Thursday we had far fewer indoor tables than we had on the patio which turned over several times. The dining experience on gorgeous days includes people watching, a warm breeze and sunshine on your face.
Gossip and hearsay are like water. It goes its own way and is only as good as its source.
Gossip is unlike water in that the more it passes through filters the poorer quality it becomes.
Here I am in the middle.
The middle of a new week that is, and things look good. We have a new cooler which takes a load of stress away. I’m now working on rounding out the summer kitchen staff that has a solid core. I’m also, with the help of my team putting the finishing touches on a new menu.
We’re going to have a busy, and smooth summer season.