Monday, October 18, 2004

The Sound of Silence

Let me preface this with I used to be a screamer. I was one of the bad ones. I would scream at cooks, dishwashers , general managers( my favorites) and waitpeople like they were totally worthless. I rarely scream anymore. I lose my shit sometimes , but all in all I generally go about shit in a concentrating state of controlled frustration. Part of the growing process as a chef is realizing screaming does nothing to make people learn. All it does is make you look like an out of control asshole. I have no need anymore to give instruction with the hint of "look how much I know". I've already proven what I know by being where I am. I have nothing to prove to anyone. Thomas Keller is one of the most notorious screamers of all time and even he realized you get the point across more with quiet, obvious dissatisfaction. For some reason it's more insulting . Being a chef is being a HOPEFUL role model for a generation of cooks. All I ask is they show up on time with a good attitude. I don't expect them to do as much in as little time as me, if they could, they wouldn't be working FOR me. I've been in kitchens for 24 years. Longer than some have been alive. You can't make someone you. You can't make them think like you. You set a standard for yourself and the only person that has to live up to that IS you. Don't get me wrong, I still want to wring cooks necks when they move slow or work in clutter or don't multi-task in a logical and sensible order i.e. Don't put your braises off, do them first. If your mincing shallots, do you have the chocolate melting for the petit fours, the onions caramelizing and the pasta dough kneading at the same time? Are you prepping for today or is that a given and you're thinking about the next day? If not, you're behind. Chances are they are not. So what are you gonna do? Give them shit until they quit? Give yourself more headaches hoping the next guy shows up? No. Deal with it. Lighting a fire under someone's ass is waaay different than condescending to them and making them feel like shit. We have an unbelievable workload and my cooking staff consists of me, my sous chef and two cooks. that's 2. not twelve, not twenty. We cure our own meats. Make all our own chacrouterie. We buy nothing pre-portioned. Pastas, desserts, petit fours, even crackers for our cheese plates are made in house. Lunch, dinner a separate bar menu every day. On weekends, mind warpingly labor intensive specials are the norm. They even help produce small sub menus that occur when I need to satisfy the few and far between "foodie". Then they help the dishdog. The fact that we produce as much as we do is mind boggling, so that in itself is testament to their dedication to the restaurant, myself and the kitchen I run. My cooks get props because they don't have attitudes. We all do what needs to be done. They are individuals and need to be respected as such. I'll take them over any primadonas that think they're above doing anything that needs to be done. Sure, I'll still give them shit if they do something truly boneheaded, but I don't insult them. Usually anyway. They know me and they know I'm there also. They don't have the luxury of thinking they do all the work. If they are having a bad day, we all like to think.."leave that shit at home". Ask yourself, do you? Not always. It's not possible. You can't be pissed at them because everyone can't coordinate the bad personal days. All you can do is tell what to do, hope it gets done and if it doesn't, look at the big picture. Break it down to the upcoming service. Just get through it, make your customers happy( except the shitheads, send them straight to Hell) and do it all again tomorrow and tomorrow I'll have to tell show them how to clean the sea urchins again and tell them, make sure they bake of the creme brulees while they're cleaning up. Again. It's just not that big a deal as it will always get done.
I like a quiet , busy, on top of your shit service. Screaming means you're not on top of your shit. It puts people on edge and they can't do their best. Everyone loses.
Waiters are your salespeople and they do a job that we simply couldn't. If I had to put up with what they have to take, I would end up just beating the living shit out of a customer. I'm generally a little less lenient on the waiters because a) They're the face of the restaurant on a more constant level b) I buy them all the tools they need to do their job and they reward me by breaking all my shit c) They make lot's of money with my tools. But still, put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Just a minute though. As long as the customer likes them and they provide good service, fuck what you think of them personally. They are the ones that handsell a chefs work. Without them it's a broken machine.
Of course, there are employee exceptions to any rule, but either the problem or the people will naturally weed itself out. If not, don't scream , just SACK THEIR ASSES!


Blogger Rikibeth said...

Screaming means you're not on top of your shit. It puts people on edge and they can't do their best. Everyone loses.

Could you maybe explain this one to MY boss?

7:07 PM  
Blogger zezrie said...

My husband was a chef for 33 years, starting off as a prep cook and working his way up. During our marriage, I saw both the screamer executive chefs, and the true pros. Your truly are the latter. Too bad he didn't know you.

7:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still lose it on occasion. I just don't let my ego or point proving be the source of it.


10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your posts are hilarious and all true. It reminds me why I had to get out! Funny thing is it doesn't matter what business your in, they always come in 5 minutes before you close and ask for something you don't have. Dealing with the public has made me behave more properly I hope when it comes to considering the people that are working!Bravo Chef

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think screaming is totally necessary sometimes. I don't do it because I am the Executive Chef and I can do whatever I want, I do it because I care. My life is my work and it is truly all I ever think about. I spend countless hours researching and improving my menu. I rarely get a day off and if I do chances are good I'm in the prep area trying to figure out the next set of specials. I am the face of the restaurant. Sure some people come back because of really good service but they won't if the food is shit. I really want the wait staff to kick ass and make a ton of money both for the establishment and themselves but for those few ignorant wait staff I have choice words. If we, the kitchen, put up really good food please run it promptly, read all the sheets I give you about the specials and don't refuse to try anything. I wish they would remember they work for me not the other way around.
As for the post directly above, I have heard that immitation is the greatest form of flattery. Personally I choose to think that is a load of shit. I think it shows that you are such an unoriginal, unintelligent, uncreative drone. A sheep if you will, one that should be on my butchers block. Generally, I don't take pleasure in carving up such stupid animals but in this case I think I would. The TRUE Bravo Chef

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, you scream because you can't motivate your staff any other way. If a chef doesn't scream, he doesn't care? Where did you come up with that silliness? Wanna care? Put your house, your car , your investors money, your entire careers's worth of money on line. Don't tell me about screaming chief until you have a reason to scream. As the owner I have 10 times the things to scream about.One of them would be you. Rarely get a day off? Who's fault is that? I work a double every day and I do it for free. I don't get paid.Ever..
I don't scream because I don't have. I hire people who I don't have to scream at. Why do you scream? Your're in charge of the kitchen, if shit isn't together it's your fault. Not anyone else's. your's.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? That's the biggest load of shit any thief has ever shoveled.


4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like when people have to apply monikers to themselves.
I also like when they repeat everything thing they've read and claim to be original. Your posts rock chef!Bravo

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh wise one please impart some of your infinite wisdom on me. You seem to have walked down the path that has ultimatley enlightened you and led you to see the errors of your ways.
Evidently reading for context is something of a new thing. The key word in my first sentence is SOMETIMES. I am not a total tyrant that gets off yelling everyday. I don't stand behind my apprentices with a big stick praying that this will help motivate them to work harder or faster. My greeting to the wait staff is a big FUCK YOU as a replacement for Hello. The whole point of that post was to say sometimes raising your voice is necessary. You say you have invested everything in your restaurant and that is all you want to do. Well, tell me this if your staff fucks up huge you are going to raise your voice? As for staff motivation, if you want to give your staff high fives and pats on the ass be my guest. Personally that's not my thing. Everyone in my kitchen knows what is expected of them. Should they fail to meet the requirements I will help them. If they fuck up huge they will hear about. I don't mind an honest mistake but sheer stupidity is not tolerated. You can give your cooks and servers all the "timeouts" you want in hopes that they might think about what they did. As for originality I suggest that you put away your copy of Kitchen Confidential. Bravo Chef

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank for realizing what I was saying. Yes, I have indeed walked down the path of enlightenment, but only when it comes to yelling and acting like some macho dick in the kitchen. Think my kitchen is some kind of new age sensitivty training ground? You'ld be suprised how wrong you are. I'll leave the ass patting for you. I happy you are also able to absorb context as I said "I rarely scream anymore" which would mean that I occasionally do scream. My point was I used to do it religeously. I also used to heave pans full force across the kitchen. I simply don't do that shit anymore. If my waitstaff or cooks fuck up, It doesn't mean shit in the whole scheme of things and it rarely makes it to the customer before I catch it and fix it. I've worked for the best screamers in the business, some so bad I had to pull my car over and vomit before I went in to work. It's bullshit and you know it. If you don't think so, grow the fuck up.
As far as the Kitchen Confidential reference, I appreciate the similarities you seem to draw. My rantings and experiences certainly are similar but all of our's are. It was an ok read, kind of far fetched though, especially the part about kitchens so hot the exhaust hoods regularly burst into flames and line cooks routinely passed out on the line. Again though, thanks


8:32 PM  
Blogger jaxun said...

Not 30 minutes after reading this post and coming across the term "foodies" for the first time EVER, I caught a Campbell's Select commercial that referred to "foodies". What the FUCK, AC?!? I know it's not just the tequila this time! I feel compelled to explore the significance of this particular synchronicity.

Foodies, indeed. Sho nuff one o' them, I ain't. Pass the kethcup and A1. My filet mignon is a little... bland.

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll tell you what they're not, They're not the asswipes that appear on Campbell's soup commercials.


9:44 AM  
Blogger SweetKali said...

Wow! Your SILENCE post just blew me away...the sheer passion and 'rightness' which you evidenced towards your past behaviour on the job. I even mentioned your blog and and your powerful post in MY new blog entitled LEMONS AND VIOLETS at;( It's still in development at the moment so you may not be able to access it just yet.

you opened your eyes and took a good long and fresh look at SELF and realized your actions towards others revealed your true fears and weaknesses. If only others with these type of issues would do the same; the workplace would be a healthier and more fulfilling place. Keep up the good writing! SweetKali

11:27 PM  
Blogger As ever, your friend said...

I probably love you although it is too soon to tell.

2:46 AM  
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