I have written here about my first boss at a waitressing + cooking job, and what a crazy neurotic joke that was.
A few months back, I had another foray into unbelievably incompetent chef-bosses.
(I should mention, between those two jobs, I worked as a line cook at a great restaurant with an awesome boss, and I loved it, even though it kicked my a**.)
I applied to one of those vague Craigslist ads for a cafe in town (for reference, a SMALL town, with no really good cafes or restaurants in my experience). Supposed to be a cooking job, experience preferred. I googled the reviews on the place. It turned out to be more or less a deli/motel, featuring sandwiches, with fresh-baked muffins and the like in the morning, and some hot meals at night (like burgers cooked ahead of time and microwaved to order - is this usual?). The reviews for their sandwiches were great - "Best sandwich ever!" The reviews for the motel/boss - not so flash. Apparently a couple visiting CA from Europe arrived late at the motel to check into their reserved room, and found no one about. They did find an envelope with a European name on it, and while it was neither of their names, they figured it was probably meant for them and used the key inside to unlock their room... only to find an older woman sleeping in their bed, with her big old shaggy St. Bernard on the floor. She awoke and promptly started yelling at them for waking her up. She eventually clicked on, and realized they were her guests... and straightened up the sheets without changing them, and left them to the room. Nice, huh? (For reference, the room was $80 in the low season, $110 in the high season for a tiny double.)
Other reviews complained about the lack of doors on the bathrooms - but when they asked the owner if there were rooms with doors, she would berate them (in her amazingly grating voice, as I later found out) for wanting privacy, asking for all in the vicinity to hear, why they needed a door on the bathroom if they were a couple. Again, $80-110 a night.
But, I focused more on the food reviews and applied. I got an interview, and then a week trial. I thought I was applying for a cooking job, but my first task the first morning (when she was surprised to see me, not having made note of what day I started) was to clean the motel rooms, which partly meant checking for bed-bugs since they'd had some official complaints lately, and one more complaint would lead to a shut-down by the Dept. of Health. I did make it into the kitchen on subsequent shifts, to be trained by a young guy who had worked there for years and basically appointed himself the intelligent person on permises over the boss, to her delight - less responsibility for her. Now, I was the only person at the cafe with ANY professional line-cooking experience. I also am a perfectionist, so I really gave a damn about things like "finesse," which as Thomas Keller points out, applies just as much to making a deli sandwich as to a foie gras dish. Even at $8 an hour. I consider myself a humble amateur, but desperate to learn.
Things I was reprimanded for during my short tenure there:
(1) Daring to leave the boss half of the tips in the tip jar when I worked with her, as per usual working M.O.,
(2) Not knowing the menu, because I didn't put spinach on the mushroom sandwich. When I later pointed out to her (at staff meeting, in front of everyone) that the menu said nothing about spinach, she admitted to not knowing what was on the menu, though she was drunk on wine by then, so no remorse. She was already busy wanking on quoting Leonard Cohen, insinuating that her flaws were wonderful things for us all to behold.
I also got in trouble for asking someone if they wanted a piece of lettuce on the sandwich, since according to Boss-Lady, "they don't deserve spinach AND lettuce!"
(3) Turning off the incredibly loud timer as a favor to her while she was reaching to pull out baked goods from the oven - because apparently you never turn off the timer before you pull something out of the oven.
(4) Not wearing short skirts, but
(5) Wearing short shorts, and
(6) Not "cuting it up" for the job - this from a middle-aged overweight woman whose granny panties showed about 3" above her jeans. I don't care about fashion or make-up, but I think I'm hardly a brown-bagger... and anyway, I thought I was applying for a cooking job.
(7) Using recipes or formulas while baking. Her idea of baking was "throw a bunch of nutella and sugar and flour and maybe some other random stuff in a pan and bake." When asked roughly what proportions to use, she proceeded to pull them out of her... you get the idea. Whenever I asked her specific questions about cooking or baking, she would look at me like I was mentally retarded before telling me "it doesn't matter." Hmm, everything I have ever read about professional baking reckons that EVERYTHING MATTERS.
(8) Referring to customers with whom she appeared to be friendly as her "mates" - how was I to know someone had unfriended her on facebook that day and apparently "no one is my mate!"
Other funny quirks about the boss...
-She often wouldn't make note of any reservations for the motel, so people would show up from foreign countries to find out they had nowhere to stay.
-OR, if she did make note, she would write, say, "Krauts" for Germans, so when they showed up, we employees would say something like "Oh, you must be the Krauts!"
- It turned out that the previous season, she had a couple of very competent people working for her. They basically sat her down and told her that she was holding the business back, and made a deal with her where they would run the business for the summer on the condition that she stayed away. She moved a few hours away and got a job at a cafe. The cafe was thriving in her absence. Meanwhile she was withdrawing money from the cafe's account to sustain herself... and then got fired from the cafe for being a bad employee, proceeded to accuse the managers of stealing from her, and reinstated herself at the cafe... and business promptly fell off.
-Also, whenever she worked, the drawer would be off by some multiple of $20. When she went out of town, the drawer would be bang on at the end of the night.
(I should mention apparently her father bought her the business, and she has it up for sale, but has nowhere to go in the meantime, apparently, where she herself won't get fired, so she basically doesn't care. Unfortunately, I know a lot of people like this, who are over their businesses, but are stubborn about selling them at pre-recession prices, to no avail. )
Now, my restaurant experience is pretty limited and extremely unconventional. But from everything I have ever read, I thought that chefs were people to look up to, to learn from, and to tuck your head in and say "Yes, Chef" towhen you mess up. Instead, this woman's basic modus operandi is to consistently and consciously fudge things up all day every day and then await being growled at later (preferably when she's drunk) for everything she already knows she's done wrong, then have a sentimental, boozy make-up session. She apparently respects people who "stand up for themselves" - which means, people who will tell her she's knowingly being a - (insert worst word you can think of her). I think I'd prefer a chef who actually acts professional instead of taking out their personal misery and lack of - um, relations - on their employees. She told me once that if I had a problem with her I should tell her, instead of the other employees, to which I replied something like "Umm, when you're in a bad mood, I'm not going anywhere near you." And when I told her the job was not going to work out for me and wasn't what I expected she got all solemn and quiet and asked "Is it me?" To which I replied, "Well, actually, yes," and proceeded to cordially tell her that she was like a black cloud to be around, but wished her well on her business. She said "I agree with everything you say"... and on a daily basis, she is the first person to admit that she is the #1 problem with the business... yet everyday she comes in personally miserable (I should also add she lives in the motel, so she never gets away from the business), proceeds to take it out on anyone around her, especially anyone who might actually be happy in their personal life, and then waits for those people to come in and discipline her, and then have a faux-make-up.... WTF???
Granted, I quit that job a few months ago, but it still leaves me reeling, wondering what the hell happened there, how someone like that can actually run a business, especially with an "it doesn't matter" attitude while consciously messing things up every day...
Good fun! I'm sure there's many more little anecdotes, but I have been trying to put it out of my mind. Nonetheless- what is up??
*Edited to add: To give another example of incompetence, this was a deli where I would occasionally show up to find out that there wasn't bread to make sandwiches that day. Hmm, that makes it a bit difficult, eh?
Edited by mskerr, 10 September 2012 - 09:15 PM.