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Poor food quality. What can I do?


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#1 young_

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 07:50 PM

I work as a cook in a barbecue restaurant. I have for the last three years and some change, and I only make 7.75 an hour, at 19 years old. My boss has big plans for the restaurant but I have my doubts. All that we serve is leftovers 85% of the time. Everything has been heated and re heated. Take one of our side items, Brunswick stew, we make it, and it goes into the fridge, then whenever we need it, we put it into an amber Cambro and heat it in the microwave. We are told to refer to it as a "warmer". Let's say we don't use all of what was heated, it then goes back into the fridge, only to be reheated and used the next day. On certain foods that don't sell often they can be reheated numerous times. Obviously the food quality is lacking. Even our main seller, the pork, is reheated at times, on a flat top grill.

What are some practices we could do? I've suggested smaller batches be made to ensure that customers receive fresh food but unfortunately that means more work for the employees and not everyone is happy with that seeing as how a large portion of our staff are just teenagers working a part time job that know absolutely nothing about food, nor have an interest in it.

Should I try and better the company or just jump ship to better myself?


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#2 pastrygirl

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 08:24 PM

Has it been that way for the entire three years, or has something changed so that now you are frustrated?

Let's look at alternatives. You consider soup that is made and re-warmed "leftovers" It sounds like there could be better portion control, so that only the amount that is needed is warmed to order, but how else would you serve hot soup? You're not going to make each bowl from scratch. The microwave does ruin some things (bread/pastry), but for a lot of things it is pretty effective. You could heat the soup in a little pot on the stove, but that requires a more watchful eye, and stirring. You could keep the soup in a warmer all day, but by the end of the day the vegetables are mush and quality is compromised even more.

With the meat, isn't barbeque a very lengthy cooking process? You can't cook that to order, and again, keeping it warm all day may be more of a compromise in quality than chilling it when it is done and re-heating to order.

I think re-heating once is fine, that is how most restaurants do it (well not with meat unless they do sous vide). Many ingredients are prepped and fully or partially cooked, then heated and finished when ordered. It allows the cooks to get a dish to a table within 10-15 minutes, saving space, time, and labor. Re-heating multiple times should not be necessary. You don't have to make smaller batches to avoid that, just re-heat less at a time.

You're young, and you've been there a while. Nothing wrong with moving on and seeing how other restaurants do it if you're not happy where you are.

Edited by pastrygirl, 04 November 2012 - 08:25 PM.


#3 radtek

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 08:29 PM

I've seen this problem in other BBQ joints. They aren't actually busy enough to serve the que as it comes ready or rides in a holding pattern. Too many pull yesterday's or even older out of the cooler/fridge and reheat. Doesn't mean it isn't tasty- just not what most folks are looking for. At home I'll do this but that's at home...

I say if you can't get behind the food and philosophy it is time to move on. Sounds like you are coming to this realization... and are having trouble letting go. Job's a job and there are plenty out there.

#4 young_

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 08:45 PM

I've seen this problem in other BBQ joints. They aren't actually busy enough to serve the que as it comes ready or rides in a holding pattern. Too many pull yesterday's or even older out of the cooler/fridge and reheat. Doesn't mean it isn't tasty- just not what most folks are looking for. At home I'll do this but that's at home...

I say if you can't get behind the food and philosophy it is time to move on. Sounds like you are coming to this realization... and are having trouble letting go. Job's a job and there are plenty out there.


I'm definitely attached. It's a family owned business and I know the entire family well. Being that I've been there for years we've gotten to know each other very well. I almost have a moral obligation to stay and hope business picks up, but I'm not willing to risk the time.

But the reusing isn't just with the meats and side items, it applies to the salad bar as well. We've served three day old lettuce before. There's been times where we've gotten into arguments over food. The owner wanted to serve a dessert more than a month old that contained both milk and egg. The food was obviously spoiled.

I'm starting to wonder if the food industry can even provide a livable quality of life. Can't afford to be on my own making 800 a month. Should I be discouraged because this isn't an accurate portrayal of the food industry? Or is it?


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#5 Emily_R

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 09:17 PM

I hate to sound blunt, but you are 19 years old and they are paying you 7.75 an hour. You absolutely do not have any moral obligation to this family to stay working for them. And if they were willing to sell a dessert that was obviously spoiled, I can't see why you'd want to stay, since the owners clearly don't share your values about quality.

I'll let someone else answer about how reflective this is of the food industry, but very little I've heard about it makes it sound like it provides a great quality of life...

#6 ScoopKW

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 01:52 AM

Here in Las Vegas, the low end of the pay scale is $15/hr. Most cooks make in the $20/range -- with "Cadillac" benefits. (We don't worry about getting sick, retirement, or anything of that nature.)

And here, the "food quality" problem is on the opposite end of the scale -- you'll be shocked at how much gets thrown away (actually, it's sent to a pig farm) because it's more than a few hours old. The casinos don't futz around -- they don't want the bad reputation and lost revenue that comes with making a guest sick. Their philosophy is, "Food is cheap. Reputation is everything." Temperatures are constantly measured, logged, and filed. We get regular visits from the Health Department. And inspectors want to see cooks taking temperatures, logging them, and filing them. It's kind of a pain, actually. But it gets done.

So that's how it goes where I work. This is probably one of the best cities to be a cook, from a salary and cost of living standpoint. I still can't stand it here. But I can't complain about my finances.

I agree with the others who say that you don't owe that family anything. They're paying you $7.75/hr. How can anyone expect to live on that? That's a hand-to-mouth, paycheck-to-paycheck, life better not throw you a monkey-wrench at you kind of job. I don't recommend that you quit tomorrow. But I think you should refresh your resume and start looking -- but prepare for culture shock if you get in at a good restaurant. You've probably been taught all kinds of sleazy shortcuts that won't fly in a proper kitchen.

Finally, does your local community college offer culinary classes? Don't bother with the for-profit schools that promise you a great job with an amazing salary the minute you graduate. That's a load of it. (Basically, if the school advertises on TV, radio, magazines, online or billboards, it's the wrong school for you.) But if you can get some solid instruction at community college prices, that's worth looking into.
Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

#7 gfweb

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 07:42 AM

You gotta go.

#8 HungryC

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 08:11 AM

If the sanitation is suspect, then you should go. No one should be trying to serve month old desserts or reheating the same item multiple times. Do you have a Servsafe certificate? https://www.servsafe.com/students Your state's restaurant association probably offers ServSafe classes multiple times each month, or you can do it online. Before you ditch this job, go take the class, then you can move forward with both experience and a bit of training on your side. The training will confirm what you suspect: this multiple reheating foolishness is putting the customers at risk of foodborne illness.

#9 jrshaul

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 01:28 PM

Sequential reheating of soup is dubious, and the sale of past-due goods is completely unacceptable. Instead of quitting, I'd call the health department; this way, you collect two weeks' wages when this restaurant is inevitably shut down.

Wages in the food industry are notoriously poor. Some Michelin-starred chefs make less than the median elevator repairman. However, minimum wage is a tacit recognition that the employee could do better almost anywhere else if they were sufficiently competent to make the jump. If you have the skills, move on.

I'm basing my assumptions off the working conditions in a small city (Madison, WI): Smaller towns with a large supply of labor and inexpensive cost of living might be a bit different. However, I can guarantee that you can pull at least $8.50 starting salary at the Subway near my apartment - and they don't muck about with food safety.

Edited by jrshaul, 05 November 2012 - 01:32 PM.


#10 RAHiggins1

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 06:51 PM

Wow. ScoopKW is right on the money.

I'll add that 3 consecutive years at the same place "should" get you in any other restaurant door. At this point its a matter of if you wish to pursue advancing your skills in this craft. Be prepared to discover that where you are is really about as low as it can get, as you have described it. But at least your brain is telling you to question what you are experiencing. I'd suggest digging deeper into this site. It has hosted a lot of the best in the business at one time or another and there is a wealth of knowledge readily available.
Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.

#11 ScoopKW

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Posted 10 November 2012 - 02:21 AM

Wow. ScoopKW is right on the money.


You're amazed that I'm right on the money? Thanks for that vote of confidence. :hmmm:

(I'm assuming you're "wowing" about the sleazy practices at this restaurant. I can't help but be snarky, though. It's just my nature.)


Young_ -- I would suggest printing this thread and showing it to the owners. They are eventually going to kill someone -- an old guest with a weak immune system, or a young guest, or basically anyone with a weak immune system. Do you really want to be part of such an organization? Selling month-old food is unacceptable. There is no justification for it. The longer you continue to work there, the more likely you're going to eventually find yourself on a witness stand, testifying about the procedures.

But if you print this thread and show it to the owners, you will likely be fired on the spot. Make plans accordingly.

Allowing the status quo to continue is reckless. You are in an awful position. And I hope everything works out for you.
Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

#12 gfweb

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Posted 10 November 2012 - 10:07 AM

Wow. Scoop is right again! :laugh:

Continuing to work there is like a nurse staying at a clinic that uses dirty needles or sells diluted medicine. She knows better and no good will come of it.

If you ask me what to do...I'd find a job, quit quietly, and tell the food cops in detail about whats going on.

#13 Mjx

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 01:32 AM

. . . .

Young_ -- I would suggest printing this thread and showing it to the owners. They are eventually going to kill someone -- an old guest with a weak immune system, or a young guest, or basically anyone with a weak immune system. Do you really want to be part of such an organization? Selling month-old food is unacceptable. There is no justification for it. The longer you continue to work there, the more likely you're going to eventually find yourself on a witness stand, testifying about the procedures.

But if you print this thread and show it to the owners, you will likely be fired on the spot. Make plans accordingly.

Allowing the status quo to continue is reckless. You are in an awful position. And I hope everything works out for you.


With a slight change, I think this is good advice: I'd switch jobs first, then show them this thread (or send them the link). You might not get a terrific reference form these guys anyway, but if you show them this before you get another job, they could hurt your chances of getting another job in the industry.

Incidentally, if you stay do with these people and they go down in flames, there's a reasonable chance you'll be hurt professionally by having been associated with them, so getting out while the going is good is important.

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