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roosterchef21

Chef needs a new direction

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God.... I went back into this thread and realised that I must have cut and pasted the wrong bit. So I am adjusting editing and changing this to make it easier to read. It's hard to type when the lightbulb blew and you don't have the right sort of lightbulb for the socket!

I sit here writing this with doubts floating through my head. I know that I love food and love the people in the industry but something seems amiss. I've only been a chef for 6 years but in the last 6 weeks I have fallen into a hole I can't seem to get out of.

I have found myself restless, feeling like I am stuck, drinking more and just feeling downright sick and sad. I'm fairly sure that other chef's/waiter's/industry people have felt this way and I am seeking advice.

I am working with a very talented, passionate individual who albeit being quite intense has taught me a lot. But it is not enough. His passion is infectious but it is not rubbing off on me. Logically it should be making me more motivated for work but it seems to be driving me away. I have realised that I don't have anywhere near as much talent as most other chef's, I don't have the passion I used to, am newly married and haven't had a day off with my wife in a month, noticed that my knees are starting to go and am really feeing my body lately.

I have come through a lot to become a chef. Namely:

1. Attempted murder by another group of staff members

2. Multiple shoulder dislocations which resulted in a shoulder reconstruction

3. Bullying at work - walkman stolen, jacket drawn on and ripped, pictures hung on walls of me with abusive messages etc...

I have wanted to quit after each of these esp the murder one but have managed to get myself back. This time however it just seems a lot different. Something is missing. So, My options are:

1. Do my pastry chef's apprenticeship - I'm not sure this is what I need but it's an option I guess

2. Do my Bachelor of Business with Dual Majors in Tourism & Marketing/International Business - Still in the industry but an office job. Which would be fine as long as the job keeps me interested.

3. Do my Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Arts - Let's me get into either business or journalism. Journalism would be interesting because I could do food writing. But I can't write.

4. Bachelor of Education - I can teach high school kids about food & hopefully get them interested in the industry.

5. Become a Paramedic - Talk about job satisfaction! But a bit traumatic.

I am relatively inexperienced and need advice or ideas! Help! Thanks guys!


Edited by roosterchef21 (log)

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It sounds like you've had some really bad experiences in the restaurant business so far, but it's because of the people that surround you, not because of you. I mean someone tried to kill you, holy fuck. Did you stay at that place after that happened?

This guy you are talking about is a complete douche, regardless of how talented and "passionate" he is. Passion is not exemplified by breaking stuff when you mess up. The guy can't control his emotions and has serious anger management issues. You shouldn't be comparing the amount of "passion" that this guy has with the amount that you have. You shouldn't decide to quit the restaurant business because you'll never live up to the amount of "passion" that guy has. He may be talented and he may be up-and-coming, but he's a douche.

You could quit the business and go to school and do one of the options you said, but SOMETHING drew you to the restaurant business, and something has kept you there even after a hit was put out on you. I suggest you quit and find another restaurant to work at, under a chef who is not an abusive ego-maniac, and see how you like it. If you're in an atmosphere where you like your chef and you like the other people around you and you STILL want out, then I say do it.

Edit: And it makes sense that his "passion is infectious but it's not rubbing off on me". You clearly find serious faults with him, and you don't want to model yourself after him, so you won't be influenced by his enthusiasm as much.

And after reading your edited post, you need to leave this place immediately, and possibly file a suit against the restaurant, because no human being should be treated this way. Are any of the staff members that threatened you and tried to harm you still there? Serious, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU DO NOT SPEND ANOTHER DAY IN THAT KITCHEN. And find a lawyer.


Edited by wax311 (log)

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It is hard to tell you which choice you should make... they all have strengths.

I worry about someone who feels like they've fallen in a hole, as you put it. Sounds much like a real depression to me and not just a reaction to some amazingly bad circumstances.

Talk to your wife about this see what she says. Talk to your family doc too.

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The stuff you're describing is called depression, and it's being exacerbated by the abusive situation you're in.

The first step is to get into more counseling. (Take it from someone who knows. Been there, done that.) I would also recommend that you talk to your physician about an antidepressant. Abusive situations can cause chemical imbalances in the brain, and the antidepressant will help with that. The counseling will help you release some of the steam buildup from the abuse, and will help you determine what steps to take next, when to take them, etc.

You do need to get out of there, but I'd like to see you do it with the safety net of counseling.

A little over a year ago, I started into counseling for many of the same things you're describing. It all goes back to the fact that you're being abused. The stuff that's wrong in your life is not because of you. When you get into a better employment situation, much of this will go away, but you can use this place as a "lab" to hone your skills for dealing with abusive people.

As for your options, I noticed in #4 you said "because I can't write." Writing is a skill that can be developed, just like any other. Writing is like cooking or anything else. It takes practice. When you're ready, you could do a blog.

I can't stress the importance of the counseling enough. I dragged my feet when getting into it, and once there, wondered why. It has been immensely productive, and has fixed the problem. You might look for someone in your area who does EMDR. It's a technique for dealing with trauma that was immensely and nearly immediately effective for me, and it might be just what you need.

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Well - that is a tough one. I have had death threats - my boss got threats leading me to be trained to use a handgun to protect myself and my boss, never had to use it but I remember it was a stress you can't imagine - or I can say you can - That stress led me to leave that job and come to the food business. I went to school and am paying dues by working hard and long. BUT I also told myself that I would never allow a job to work on me to that extreme, I will work a job not allow it to work me. That being said - you should leave and REGROUP. Find yourself and then move on. After what you have explained you may just need to change settings - especially if you still love the food. BUt you have to find your passion and then find your spot in the rat race.

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Are you the chef? Why aren't you firing these people? If you've been in a chef role for 6 years, you must have been cooking a lot longer than that and should know better than to put up with any of that BS. Still, we all get burned out, and some people and places burn us out a whole lot faster than others. Find a way to take a break, get out of that situation, get some perspective, explore those other options a little more and see if any of them really inspire you. I hope you and your wife can afford for you to take a few months off, or maybe take a less demanding and stressful job than chef, do some consulting, whatever. Good for you for recognizing what you're going through before the drinking & depression get way out of control, so many people just let it snowball.

I know you're in a bad spot so I'll try to say this nicely - it sounds like you're not really in charge there, so if you're not actually the chef but a sous chef or line cook who has been in the business 6 years total, I have to recommend that you not call yourself a chef, but be humble and call yourself a cook. That is what we all are, each kitchen has only 1 chef. 6 years is a respectable amount of time to be cooking, but still, pomposity can be a factor in people wanting to abuse you. Freezing your backpack is just fun & games. Theft and destruction of personal property are certainly more serious and should be grounds for disciplinary action. Takes some balls to steal the chef's or even the sous chef's stuff. If I'm reading you wrong and you are the big boss, then you surely have enough experience to be able to decide if you want to continue chefing, just take some time off, think about what's important to you. In 2002 I was in a job that made me think I wanted nothing more to do with the business, but after quitting and a little time off, I found a much healthier, more positive and fun kitchen to work in. Six years later I'm still a pastry chef, still get tired of the BS, but still love making good things. If it's really who you are, you'll find a way to make it work.

I dated an EMT awhile back, and my favorite sous chef is married to an emergency room nurse - we all agree there are some similarities in the industries - crazy hours, stress, blood & guts. It seems nice to help people, but you have to consider if you can handle a cracked-out shit-stinking vagrant trying to stab you while you are trying to help them. It might be a little too much like the kitchen. :blink:

Good luck.


Edited by pastrygirl (log)

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Just to clarify, I pressed charges for the murder thing at another establishment. The shoulder reconstruction and bullying also happened at other places. What I was saying was that I really don't think I can pick myself up again like I used to and put myself back in the industry with my whole heart. It's been pretty cruel to me....

I'm not the chef but I am their boss. The problem is that they have been at the place for so long they are part of the furniture and if they were sacked my life would be hell from staff in the other departments. It's written into my contract that I am allowed to take disciplinary action inc sacking of staff but as I said....

I love most of the people I work with atm. The chef de cuisine & sous chef are great, the apprentices are pretty nice if a little bit bratty and front of house are nice enough. I have a pretty thick skin but after the kinghit, the bullying and the shoulder reconstruction I feel like my passion and dedication has taken a big hit. I used to have it (obviously after going what I've been through) but the spark seems to have floated away. Work feels like a chore not a lifestyle & a blast.

I'm fairly certain I am getting out... at least for a little while but need some advice on what path I should take. Thanks for your thoughts guys.

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change of scenery is the only thing that will get you back in. I suggest start making as many friends in the industry as you can, something positive will turn up, it always does.

If I wouldn't worry about someone getting pissed at you for firing their buddy due to incompitence. Maybe its time make a decision for them, because if they have been there forever and still suck at their job then they need a little kick in the pants. If the others dont like it, tough, your the boss, and if they a start slacking or causing problems and you can tell them to hit the road. You are never going to be happy until you get a team you are perfectly comfortable with (which is pretty much impossible but you should be able to do better than what you got).

Maybe your looking at yourself as a babysitter/manager rather than a leader. I think if everyday you woke up and felt like someone was felt really good about you working by there side, it would make you feel good too and thus the cycle of betterment comes about.

Also your staff should be good enough to be able to give you some free time. If you are running your ass into the ground for some people who should already know how to do their job, then you are wasting your time, change it out.

If you need a change so bad, I would go over every option carefully. Sorry I dont have any advice towards that, It always depressess me when people feel dont like what they do.


Dean Anthony Anderson

"If all you have to eat is an egg, you had better know how to cook it properly" ~ Herve This

Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

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A short term solution would be to fire someone that really needs firing. Just one person that really really deserves it. And then fire an apprentice or two at the same time (or just have "the talk" with them).

That will probably take care of any immediate problems you have at work. But it definitely won't fix your general burn out tendencies. That requires a long vacation and/or a change of venue in a serious way. Catering? Private/personal chef? Teaching?

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A short term solution would be to fire someone that really needs firing. Just one person that really really deserves it. And then fire an apprentice or two at the same time (or just have "the talk" with them).

That will probably take care of any immediate problems you have at work. But it definitely won't fix your general burn out tendencies. That requires a long vacation and/or a change of venue in a serious way. Catering? Private/personal chef? Teaching?

I'm not in the restaurant industry (yet), but I've had experience with horrible work situations. I say, just quit. It's much easier than you think. And the day you do it, you'll be screaming full of joy the day you leave. You need a change of scenery, that's what it's come down to. Anything that comes up after HAS to be a better situation simply because you seem to be going through the worst of the worst that your industry can throw at you.


Edited by savvysearch (log)

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I'm not in the restaurant industry (yet), but I've had experience with horrible work situations. I say, just quit. It's much easier than you think. And the day you do it, you'll be screaming full of joy the day you leave. You need a change of scenery, that's what it's come down to. Anything that comes up after HAS to be a better situation simply because you seem to be going through the worst of the worst that your industry can throw at you.

I think that's the thing... I can't seem to pick myself and put myself back into this industry whole heartedly. When the passion for cooking dies..... At least day in day out...

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God.... I went back into this thread and realised that I must have cut and pasted the wrong bit. So I am adjusting editing and changing this to make it easier to read. It's hard to type when the lightbulb blew and you don't have the right sort of lightbulb for the socket!

I sit here writing this with doubts floating through my head. I know that I love food and love the people in the industry but something seems amiss. I've only been a chef for 6 years but in the last 6 weeks I have fallen into a hole I can't seem to get out of.

I have found myself restless, feeling like I am stuck, drinking more and just feeling downright sick and sad. I'm fairly sure that other chef's/waiter's/industry people have felt this way and I am seeking advice.

I am working with a very talented, passionate individual who albeit being quite intense has taught me a lot. But it is not enough. His passion is infectious but it is not rubbing off on me. Logically it should be making me more motivated for work but it seems to be driving me away. I have realised that I don't have anywhere near as much talent as most other chef's, I don't have the passion I used to,  am newly married and haven't had a day off with my wife in a month, noticed that my knees are starting to go and am really feeing my body lately.

I have come through a lot to become a chef. Namely:

1. Attempted murder by another group of staff members

2. Multiple shoulder dislocations which resulted in a shoulder reconstruction

3. Bullying at work - walkman stolen, jacket drawn on and ripped, pictures hung on walls of me with abusive messages etc...

I have wanted to quit after each of these esp the murder one but have managed to get myself back. This time however it just seems a lot different. Something is missing. So, My options are:

1. Do my pastry chef's apprenticeship - I'm not sure this is what I need but it's an option I guess

2. Do my Bachelor of Business with Dual Majors in Tourism & Marketing/International Business - Still in the industry but an office job. Which would be fine as long as the job keeps me interested.

3. Do my Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Arts - Let's me get into either business or journalism. Journalism would be interesting because I could do food writing. But I can't write.

4. Bachelor of Education - I can teach high school kids about food & hopefully get them interested in the industry.

5. Become a Paramedic - Talk about job satisfaction! But a bit traumatic.

I am relatively inexperienced and need advice or ideas! Help! Thanks guys!

Let me preface my comments by saying no matter how much detail you provide, there will always be something missing from your story so to speak. With that in mind, any advice or suggestions will always be absent of something.

So -- here's my take. First, you are in a bad environment. It's not the industry -- it's the people, environment, surrounding, etc. and as such . . . get out. Second, take some time and "invest" so to speak in yourself. Do some real soul searchring, and create some possibilities for your life and career. This will allow you to be in a good position. While doing this, you can find inspiration, motivation and passion.

Third, as far as the "get out" aspect -- look around, see what's out there, take a look at the world around you. You just might find something. It could help define you. I know several chefs who went through a serious "rut" or "slump" -- and then they found something . . . a job, a new career, a discipline, something new, ecclectic, etc. One chef I know found Spanish cooking and just ran with it. He added his own flair, started reinventing it and himself, and so on. Another chef went from being somewhat high-profile, owning a successful restaurant, a run of some bad/incompatible partners, etc. to cooking on a dude ranch in the midwest somewhere. Today he is a "chef" at a bakery/deli/lunch place.

Whatever you do now, and decide to do as you move forward . . . take care of and be good to yourself.

All the best.

Eric

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I don't have the passion I used to,  am newly married and haven't had a day off with my wife in a month, noticed that my knees are starting to go and am really feeing my body lately...

I was an elementary teacher for 17 years. After 8 consecutive years of working at American schools in Saudi Arabia and Beirut, Lebanon, I returned to the United States only to find that education was now dominated by a teach to the test mentality.

I left the field of education, earned a degree in culinary arts and worked in the Hospitality and Food Service industry for several years.

In 2005, I worked 360 out of 365 days die to problems with staff shortages.

In 2006, I was finally given a week's vacation ... but was called back to work due to continuing problems with staff shortages. The GM apologized profusely and gave me $250 in compensation. Big whoopie.

I worked nights ... weekends ... holidays.

There were days when I'd close the restaurant and go home to get six hours of sleep, only to have to turn around and open the restaurant the next day. I found that I didn't have a life. The job was grinding me down to the point where all of the days were blurring together.

At some point, I had an epiphany. Why was I working these horrible hours? Why was I working at a restaurant that was so short staffed that I typically worked a double shift ... without even the benefit of overtime pay since I was under contract?

I thought back to my days as a teacher. Although I worked long hours in the classroom, I had weekends off. I had holidays off. I even had a 3 month summer vacation.

I decided to go back into the classroom ... but this time around, instead of being a core academic instructor, I'd be a culinary arts teacher.

I got a provisional CTE (career and technical) teaching certificate based upon my years of verifiable on the job experience. I then began applying for jobs, and eventually landed a position as a culinary arts teacher at a rural high school in Southeastern Arizona. In addition to teaching culinary arts, I supervise a student operated restaurant.

I finished my first year as a culinary arts teacher last May and I LOVED it. I had two beginning classes and one advanced class. The beginning classes learned basic knife skills and the rudiments of nutrition and sanitation. I eventually began using them as prep cooks and bakers.

The advanced students prepared all fast food items on our static menu as well as one daily changing plated meal. Advanced students also rotated through various stations during lunch ... working as cashiers, counter servers, line cooks, and dish tankers. By year's end, some of the more capable students were even running shift and creating and pricing original recipes.

Although I had to take a summer workshop for structured English immersion, the rest of the summer was my own.

It was GLORIOUS having time to sleep in, work on home projects, and spend time with friends and family.

Although I'm not due to report back until 8/11, I've been going to school for a few hours each day. I've been reorganizing my office and revising lesson plans from last year. I've also started to price menus since food costs have gone up since last May.

I must admit that in going back into the classroom, my prior years of experience as an elementary teacher really helped. My district credited me for 10 out of 17 years teaching experience. The fact that I have a Master's degree also pushed me up the pay scale.

Had I been offered a first year teacher's pay, I would probably have not taken this job.

Still ... with this being said, there are lots of Cordon Bleu schools springing up around the country. If you didn't want to teach at a high school, you could try teaching at a culinary school. You could also look for a position at a junior college.

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Journalism would be interesting because I could do food writing. But I can't write.

I beg to differ.

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