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CUBSCHEF25

Pastry Chef seeking advice

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So im in need of some advice on a situation that ive got on my hands. Ill give just a bit of background info.

Im a pastry chef at a upscale country club. Our club has 3 different clubhouses all with restaurants of their own. I run the more fine dinning of the 3, which is set up to be family style(like craft). My dessert menu is not really set up family style, more just traditional restaurant style(but similar to crafts dessert). Ive been the pastry chef for almost a year, but been there for almost 5.

The past couple of months i feel like ive been getting my toes stepped on pretty hard by the clubhouse's exec chef and the whole clubs exec chef. Started with them just pushing me to put a plain pound cake on the menu. Then the guest would buy accompanients such as compotes or choc/carm sauces. Which i think is a horrible idea because instead of selling a 8 dollar dessert ill end up selling like a 5 dollar dessert. Plus i feel like im the pastry chef i went to school for this let me make the desserts. Right?

Then one day i was getting the menu written for the day and my menu had been reworded by the club exec. I had a hawaiian mocha cake on the menu. Apparently he didnt like hawaiian on there. So he took it off.

Now this past weekend my girlfriend had a friend who was getting married. So i took off sat and sun(my usual day off). I know holidays are a bad time to take off but it wasnt looking too busy, we were set up on prep and my pastry cook had help plating. Well the clubhouse chef pretty much took it personal or something that i took off memorial day weekend. On friday i found out there was a small wine dinner for 6 people. Which he didnt inform or talk to me at all about dessert. He just made up some cheese thing with his new sous.

Then monday when i get back he isnt there but there is a dessert menu on the office desk with changes made to it. Two items were scratched out with some possible ideas i guess written down, like the pound cake.

So i got pretty heated about that last one. That just seems slimy and out of line. Dont mess with my menu when im gone for a couple of days. Am i not allowed to take any time off with out fearing whats going to happen to my menu. To make it worse im afraid my pastry cook could be involved so i have no idea who i can trust.

So any advice, opinions, comments or whatever would be much appreciated.

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this is pretty common. You are a pastry chef, you are going to see this plenty more in the future. In fact in my rising I believe this was the issued most forewarned to me, even by my father continuously who happens to have been an exec chef and rarely sees the need for a pastry chef.

You are at a country club, and you are the outsider. Unless you are doing remarkable and interesting things you will continuously be bothered by your savory counterparts. Don't let yourself develop a complex over it, but you pretty much have two choices, buck up and take it by doing what they want you to do or you are on your way out, their terms or yours, you decide.

I also wanted to add that I don't mean to make it clear what is the right decision. Everything is contextual and provisional, it will be up to you to decide whats important for you. I am sure they will find someone to do what they want them to do if you leave, so look at all your variables and think about what is most important to you and what is realistic as well.


Edited by chiantiglace (log)

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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Amen to what chiantiglace wrote.

The Chef is the boss, it's his food cost, his labour cost, his reputation, his butt on the line, AND he also has to deal with club members, club steering commitees, F & B comittees,--all that schtuff.

If the members want pound cake with sauces then they will get it, --even if they have to fire the Pastry Chef or even the Exec Chef.. Most clubs run this way, o.t.o.h. most private resto's run on what the customer wants and is willing to pay for.

At least you got your requested days off. Last club I worked at the F&B would purpoely change the days off off of the mangement AFTER the weekly schedule was written, and make the management do the same for their staff. "Never give 'em the same day off, they might get too comfortable" was what he always said.....

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This is just how it is. Even though at my last job, it was my responsibility to write the dessert menu, it had to go through the exec. chef for a final proof read and he would make changes as he saw fit. Whether it be just re-wording, or totally taking one dessert off and replacing it with what he wanted. Needless to say, we never totally saw eye to eye on that, but I still got along with him really well.

I just knew it's his menus, and what he says goes.

Pastry chefs are usually on the botton of the totum pole. I was laid off a couple of months ago from a large corporate facility, and it was because they figured they could just get lowered paid pastry cooks to do the production. They didn't need to have a "Pastry Chef" to get things done. The Chef and Chef de Cuisine can get a menu written and just have the pastry cooks produce it.

I've been doing this for 12 years, and it's just something you have to get used too.

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I dunno if pastry chefs are "at the bottom of the totem pole", certainly in many places they are, especially clubs, but I've know a few "rainbow poopers", who, as long as they keep their hands off of the Chef's wife, can basically do anything they want.

What's a "rainbow pooper"?

A pastry Chef who gets hired into a mayhem, and within 2 months can lower the overall food cost by 4 or even 6% all the while keeping the overall labour cost steady, or even lower a percent. I've seen guys (and one gal) who could wipe out the bakery delivery bill by using a combination of bake-off doughs, frozen doughs, and scratch bread doughs--with nothing more than themselves, one p/t er and a few d/washers stolen or bribed from the main kitchen with a dessert--for a 200 rm hotel with bqt faciliteis of up to 400. "Obtaining" 9" abs sewer pipe from the hostess's boyfriend who works at city works and slicing said pipe into 3" rings--for cold cakes, entrements, and even poached cheesecakes. Turning a purchaser's screw-up of ordering 24 grey plastic cultery bins into semi-freddo and christmas yule-log molds. Convincing the GM or Resident Mngr to buy and install a new walk-in freezer. Educating the maintence staff (and bribing them with pastries) to install new thermostats and elements in the ovens BEFORE they break down, replacing the evaporator coil in the main walk-in BEFORE it breaks down. These kind of people can work around and with the Chef with no problems.

Now, a combination rainbow pooper AND lemonade pee-er is a pastry chef who brings old customers with him to his new work place--he produces and sells goods for them and the hotel gets the money--food cost is even lower, AND these type of people attract student from local culinary schools, begging for the chance to work--lower labour costs, no union hassles, smiling, happy, shining faces all around.

In two places I've worked at, the orders came down that the cigar shop/ coffee house remodeled, and in it's place, a deli/bakery/gift shop. Mega headache for the Chef--perfect opportunity for the pastry chef, all manner of baked goods, cakes, and confectionary items can be sold. Anything the pastry chef wants--toys (equipment) expensive ingredients, time/money for competitions, staff, they get, BUT they have to produce.

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On the surface it sounds like they might not care much about whether you stay there. Making changes to your menu on your day off sounds pretty bad, but if they were things that had been suggested and you were resisitent...maybe you need to consider their side.

On the other hand, the Chef is the Chef, and the Chef is always right. What was Hawaiian about your mocha cake?

Was there an agreement when you took the position that you would have creative freedom and complete control of the menu, or was it understood that there might be some collaboration?

In many of my jobs there has been one thing (generally their version of flourless chocolate cake) that I was not allowed to change, after that, the chefs did not want to have to think about pastry at all. I'd still make them a sample of anything new, maybe even make adjustments if their feedback gave me a better idea. But NOBODY touches my menu!

If this is your first pastry chef job, take a step back and see that there might be things you can learn from your chef. You may have gone to school, but not everything is taught in school.

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On the surface it sounds like they might not care much about whether you stay there.  Making changes to your menu on your day off sounds pretty bad, but if they were things that had been suggested and you were resisitent...maybe you need to consider their side.

On the other hand, the Chef is the Chef, and the Chef is always right.  What was Hawaiian about your mocha cake?

Was there an agreement when you took the position that you would have creative freedom and complete control of the menu, or was it understood that there might be some collaboration?

In many of my jobs there has been one thing (generally their version of flourless chocolate cake) that I was not allowed to change, after that, the chefs did not want to have to think about pastry at all.  I'd still make them a sample of anything new, maybe even make adjustments if their feedback gave me a better idea.  But NOBODY touches my menu!

If this is your first pastry chef job, take a step back and see that there might be things you can learn from your chef.  You may have gone to school, but not everything is taught in school.

This is good advice.

The thing is, that although you feel that things should be left as is, there are things for the chef to consider when a pastry menu is created. The chef will have the last word.

Most pastry chefs don't get the level of autonomy that they would like until they build a level of trust and respect with the exec. If you are disagreeing over ego issues, then that won't happen.

The point is that you should be working with the chef and making suggestions and submitting samples of desserts before they get put on the menu. It is great that you are passionate about your work, but getting upset over the wording of your dessert is a waste of time and energy. The chef may understand what his clients want more than you, or may understand marketing better. But working with that person and communicating about things rather than letting yourself get upset about this will be far better for you in the long run.

I had a great pastry chef who was really gung ho about trying new things and making herself stretch, but she didn't understand certain things about balance with regards to her work. She liked making sugar bombs. She submitted lots of desserts to me, but none would be on the menu until she learned that the feedback that I was giving her was for her own development. She learned that we could work together, and her work became far better. Her desserts had far more depth.

BTW, although I haven't been to pastry school, I do understand pastry very well. I can run a pastry station if need be.

Thinking that the two departments should be completely separate is the wrong approach. In order for the diner to get the best experience, the departments need to work together.

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Plus i feel like im the pastry chef i went to school for this let me make the desserts. Right?

That line is the one that stood out more than anything else to me. If you really think any exec. chef worth their pay is going to just leave you alone and let you make the desserts independent of their input, opinions and decisions then you still have some things to learn that school didn't teach you.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Another thing to consider is whether the chef is really emotionally attached to the specific idea of his pound cake suggestion, or if he is just looking for something family style and shareable. Chances are usually good that if you take the general idea or criteria that need to be met and make something of your own creation that is awesome, it will be all good.

Look at these things as challenges. Yes, you are the pastry chef, so it is time to show off your schooling, research, creativity, lateste books, etc. and show the chef how much better a dessert you can create - that meets the parameters that he feels need to be met. Arguing is generally not good, although there are times when you have to stand up for yourself, so choose our battles wisely. In the meantime, think of a couple of shareable/family style desserts and go forth and rock your chef's world with them.

You say the place is Craft-style. Would we be having this conversation if you were working for Tom Colicchio?

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In your post, it's all about you and your needs. My desserts. My menu. My degree. Got a few control issues? You may want to take a step back and look at this situation more calmly.

You may run the pastry dept, but your boss (Exec chef) runs the whole kitchen, including overseeing you and your work. It's his job to look at what you do and see that it fits into the whole business. Do you ask why he's making these changes or do you just fight it? From what you say, you just fight and fume. Do your desserts fit into the whole menu? Are they more complex than the entrees? What do the guests want?

It sounds like you're being guided, not punished. If you don't like what is going on, make an appointment to talk with the exec chef. If you still don't like what is going on, it may be time to look for another job where you have more control.


Edited by lala (log)

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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