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edwardsboi

Chef abuse

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What's the most outrageous, vicious abuse that a chef has committed upon his co-workers that you've witnessed? From the stories I've heard, it seems that a chef can get away with stuff that would be unacceptable almost anywhere else.

I was reading about Tom Aikens, and almost every interview inevitably mentions how he was fired for branding a 19 year old trainee with a searing hot knife. But, then the same article also says 'allegedly' so I'm not sure how true that story is. Does anybody have the full story about what really happened?

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Very comparable to the blue shield of secrecy. Right or wrong that is just the way it is. I do believe though that improvement's have been made in recent times.


Robert R

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What's the most outrageous, vicious abuse that a chef has committed upon his co-workers that you've witnessed? From the stories I've heard, it seems that a chef can get away with stuff that would be unacceptable almost anywhere else.

I was reading about Tom Aikens, and almost every interview inevitably mentions how he was fired for branding a 19 year old trainee with a searing hot knife. But, then the same article also says 'allegedly' so I'm not sure how true that story is. Does anybody have the full story about what really happened?

Very comparable to the blue shield of secrecy. Right or wrong that is just the way it is. I do believe though that improvement's have been made in recent times.

Improvement...Don't think so.


Tobin

It is all about respect; for the ingredient, for the process, for each other, for the profession.

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From the days of Joel Robuchon at his height and before. I'll have to disagree and think we gained some ground.


Robert R

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I used to work with a chef once, that would throw dirty plates across the expo line to the dish room.


"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"

Oscar Wilde

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Man thrown down a long flight of stairs (metal).

Did anybody get charged or fired for that?

I'm just curious where the line is in the kitchen with regards to abuse?

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I used to work with a chef once, that would throw dirty plates across the expo line to the dish room.

wow, maybe we worked for the same DB. The stainless steel backsplash was dented and the dishwashers were petrified.

I've worked with a bunch of prima donna chefs and a-holes. Taught me how NOT to behave.

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LOL! yeah I knew I didn't want to be like that


"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"

Oscar Wilde

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My mentor used to burn me for shits n giggles. Nothing major. Just a little tap with a hot pan or palette knife. I think it made me stronger, physically and mentally. I think the kids being shot out of school these days are pansies. The minute I raise my voice I see tears forming and fists clinching. What happened to the days of "Yes Chef!" and loyalty? We're a dying breed.... sorry for getting a little off topic. Just had to rant a little. :)

- Chef Johnny


John Maher
Executive Chef/Owner
The Rogue Gentlemen

Richmond, VA

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Refering to Robuchon, I remember an interview Ripert gave where the issue of Robuchon's temper(at Jamin) was brought up, and Ripert described the chef's temperment as "...dark.... and that he walked down a very dark street....." As a cook in Paris at the time, I occasionally ran into other cooks, some who either worked there or had worked there and they all shared the same sentiment.

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My mentor used to burn me for shits n giggles. Nothing major. Just a little tap with a hot pan or palette knife. I think it made me stronger, physically and mentally. I think the kids being shot out of school these days are pansies. The minute I raise my voice I see tears forming and fists clinching. What happened to the days of "Yes Chef!" and loyalty? We're a dying breed.... sorry for getting a little off topic. Just had to rant a little. :)

- Chef Johnny

Nothing wrong with good natured kidding and ribbing. And when deserved, being yelled at. BUT BURNING ? Nope, I don't think so.

I'm a guy in business for 30 years with 45 employees, most of which archetypically fit Webster's definition of PRIMA-DONNA or is it Pavarotti's ? LOL

Again BURNING, no way is it playful or safe.

And I can guarantee you, its a lawsuit waiting to happen.


Edited by Aloha Steve (log)

edited for grammar & spelling. I do it 95% of my posts so I'll state it here. :)

"I have never developed indigestion from eating my words."-- Winston Churchill

Talk doesn't cook rice. ~ Chinese Proverb

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The stair incident was after a choking incident, so they agreed to part ways in order to avoid legal problems. I agree that lots of newer cooks are a bit too soft and slow for a well run kitchen but I also agree that tantrums are for children. I have a good deal of mutual respect in my kitchen and as a former teacher usually "the look" with the right tone and words can do the trick.

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I'm one of your new-age softies, I'm afraid. Took to cooking after deciding my previous career wasn't what I wanted to do. Being spoken down to and continually criticised every day is tough and hasn't been something I've ever experienced before. I look forward to days when I work with some chefs because they're supportive and available to tell me where I'm going wrong. Other chefs make the work scary enough for me to be filled with anxiety before work each time.

I'm surprised by how strongly I've coped with it to be honest; I think I've always demonstrated a postivie attitude, acknowledged my mistakes and tried hard not to repeat errors, while taking jibes and criticisms from multiple people. It's a tough environment and I imagine even more intense in a higher level kitchen. It's the only thing that makes me nervous about wanting to progress to top kitchens.

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I enjoy ribbing and pranks, even if it's my day to be the butt of the joke (I firmly believe in "don't dish it out if you can't take it" and have no trouble laughing at myself). Deserved verbal slamming just pushes me to do better. Undeserved verbal slamming flies right over me, I don't let it bother me or throw me off what I'm doing. When it starts getting physical (beyond minor bumping and shoving stuff), we have problems. Any chef that intentionally burns me, chokes me, hits me or shoves me down some stairs better hope he leaves me incapable of coming back at him. Screw a lawsuit, we're going to fight. Regardless of how bad a career move it proves to be. Now if he wants to have it out and then get back to the business at hand, that's ok too. But I won't tolerate bullying... a beating is less humiliating than a slapping.


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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Firstly can I comment on the opening post, the Tom Aiken thing, the story is much less abusive when you know the whole thing, I do not condone the way Tom used to run his kitchens, but that incident in particular is not as one sided as the press made out at the time, but so much water has passed under the bridge since then I'll leave it there.

anyway having spent 20 years at the rockface, I have seen and been with some shocking attitude in my time, and in a nutshell if you feel anxious about going to work or its costing you sleep, MOVE ON.

I would like to point out that there is a chasm of difference between a chef under pressure doling out a genuine bollocking (they are necessary, just deal with them), and abuse. Also a large number of chefs dish out very constructive criticism quite coldly, again I say here just deal with it and learn. Unfortunately there is still quite a huge amount of chefs who were bullied themselves see it as the only way forward, they will use the excuse "it happened to me and look where I got to", and the old classic "food of this quality requires such a level of pressuse that I cannot tolerate mistakes and deal with it this way", absolute bull, the old days are just that, and to those chefs I say "live in the now!"

I run my kitchen through training, passion for product, careful recipes and good communication. I have not had to raise my voice in anger in a good many years, as I have improved as well as my brigade (this is not to say that I can't if the situation requires it). I do not suffer fools however I live by an adage my father my father gave to me "he who never made a mistake, never made anything", the important thing to remeber is to make sure your mistakes do not leave the kitchen, and herein lies the callenge of a great cook.

Back to the original question, in my 20 years I have seen pans of boiling water thrown across kitchens, knives raised (thankfully not used) in anger, fisticuffs, downright verbal abuse, and VERY personal attacks. this is not only from the head chefs I have worked with, but from within the brigades, silliest I every got in the middle of to break up the fight was one over 5 shallots which ended up with one chef brandishing a red-hot pan, and the other a 12" cooks knife. Not one chef has lost their job that I have worked with as whilst the tempers flare up quickly, they die down just as fast. Another thing people have to remember before they berate the industry I live to serve, is chefs are often working 16 hour days, in temperatures exceeding anything humane, when all their friends are socialising, and being shouted at to do better. So give us a break if we lose it from time to time.

You will often find the largest proprtion of the kind of kitchen staff who voice their opinion about kitchen bullying or tempers, often work in contract catering, or daytime jobs with a good work-time balance, I am not dissing you who do, good luck to you, just stating a fact on the type of kitchen you are commenting on. On the back of this I re-itterate that there is a huge gap between cold crticism and bullying and chefs who bully should be ashamed of their lack of humanity.


after all these years in a kitchen, I would have thought it would become 'just a job'

but not so, spending my time playing not working

www.e-senses.co.uk

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At the risk of contradicting some of the excellent points allready raised..dont swallow all the macho-man bullshit about being screamed and shouted at...it is pathetic,totally unnecessary and contrary to what some may say it does not make you cook better..and as for the 'pressure'...dont make me laugh :biggrin: get things in perspective...your commis splashed a few drops of sauce on the wrong area of your pretty salad?, oh diddums...get a life saddo...an air-traffic controller or a surgeon who performs operations on children with life threatening diseases has forgotton more about pressure than any chef will ever know..

If you cannot teach someone to do things properly and/or the way you want it done without resorting to tantrums then you are the problem not the person you are training...and yes I have worked at the sharp end both in the UK and Europe for 25 years so I do know what I am rattling on about..

The 16 hour days should also be put into the myths and legends category....neccesary?...during the pre-opening/opening phase of a restaurant/hotel unfortunatley yes..afterwards? there having a laugh at your expense.... Expense being the operative word as the Exec. Chef will be on very big bucks indeed and will usually be paid a nice juicy bonus to keep staff costs as low as possible. :wink:

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not so sure about slotting it into myths and legends, until the day full employment is gleamed to a correct ratio of staff to work (not guests) then the 16 hour day is here to stay, and before you go on about the work, if most of the key restaurants who still advocate this simplified their menus/mis en place, then the chefs doing those hours would simply go elsewhere. not to mention the clientelle.

as for juicy bonuses I have been in this business long enough to know that payroll is always a small percentage of any bonus and will always have more to do with guest satisfaction and food cost. that is if the business is large enough to carry an exec chef (12 I know of were made redundant in March alone, in the south east of england, this was a general trend of positions lost)


after all these years in a kitchen, I would have thought it would become 'just a job'

but not so, spending my time playing not working

www.e-senses.co.uk

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not so sure about slotting it into myths and legends, until the day full employment is gleamed to a correct ratio of staff to work (not guests) then the 16 hour day is here to stay, and before you go on about the work, if most of the key restaurants who still advocate this simplified their menus/mis en place, then the chefs doing those hours would simply go elsewhere. not to mention the clientelle.

as for juicy bonuses I have been in this business long enough to know that payroll is always a small percentage of any bonus and will always have more to do with guest satisfaction and food cost. that is if the business is large enough to carry an exec chef (12 I know of were made redundant in March alone, in the south east of england, this was a general trend of positions lost)

Hmmm....methinks in the UK at least the industry needs to wean itself off cheap labour as this is just used as a cover for inefficiency...

20 years working in CH in luxury hotels/restaurants and though unpaid overtime was often expected and worked it was never of the 100 hour week variety so commonplace in London..salarys where also better and restaurant prices were lower, standards far higher too...What chefs in the UK need to realise is that you may be superman but others arent and after, say 15 hours hard graft you are not as effective as somone halfway into a 9 hour shift...mistakes occur and it is a false economy to just keep driving people on..

Somewhat blue-eyed this, as though it should be to do with guest satisfaction your average management/accounting team will beg to differ..At my last position in London ( super- luxury 5 star ) it was made quite clear to me that staff and not food costs were the big issue for management and if I could be 'flexible' with the amount of staff I needed then that would be financially beneficial to me...talking to colleagues I can confirm this is most certainly not an isolated case..


Edited by confiseur (log)

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I once saw a line cook raise a knife at a sous and the sous picked up a spoon and the guy scoffed at him like, what are you gonna do with that? and next thing you know the guys nose was bleeding from a good thwap from the spoon... it was awesome. then the guy whined and quit but you know, he did threaten with a knife so I think he had it coming.

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not so sure about slotting it into myths and legends, until the day full employment is gleamed to a correct ratio of staff to work (not guests) then the 16 hour day is here to stay, and before you go on about the work, if most of the key restaurants who still advocate this simplified their menus/mis en place, then the chefs doing those hours would simply go elsewhere. not to mention the clientelle.

as for juicy bonuses I have been in this business long enough to know that payroll is always a small percentage of any bonus and will always have more to do with guest satisfaction and food cost. that is if the business is large enough to carry an exec chef (12 I know of were made redundant in March alone, in the south east of england, this was a general trend of positions lost)

Hmmm....methinks in the UK at least the industry needs to wean itself off cheap labour as this is just used as a cover for inefficiency...

20 years working in CH in luxury hotels/restaurants and though unpaid overtime was often expected and worked it was never of the 100 hour week variety so commonplace in London..salarys where also better and restaurant prices were lower, standards far higher too...What chefs in the UK need to realise is that you may be superman but others arent and after, say 15 hours hard graft you are not as effective as somone halfway into a 9 hour shift...mistakes occur and it is a false economy to just keep driving people on..

Somewhat blue-eyed this, as though it should be to do with guest satisfaction your average management/accounting team will beg to differ..At my last position in London ( super- luxury 5 star ) it was made quite clear to me that staff and not food costs were the big issue for management and if I could be 'flexible' with the amount of staff I needed then that would be financially beneficial to me...talking to colleagues I can confirm this is most certainly not an isolated case..

as for standards way back then being higher I agree, as there were far less companies providing so called fine dining short-cuts for chefs which are commonplace now in quite high level kitchens which is simply de-skilling the industry, couple that with far too many food outlets and nowhere near enough bodies to staff them (qualified ones anyway) then buying in and serving defrosted crap is the only way for businesses to survive.

as for your financial offer for keeping a low payroll, I have personally not had such an offer, nor would I accept one for the sake of personal gain by making me and my staff work harder for no reason, I have heard of these kind of offers being made and think that it is the kind of cut-throat 5* bull**** that still plagues the high end (generally hotels) these days. it is one of the reasons I left the 5* hotel market in the first place, even though the more modern boutique hotels sell themselves as a new breed of management with a high profile dismissal of 'old school ways' the truth of the matter is that they are simply the advil or neurofen to the generic ibuprofen, simply the same just sugar coated.


after all these years in a kitchen, I would have thought it would become 'just a job'

but not so, spending my time playing not working

www.e-senses.co.uk

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Confiseur, thank you for your post. I can't handle that sort of grandstanding and I don't think it helps people improve, either. Having worked in restaurants and having friends also in the business, I can attest that the hours are not universal, either. These things change from place to place and chef to chef. Frankly if you're working for a chef that can't keep it in his pants, I'd advise you to move on.

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