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MattyC

Age is just a number.... right?

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So, many times in my career i've had to deal with the whole age discrimination thing. Maine seems to be so ass backwards sometimes it is painful when it comes to that, at least with my personal experiences. Regardless of that, i've still managed to get a good amount of experience under my belt.

I've helped open restaurants from the ground up, i've worked all across the board from pub food to fine dining, and I haven't had a job that wasn't a titled position in at least 5 year, ranging from head cook, to sous, to chef de cuisine, and anything in between. I've done things like worked with local and organic, helping out at farmers markets, to using a lot of modern techniques. I've worked food events, charity dinners, wine tastings..... basically i've busted my ass 80 hours a week my whole working life to get a leg up wherever possible, to become as well rounded and experience as I can be. And with all of that, along with great references, lately that glaring number next to my name just seems to be that kicker why I can't find anything decent. I'm 27.

I do realize that is still young in this industry, but it's getting to that point where personally I feel like im old enough, and easily have the skills, to be past that. But lately every job offer is either i'm very much over qualified and they won't give it to me (or it pays something obscene like 9 bucks an hour), or I would be great for a position, they just don't feel i'm old enough despite my experiences.

One good example is a job I just spent over a month attempting to get. It was to open a new restaurant two investors are dropping down about a mil on. An ambitious project, and but since I do have experience with opening a place, I of course applied. I got a call in to come talk to them pretty much right off the bat. One of the owners talked it over with me, and basically it would be a great project. They bring you in, they had no set ideas as to what the food should be, so it would be completely your show. So they gave everyone who had actually gotten a call in homework assignment, to do writeups on costing, what type of food they would want to serve, everything. So I sent them in full menu mockups, pages of details and what the rough numbers would be, etc. Easy as pie. At the next meeting i'm told I pretty much put in the most amount of effort out of everyone, some people had even just sent in something as small as one paragraph, which just seemed completely unprofessional.

Anyway, after that, a few meetings later and i'm told i've beaten out a lot of people, and i'm down to the final two people. They inform me that they love everything i've suggested, that i'm very different from everything else, and that i'm looking great. And not only that, the other guy who is in the final two with me has had other restaurants before, and two of which where not good at all. So at this point i'm looking great, and they express that.

Coming down to the last meeting, i meet with the other owner, some of their friends, make a few examples for them, had a great time, so while I know it's not 100%, i'm feeling good, everyone had great feedback and seemed to love my ideas.

A few days later, I get a small, two paragraph email. Despite them liking my ideas, putting in more effort than anyone else, etc, they decide to go with the other man because he is older, that the management side of his experience was just lengthier, and they wouldn't feel comfortable with me. The insulting part was the fact they asked me to come work for the man they hired, to give him ideas. So basically they wanted me, just not that silly little number.

So after all my explaining and ranting, am I wrong here? Am I right to feel like i'm being discriminated against? Or am I just getting too big for my britches. This isn't the only example of this. Lately i've had to deal with people loving me and my experience... until they meet me and see how old I am. And i'm getting sick of it. And has anyone else had to deal with things like this?


Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.

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The feelings you are expressing are actually pretty common, regardless of the profession.

When I was young(er), I thought I knew it all and perhaps was more knowledgeable in my area of expertise than most, regardless of age.

However, now that I am older and have the benefit of hindsight, there are a few things I could have done differently given the benefit of experience and "widsom".

I happen to invest in start-ups and deal with many 25 yr old CEOs. It is exciting to see their passion and drive, but this can also be blinding. They sometimes (OK, often), do not know what they do not know and fail to recognize any potential obstacle in their way. Thus, the ideal management team I look for would be one with the passion and drive, but also the benefit of experience with at least one failure and learning from the past and the ability to articulate why they failed and what they would do differently.

So does age automatically equate experience and wisdom? Of-course not. But if you look back at your past endeavors and cannot think of different approaches which would have made it even more successful, chances are you are not ready yet.

Is it right, is this wrong? I don't know. But if you don't like it, invest your own million in a restaurant :raz: . Perhaps that would improve your marketability even more (the best investment is in a company that does not need it :wink: )


Edited by percyn (log)

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I do agree that a young age can be blinding. Pure passion and nothing else can indeed be very blinding. You know, it's like life, you need to fall down to see how to get up again. And I do admit, I have had those moments. Sometimes in the past I have had that 'I'm young so of course I know everything attitude', although these days I like to think I have at least grown out of that a bit. I've most certainly had my share of mistakes and failed places, and honestly there were a few jobs that I took solely to be there when it failed, to see why they did, and to see what could be done next time to fix it. I don't think that I know more than most people anymore. At one point, sure, I was cocky as all holy hell, but i've had my share of downs, and I think because of those i do view things different than a standard chef in his 20's.

It's just hard to get people to see that, and maybe i'm just expecting too much for a young age, but I also feel like if I keep having to take things that are back down the skill tree, it will keep setting me back. I'm not above that, but there is just a skill (and pay) line that I shouldn't feel like I have to sink below again just because im young.


Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.

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I have the same problems. I'm 33 and I am the general superintendant of a 20 Mil$ Healtcare jobsite. And I've been asked for ID the last time I bought liquor in Maine. However, one of my coworker is 21 and looks 35. Nobody ask him where he is from and how come he is so young for a management job. It all boils down to this: your looks counts for much, and your attitude for the rest. I grew a beard. I listen a lot to people before I speak my mind and think before I do so. But do not let the fire die, it's a big plus in any aspect of your life.

I am amazed by the change it made, and in the end you do not have to tell them how old you are if they feel comfortable with you.

Good luck!


Who said you could not play with your food?

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I wouldn't necessarily take at face value the reasons anyone gives for not hiring an individual. In your case the investors may have decided to hire the other person rather than you for some less than salutory reason(the other guy was Anthony Soprano, Jr. and Tony, Sr. "suggested" that Jr. get the job) or because they simply decided they didn't like something about you(your preference for playing the Jonas Brothers while you are cooking)) but used age as a reason so as not to hurt your feelings or get into an argument.

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I wouldn't necessarily take at face value the reasons anyone gives for not hiring an individual. In your case the investors may have decided to hire the other person rather than you for some less than salutory reason(the other guy was Anthony Soprano, Jr. and Tony, Sr. "suggested" that Jr. get the job) or because they simply decided they didn't like something about you(your preference for playing the Jonas Brothers while you are cooking)) but used age as a reason so as not to hurt your feelings or get into an argument.

Obviously there is that too, which in my book is just as bad. Just be honest. I've been shot down before for things people may not like or agree with, and i'm ok with that: not everyone likes everything, not everyone can agree with everything, and anyone can screw up, etc. It's just lately, like i've said, that seems to be the scapegoat that people are using. I don't think that particular reasoning really was valid with the example I gave though, being asked to basically use my ideas to help the other guy that was picked, and that just seemed wrong to me. If you want me, just hire me.

Maybe i'm the only one who seems to have this happen to. I guess i'm just frustrated. I don't feel like I should have to take easier jobs just because of my age - i can't get better being shoved into something like a 9 dollar an hour garde mange spot when i've had positions paying double that running the whole kitchen, just because of a number.


Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.

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And maybe they really want you for the job but cant market you so they want you as second in command so they can promote you down the road.

Who knows?

Grey your temples, take your birthdate etc off your resume and good luck!


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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How do your potential employers know your age? Are they asking how old you are? Or are you putting it on your resume?

I don't know what the employment laws are in your state, but here in British Columbia there are certain interview questions that are considered "illegal" - ie, questions that have no direct bearing on the position being hired for, such as those about marital status, religion and age. If an interviewer asks an illegal question, the applicant can decline to answer, or phrase it in such a way that answers the question without giving away the details ("I'm over 18 yrs old, and within the legal working age").

And if you've got your age/birthdate on your resume, definitely take it off!

Good luck!

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Lately i've had to deal with people loving me and my experience... until they meet me and see how old I am. And i'm getting sick of it. And has anyone else had to deal with things like this?

Does that mean this latest job opportunity is one in a series of similar episodes? Where you are talking to people over the telephone, or email; and when they meet you in person, you see the light in their eyes dim and the excitement wane?

Did you feel comfortable enough with anyone you interviewed with - or a former boss, for example - who can give you some honest feedback about how you are coming across? What leaped out at me was the phrase you wrote and I put in bold above.

Yes, age discrimination exists at all levels (against the younger employee as well as the older employee). People often make snap judgements on first impressions and this could be what's happening with you. When I was leaving one job for another as a technical trainer (where there were few women in the field, and being 25 and single, one of my mentors took me to lunch and told me very plainly that I needed to wear my glasses when I was teaching because it made me look a little older, and people took me more seriously when I wore my glasses instead of contacts. I tried it out during a class I was teaching - and he was right.)

So perhaps something in your demeanor or appearance makes you look younger than your years and that did not inspire this group to let you take care of their million dollars. You need to find someone who will be honest with you and tell you if that's the case.

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I do look young for my age, I'll admit that, and I do have certain items on myself that could be viewed as 'unprofessional', but I'm usually pretty conscious of hiding anything that would alarm any potential employers. I have tattoos on my arms, but I always wear long sleeve at any meetings I have with people, and I have had a mohawk in times past, but have always made sure to keep that hidden with a hat. The people I use for references all say I come across as 'well-mannered', and haven't had a problem with them, often times I was hired after the first interview. It's just for whatever reason, lately I do get odd looks after they meet me. Maybe it's just because they are doubtful I really do have the skills and experience I actually do have at my age? I'm just not sure.

And yes, this is just one thing in a series of events and honestly might just boil down to me looking younger than I do. But that still, at least to me, shouldn't matter. If someone is qualified, that should be it, end of story. Maybe that way of thinking is wrong, I don't know.


Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.

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If someone is qualified, that should be it, end of story. Maybe that way of thinking is wrong, I don't know.

That way of thinking isn't wrong, it just isn't reality. It should be reality. The best person for the job should get the job. It just doesn't always work that way. The bottom line is that an employer can use whatever criteria they want for selecting employees. Officially, there are certain things they "can't" consider but that's like handing someone a Victoria's Secret catalog and telling them it's illegal to picture the models nude. They just can't tell you they've done it, you can't really stop them from doing it.


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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I had a similar problem years ago. When I landed my first gig as Kitchen Manager I was 24, 25- somewhere in there, and had a few cooks working for me that were in their 40's or older. It took a little work to earn their respect, me being a "whipper snapper" & all. Eventually I did, though. Look at it this way- you'll keep on learning and eventually you'll get your shots. And eventually, prospective employers will look at you and decide you're too old and that they want a younger guy with more "fire." :hmmm:

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where are all your connections in your 5 plus years thats one of the biggest parts of the game is making friends in high places

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I don't think you mentioned what's the longest time you've stayed in a position. You have a hell of a lot of experience - but are you remembering that a record of chop-and-change can unsettle employers ? It takes time and effort to "bed in" (stop sniggering at the back) any new staff member, more so the more senior they are. No-one wants to go through that only to have the person leave too soon. You're single ? No kids ? That makes you more of a 'flight risk'.

I've done some recruiting business in the past, though not in the catering field. I heard a great comment from someone, an experienced interviewer, looking at a resume. The candidate had been in 6 or 7 jobs, none lasting more than three years, in a career of 16 years. The interviewer said "this guy doesn't have 16 years' experience - he has three years' experience, five times".

Lastly, don't take "age discrimination" personally. For the older guys, it's frightening having these young, fit, healthy (strong-backed, flexible-kneed, eagle-eyed, steady-handed), sharp, up-to-date kids coming up below you, looking to take your position and your earnings. Sure old guys will stick together. That's not going to change to suit you, and you'll not escape it by changing to any other career.


QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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I don't think you mentioned what's the longest time you've stayed in a position. You have a hell of a lot of experience - but are you remembering that a record of chop-and-change can unsettle employers ? It takes time and effort to "bed in" (stop sniggering at the back) any new staff member, more so the more senior they are. No-one wants to go through that only to have the person leave too soon. You're single ? No kids ? That makes you more of a 'flight risk'.

I've done some recruiting business in the past, though not in the catering field. I heard a great comment from someone, an experienced interviewer, looking at a resume. The candidate had been in 6 or 7 jobs, none lasting more than three years, in a career of 16 years. The interviewer said "this guy doesn't have 16 years' experience - he has three years' experience, five times".

Chop and change ? you cannot be serious lol and as for the 'great comment from an experienced interviewer'the guy who said that must have had zilch experience of the catering industry...please, he's having a laugh at your expense...either that or the guy is putting the 'W' into anchor-man..

As a chef, having 8 different positions ...so long as some career progression is shown... is far, far superior than staying in one place for 16 years. In fact it is positively disadvantageous to stay so long, particularly at the start of your career.

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Chop and change ? you cannot be serious lol...

Touched a nerve at all ? Management - the running and handling of an organisation, a team - is a very different discipline to professional cooking, or to engineering, or to teaching or playing pro sport... to all kinds of careers. There are few, if any, careers whose core discipline is management itself. In too many organisations you see the corollary of this, where the "subject-matter" expert is promoted into a supervisory role, turns out not to have the talents or experience to manage well, and the whole operation suffers.

No-one's telling a guy in his 20's that he needs 16 years in one job. The truth remains, that there is a balance to be struck, if you're looking to be allowed the responsibility of being the boss, between an incredibly diverse range of demonstrable cooking experience on the one hand, and some record of steady reliability, application and commitment to an employer, and an ability to rub along with a team for a prolonged period on the other.

Sorry if that's a bit dry, but I believe it's enough a part of the mindset of business owners to be worth remembering. If I was in MattyC's shoes, knowing what I know now, I'd be asking myself those questions. Maybe he has and just hasn't mentioned it yet. Maybe it's another perspective that'll help. Who knows ? You solicit advice and people tend to give it, and I think that's kinda nice. Don't you ? Anyway, I'm delighted I could give you a laugh :smile:


Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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i agree with blether, from what mattyc has said it seems like he has jumped around a lot of jobs in the few years he has been a cook in order to hold all the positions he has had. I am 25. I am the chef of a restaurant in manhattan, i have never had age discrimination in nyc, d.c., or savannah, ga. where i have held nothing but chef de cuisinejobs and chef jobs since the age of 20. You have to be humble and know your strengths and weakness's and be honest about them with your employers. At least that has worked in my case. And as for hiring people, i would take a mid twenties cook any day over an older cat.

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When I hire I look first at experience and then how they will fit into my kitchen. I've hired some eighteen year olds who are better than my vets and well.. some twentysomethings who make me wonder how on earth they graduated culinary. Age is not the issue... work quality, ethic and performance is and that can be learned and demonstrated at any age.

JMHO

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Mmmm... I dunno about that.

5 years ago I had sold my catering business, and after a long, well deserved holiday, started to look for work again. At this point, I was 41, with over 20 years of experience in 3 continents, and most of the places were either 4 or 5 star.

The hotels yawned at me. Couldn't pigeon hole me, and if I was management material, I would either have to come up from the ranks or be head-hunted. In the ranks they like 'em young, stupid enough to work 80 hr weeks and not complain about getting laid off 2 mths later.

The restaurants wanted the same, but with the addition that I have less experience or knowledge than the owner or the current Chef.

The head hunters wanted me single with a packed suitcase so they could parchute me to wherever. O.K. I guess age wasn't an issue here.

Meh. Farted about for a half a year working a few part time places and then took the plunge again and opened my own chocolate and pastry place.

For me, when hiring, age doesn't make much of a difference though....

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A few days later, I get a small, two paragraph email. Despite them liking my ideas, putting in more effort than anyone else, etc, they decide to go with the other man because he is older, that the management side of his experience was just lengthier, and they wouldn't feel comfortable with me. The insulting part was the fact they asked me to come work for the man they hired, to give him ideas. So basically they wanted me, just not that silly little number.

So after all my explaining and ranting, am I wrong here? Am I right to feel like i'm being discriminated against? Or am I just getting too big for my britches. This isn't the only example of this. Lately i've had to deal with people loving me and my experience... until they meet me and see how old I am. And i'm getting sick of it. And has anyone else had to deal with things like this?

Echoing Beebs, I believe that at the very least you have grounds for a complaint to the EEOC if--and this is a big if--they actually wrote that they weren't hiring you specifically because you were younger than the other finalist. Management experience is a legally defensible reason; age in and of itself--including its relationship to comfort level--is not. I understand if you hesitate doing this out of legitimate worry about possibly gaining an undeserved reputation as a "troublemaker" in your community.


"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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A few days later, I get a small, two paragraph email. Despite them liking my ideas, putting in more effort than anyone else, etc, they decide to go with the other man because he is older, that the management side of his experience was just lengthier, and they wouldn't feel comfortable with me. The insulting part was the fact they asked me to come work for the man they hired, to give him ideas. So basically they wanted me, just not that silly little number.

Reading through this, I think Mattyc has made a wrong assumption.

Anyone in a position who reads X amounts of resumes in a week can fairly accurately guage the age of the applicant just by reading the resume and taking cues from educational dates, work experiences, or just plain outright birthdates. It was the resume that got the applicant the interviews.

Read through the post again, I believe it was the owner who made the final decision on who gets the job. Perhaps you weren't wearing a hat to cover up the mohawk?

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I sure hope that age is just a number. I've got a few years on you - 29 to be precise - and I'm just now entering the food world, hopefully as a prep cook. I'm hoping that my other life experience will serve me well. I work really hard and efficiently and I learn fast. I'm ignoring the likelihood that I'm crazy!


"Life itself is the proper binge" Julia Child

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I have had a mohawk in times past, but have always made sure to keep that hidden with a hat.

Ouch. Wearing a hat indoors is a no-no- can be viewed as rude or unprofessional.

Me, I'd rather see your mohawk.

I agree w above: "more management experience" could well mean - "this guy knows how to balance a budget",

and that means a lot to the folks who front the money.

I hope the issue is no longer one, and you've gotten the job of your dreams.


Edited by Kouign Aman (log)

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I don't think you're wrong to feel discriminated against. Many people in this thread have offered other reasonable explanations to try to soothe your feathers, including good ones (he has more experience in areas they want, like budget) and bad ones (his daddy/golfing buddy, etc getting the job for him). Any of these might be true or it could just be that they don't like your mohawk or tattoos or age. In this economy, they can pick whatever reason they want and they'll still have applicants out the door.

Some of those factors against you, you can change to try to present a more professional or mainstream image, but some things you either can't or won't, and with those, you'll either have to accept that people have their own opinions or try to change their opinions. Having tattoos and a mohawk, you've probably dealt with it before. Some people have to deal with even more, like sexism and racism; at least be thankful you were born on the right side of those issues.

I don't know what answer you're looking for. Discrimination is wrong, that's easy. Are you looking for an explanation or sympathetic ears or a solution? Will any of those help? When you're young, you get angry and disappointed at the disparity between how things are and how they should be. I'm not religious, but one gem that helped me deal was the serenity prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." If you're not religious, cross out the god, but the sentiment is still the same. Hope it helps!


Edited by keri (log)

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