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mskerr

Another terrible boss – sigh.

34 posts in this topic

Hi all-

I have written here about my first boss at a waitressing + cooking job, and what a crazy neurotic joke that was.

http://forums.egulle...od#entry1849969

A few months back, I had another foray into unbelievably incompetent chef-bosses.

(I should mention, between those two jobs, I worked as a line cook at a great restaurant with an awesome boss, and I loved it, even though it kicked my a**.)

I applied to one of those vague Craigslist ads for a cafe in town (for reference, a SMALL town, with no really good cafes or restaurants in my experience). Supposed to be a cooking job, experience preferred. I googled the reviews on the place. It turned out to be more or less a deli/motel, featuring sandwiches, with fresh-baked muffins and the like in the morning, and some hot meals at night (like burgers cooked ahead of time and microwaved to order - is this usual?). The reviews for their sandwiches were great - "Best sandwich ever!" The reviews for the motel/boss - not so flash. Apparently a couple visiting CA from Europe arrived late at the motel to check into their reserved room, and found no one about. They did find an envelope with a European name on it, and while it was neither of their names, they figured it was probably meant for them and used the key inside to unlock their room... only to find an older woman sleeping in their bed, with her big old shaggy St. Bernard on the floor. She awoke and promptly started yelling at them for waking her up. She eventually clicked on, and realized they were her guests... and straightened up the sheets without changing them, and left them to the room. Nice, huh? (For reference, the room was $80 in the low season, $110 in the high season for a tiny double.)

Other reviews complained about the lack of doors on the bathrooms - but when they asked the owner if there were rooms with doors, she would berate them (in her amazingly grating voice, as I later found out) for wanting privacy, asking for all in the vicinity to hear, why they needed a door on the bathroom if they were a couple. Again, $80-110 a night.

But, I focused more on the food reviews and applied. I got an interview, and then a week trial. I thought I was applying for a cooking job, but my first task the first morning (when she was surprised to see me, not having made note of what day I started) was to clean the motel rooms, which partly meant checking for bed-bugs since they'd had some official complaints lately, and one more complaint would lead to a shut-down by the Dept. of Health. I did make it into the kitchen on subsequent shifts, to be trained by a young guy who had worked there for years and basically appointed himself the intelligent person on permises over the boss, to her delight - less responsibility for her. Now, I was the only person at the cafe with ANY professional line-cooking experience. I also am a perfectionist, so I really gave a damn about things like "finesse," which as Thomas Keller points out, applies just as much to making a deli sandwich as to a foie gras dish. Even at $8 an hour. I consider myself a humble amateur, but desperate to learn.

Things I was reprimanded for during my short tenure there:

(1) Daring to leave the boss half of the tips in the tip jar when I worked with her, as per usual working M.O.,

(2) Not knowing the menu, because I didn't put spinach on the mushroom sandwich. When I later pointed out to her (at staff meeting, in front of everyone) that the menu said nothing about spinach, she admitted to not knowing what was on the menu, though she was drunk on wine by then, so no remorse. She was already busy wanking on quoting Leonard Cohen, insinuating that her flaws were wonderful things for us all to behold.

I also got in trouble for asking someone if they wanted a piece of lettuce on the sandwich, since according to Boss-Lady, "they don't deserve spinach AND lettuce!"

(3) Turning off the incredibly loud timer as a favor to her while she was reaching to pull out baked goods from the oven - because apparently you never turn off the timer before you pull something out of the oven.

(4) Not wearing short skirts, but

(5) Wearing short shorts, and

(6) Not "cuting it up" for the job - this from a middle-aged overweight woman whose granny panties showed about 3" above her jeans. I don't care about fashion or make-up, but I think I'm hardly a brown-bagger... and anyway, I thought I was applying for a cooking job.

(7) Using recipes or formulas while baking. Her idea of baking was "throw a bunch of nutella and sugar and flour and maybe some other random stuff in a pan and bake." When asked roughly what proportions to use, she proceeded to pull them out of her... you get the idea. Whenever I asked her specific questions about cooking or baking, she would look at me like I was mentally retarded before telling me "it doesn't matter." Hmm, everything I have ever read about professional baking reckons that EVERYTHING MATTERS.

(8) Referring to customers with whom she appeared to be friendly as her "mates" - how was I to know someone had unfriended her on facebook that day and apparently "no one is my mate!"

Other funny quirks about the boss...

-She often wouldn't make note of any reservations for the motel, so people would show up from foreign countries to find out they had nowhere to stay.

-OR, if she did make note, she would write, say, "Krauts" for Germans, so when they showed up, we employees would say something like "Oh, you must be the Krauts!"

- It turned out that the previous season, she had a couple of very competent people working for her. They basically sat her down and told her that she was holding the business back, and made a deal with her where they would run the business for the summer on the condition that she stayed away. She moved a few hours away and got a job at a cafe. The cafe was thriving in her absence. Meanwhile she was withdrawing money from the cafe's account to sustain herself... and then got fired from the cafe for being a bad employee, proceeded to accuse the managers of stealing from her, and reinstated herself at the cafe... and business promptly fell off.

-Also, whenever she worked, the drawer would be off by some multiple of $20. When she went out of town, the drawer would be bang on at the end of the night.

(I should mention apparently her father bought her the business, and she has it up for sale, but has nowhere to go in the meantime, apparently, where she herself won't get fired, so she basically doesn't care. Unfortunately, I know a lot of people like this, who are over their businesses, but are stubborn about selling them at pre-recession prices, to no avail. )

Now, my restaurant experience is pretty limited and extremely unconventional. But from everything I have ever read, I thought that chefs were people to look up to, to learn from, and to tuck your head in and say "Yes, Chef" towhen you mess up. Instead, this woman's basic modus operandi is to consistently and consciously fudge things up all day every day and then await being growled at later (preferably when she's drunk) for everything she already knows she's done wrong, then have a sentimental, boozy make-up session. She apparently respects people who "stand up for themselves" - which means, people who will tell her she's knowingly being a - (insert worst word you can think of her). I think I'd prefer a chef who actually acts professional instead of taking out their personal misery and lack of - um, relations - on their employees. She told me once that if I had a problem with her I should tell her, instead of the other employees, to which I replied something like "Umm, when you're in a bad mood, I'm not going anywhere near you." And when I told her the job was not going to work out for me and wasn't what I expected she got all solemn and quiet and asked "Is it me?" To which I replied, "Well, actually, yes," and proceeded to cordially tell her that she was like a black cloud to be around, but wished her well on her business. She said "I agree with everything you say"... and on a daily basis, she is the first person to admit that she is the #1 problem with the business... yet everyday she comes in personally miserable (I should also add she lives in the motel, so she never gets away from the business), proceeds to take it out on anyone around her, especially anyone who might actually be happy in their personal life, and then waits for those people to come in and discipline her, and then have a faux-make-up.... WTF???

Granted, I quit that job a few months ago, but it still leaves me reeling, wondering what the hell happened there, how someone like that can actually run a business, especially with an "it doesn't matter" attitude while consciously messing things up every day...

Good fun! I'm sure there's many more little anecdotes, but I have been trying to put it out of my mind. Nonetheless- what is up??

*Edited to add: To give another example of incompetence, this was a deli where I would occasionally show up to find out that there wasn't bread to make sandwiches that day. Hmm, that makes it a bit difficult, eh?


Edited by mskerr (log)

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Glad we got that off our chest.

We won't be looking at craig's list for any more jobs, now will we?

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Glad we got that off our chest.

We won't be looking at craig's list for any more jobs, now will we?

My line-cooking job I loved was also off Craigslist though, so you just never know do you?

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While your post is pretty funny, she is obviously an alcoholic and probably mentally ill in some respect. Which I find sad rather than funny.

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It was Basil Fawlty in drag.

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We won't be looking at craig's list for any more jobs, now will we?

I've gotten all my jobs off of CL including michelin spots.


Sleep, bike, cook, feed, repeat...

Chef Facebook HQ Menlo Park, CA

My eGullet Foodblog

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Whoa boy. I think I worked for this woman's doppelganger when I was in college. She sat around boozing in the bar all day, then would call employees at home in the evening to slur at them.

Not good times.

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While your post is pretty funny, she is obviously an alcoholic and probably mentally ill in some respect. Which I find sad rather than funny.

Alcoholic, yes, but that's pretty normal for us cooks right?

Mentally ill, no. Just really unhappy I think. After quitting, I found out that a couple of my older friends have known her for decades, and one of them was closely related to her by marriage. They gave me the dirt. Too bad I hadn't found out earlier!

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Mskerr, do not tar me with the same brush as yourself. No, I'm not an alcoholic, never was, nor do I use "recreational" drugs".

I have issues with your post however. Say I buy a bottle of wine, and after the first sip discover it is bad---vinegar bad. Should I continue to drink another three glasses and complain the whole time, or just throw the bottle out?

You applied for a cook's job, showed up, and was told that you would be doing housekeeping. Most people-including myself, would thank the woman, tell her she just wasted 2 hours of my time, and that would be it. You seem to have spent some serious time digging up dirt on her, and even more time writing about it.

There are psychotic employers just as there are psychotic employees. I can go into greater detail about my one-day-wonder waitress who stole the delivery van keys out of my desk drawer, drove off with my delivery van and moved her apartment over the lunch delivery period, the cook who broke one valve on a six burner bbq, then proceeded to break another, than another, and another, before he finally decided to call me up to find out how to light it. The gr. 11 p/t dishwasher who ran 4 baskets of strawberries though my high-temp dishwasher, the cook who wanted to strain 350 degree fryer oil into a plastic bucket, or the cook who claimed he had no medical conditions on his application and a week later freaked everyone out with an epilectic grand-mal siezure.

Then again, I've had employers who left out "Wednesday" on the weekly schedule.....

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Mskerr, do not tar me with the same brush as yourself. No, I'm not an alcoholic, never was, nor do I use "recreational" drugs".

I have issues with your post however. Say I buy a bottle of wine, and after the first sip discover it is bad---vinegar bad. Should I continue to drink another three glasses and complain the whole time, or just throw the bottle out?

You applied for a cook's job, showed up, and was told that you would be doing housekeeping. Most people-including myself, would thank the woman, tell her she just wasted 2 hours of my time, and that would be it. You seem to have spent some serious time digging up dirt on her, and even more time writing about it.

There are psychotic employers just as there are psychotic employees.

No harm meant. I've just been watching a bit of Bourdain while eating, and every cook is somewhere between tipsy and smashed, and the Argentinian gauchos are joking that there are two kinds of cooks - alcoholics and gays - and asking Tony which one he is. So pardon the booze joke!

To be fair to the employer, the job was described during my interview as "a little bit of everything" but at the time I thought that meant around the cafe. I didn't know it involved the motel. And just before I started, the housekeeper came down with pneumonia. And they were still hiring. And it was only a small part of my job while I worked there. And in any event, I started cleaning businesses on the weekend with my mom as a kid, so it really doesn't bother me too much.

As for spending "serious time digging up dirt"... sorry to disappoint you, but in a small town, "digging up dirt" involves mentioning someone's name in passing, to immediately find out whose cousin they married and what their daddy's like, etc. And, given the typos in my post, I obviously didn't take too long writing it.

As for crazy employees/coworkers- well, that's a whole different thread, isn't it?

Edited to add:

I think it's pretty clear in my post that my main problems with the job have to do with the "it doesn't matter" approach to cooking, which is anathema to me, as well as a bigger emphasis on how I looked at work, and irrelevant things like the boss's facebook status, vs. the food I produced.


Edited by mskerr (log)

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No harm meant. I've just been watching a bit of Bourdain while eating, and every cook is somewhere between tipsy and smashed

I think Bourdain would be alot less interesting to most people if they didnt show crap like that, its just tv man.

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No harm meant. I've just been watching a bit of Bourdain while eating, and every cook is somewhere between tipsy and smashed

I think Bourdain would be alot less interesting to most people if they didnt show crap like that, its just tv man.

That would be an interesting idea to pitch - "Let's make a less interesting TV show!"

Well, I & most people I know would probably agree that most cooks we know are either drunk, gay, or both, and food and drink are natural partners, aren't they? But we can put all this aside, I think.

Note to self: do not attempt levity.

Edited once again for spelling.


Edited by mskerr (log)

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I dunno about that.

If I had a dollar for every gay waiter I've worked with, I'd be very rich. I think throughout my entire career I've only worked with maybe a half-dozen men who would openly admit to being gay. The last 15 years of my career are here in Vancouver.

There are a lot of alcoholics I've worked with, "Beer farts" I'd call them, the Druggies never lasted long, they were always on the way down. But not EVERY cook I know abused drugs or booze.

I get kinda uncomfortable when people make blanket statements about my career, one that I've been in for over 30 years..........

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Maybe you shouldn't take it personally, EdwardJ. How do you suppose salespeople (crooks!) and lawyers (shysters!) and doctors (quacks!) feel when they hear their careers besmirched? It's just a conversation, not an indictment.

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. . . . How do you suppose salespeople (crooks!) and lawyers (shysters!) and doctors (quacks!) feel when they hear their careers besmirched?

Kind of like crap, actually; I've listened to people talk about this sort of thing many times.

It's just a conversation, not an indictment.

Eeeh... somehow, it's being 'just conversation' doesn't quite cut it. I can recall sitting with an older woman (who was in no way in denial or unhappy generally with being older), who sobbed for quite a while over hearing some younger colleagues playfully refer to her and her reproductive organs as dried up, among other choice things. It wasn't meant to be hostile, the girls were just trying to sound clever to each other, but it hurt this other woman like hell. I can remember my horrified shock at hearing a friend casually mention that someone 'tried to Jew me out of [something or other]', at hearing a colleague dismissively ascribe several workers' on-the-dot clocking-out as being due to their being 'lazy ni--ers'. It just sits wrong. Besides, that sort of label is pretty lazy, surely we can do better than that!


Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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What I meant about it being a conversation, was that the OP was making an observation while typing on the fly. Her comment wasn't cruel or racist, at least it didn't sit that way with me. Are we so PC that every little word need be parsed for its potential to offend? If so, then I have been offended by quite a number of things that are often bandied about on this here board but I'm a big girl and I soldier on.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with food or cooking, so I'll say no more.

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mskerr,

Relax,

Just remember to omit the word "all" when making a blanket statement, O.K.?

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. . . . How do you suppose salespeople (crooks!) and lawyers (shysters!) and doctors (quacks!) feel when they hear their careers besmirched?

Kind of like crap, actually; I've listened to people talk about this sort of thing many times.

It's just a conversation, not an indictment.

Eeeh... somehow, it's being 'just conversation' doesn't quite cut it. I can recall sitting with an older woman (who was in no way in denial or unhappy generally with being older), who sobbed for quite a while over hearing some younger colleagues playfully refer to her and her reproductive organs as dried up, among other choice things. It wasn't meant to be hostile, the girls were just trying to sound clever to each other, but it hurt this other woman like hell. I can remember my horrified shock at hearing a friend casually mention that someone 'tried to Jew me out of [something or other]', at hearing a colleague dismissively ascribe several workers' on-the-dot clocking-out as being due to their being 'lazy ni--ers'. It just sits wrong. Besides, that sort of label is pretty lazy, surely we can do better than that!

I certainly wouldn't be overjoyed at hearing cruel jokes about an older colleagues' "dried-up reproductive organs" either, or racist remarks. I don't think that casually remarking that alcoholic cooks aren't exactly unknown, is akin to racism or overtly being an a-hole. I happen to think that the drinking habits of many of my colleagues has way more to do with the circumstances of the job, the working hours, the pressure, the aforementioned fact that food and drink tend to go well together, etc. This isn't anything about someone's race, age, gender, etc.

What I meant about it being a conversation, was that the OP was making an observation while typing on the fly. Her comment wasn't cruel or racist, at least it didn't sit that way with me. Are we so PC that every little word need be parsed for its potential to offend? If so, then I have been offended by quite a number of things that are often bandied about on this here board but I'm a big girl and I soldier on.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with food or cooking, so I'll say no more.

Thank you. I am not at all into political correctness for the sake of political correctness rather than more-or-less informed conversation, and yes, this has nothing to do with cooking or the gist of my post.

mskerr,

Relax,

Just remember to omit the word "all" when making a blanket statement, O.K.?

May I refer you to the comment in question? :

While your post is pretty funny, she is obviously an alcoholic and probably mentally ill in some respect. Which I find sad rather than funny.

Alcoholic, yes, but that's pretty normal for us cooks right?

I think there's a difference between joking that a liking for the booze is pretty normal for us cooks, based on my own empirical experience (at least, most of the cooks I know would have no problem owning up to it, nor would the motley crüe of random cooks you can usually meet at a dive bar in a city pounding whiskey well before noon), vs. making a blanket statement 'tarring' all cooks 'with the same brush'... as if any blanket statement I make on an Internet forum is going to have much bearing on the larger world, anyway. I don't see the word "all" in the comment you originally took issue with. And really, if you're taking a joke made by some Argentinian gauchos to Mr. bourdain, while they drink wine and cook their steaks, that seriously- I guess we just have differences of opinion!

Edited again for spelling, grammar, etc.


Edited by mskerr (log)

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Maybe you shouldn't take it personally, EdwardJ. How do you suppose salespeople (crooks!) and lawyers (shysters!) and doctors (quacks!) feel when they hear their careers besmirched? It's just a conversation, not an indictment.

Mmmm, I daresay you'll be hearing from the lawyers and doctors who are members here on e-gullet shortly.

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Bring it. I spent 15 years in sales. :wink:

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Are we expected to believe that someone has worked decades in kitchens and not seen the drunken debauchery that everyone else has seen in kitchens?

I don't get drunk at work. I don't have sex with half of my coworkers. But I've worked with people who do. And I daresay most of us "in the life" know exactly the kind of person I'm talking about. Why? Most of us have worked with that person at one time or another. We're probably working with that person RIGHT NOW. They have different names and appearances. But the personality is the same.

Stereotypes can be unfair and cruel. But the stereotypes became stereotypes for a reason -- there are enough people who fit the pattern that the stereotype arose in the first place. Back of house didn't get the reputation of being a bunch of substance-abusing sex-fiends for nothing.


Edited by ScoopKW (log)

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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All depends in what kind of kitchens you worked in, I guess, but you never mentioned which places you did work in.

I've worked mainly 5 star hotels and clubs, from Vancouver to Zurich to Singapore and a few stops in between. I have seen drunks come in to work, and I've seen them literally and physically kicked out of the kitchen. Labour laws are pretty stringent about allowing workers to work while under the influence, and the law comes down VERY hard on the employer; the employee sobers up, and does his best "ha_ha" Bart Simpson laugh at the employer's hefty fine, when an accident is reported. But I guess you never did work next to a drunk/stoned person wielding a knife, or deep fryer basket. I can assure you, the drunk will be kicked out, and usually by the meanest, heaviest drinking s.o.b. on the team Cooks have very little in benefits, and medical surly isn't one of them, neither is a few days off (without pay) recuperating from an accident at work.

Now I'm not talking about what they do in their off -hours, I don't care what they do, I'm talking about what they do at work.

Sex is pretty hard to complete in a busy kitchen, cold walk-in, or even freezer. It almost always happens in a bed, of which there aren't many in a kitchen

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All depends in what kind of kitchens you worked in, I guess, but you never mentioned which places you did work in.

I've worked mainly 5 star hotels and clubs, from Vancouver to Zurich to Singapore and a few stops in between. I have seen drunks come in to work, and I've seen them literally and physically kicked out of the kitchen. Labour laws are pretty stringent about allowing workers to work while under the influence, and the law comes down VERY hard on the employer; the employee sobers up, and does his best "ha_ha" Bart Simpson laugh at the employer's hefty fine, when an accident is reported. But I guess you never did work next to a drunk/stoned person wielding a knife, or deep fryer basket. I can assure you, the drunk will be kicked out, and usually by the meanest, heaviest drinking s.o.b. on the team Cooks have very little in benefits, and medical surly isn't one of them, neither is a few days off (without pay) recuperating from an accident at work.

Now I'm not talking about what they do in their off -hours, I don't care what they do, I'm talking about what they do at work.

Sex is pretty hard to complete in a busy kitchen, cold walk-in, or even freezer. It almost always happens in a bed, of which there aren't many in a kitchen

Where to begin?

"Cooks have very little in benefits."

We dropped my wife's "Cadillac Government Employee" insurance because mine is better. She had to pay $96 biweekly out of her salary. Mine benefits are better, and no cost whatsoever to me.

"The drunk will be kicked out."

This happened very recently. A cook came in too drunk to work. He was asked to sleep it off in a hotel, and then come back the next day. It's hard to find cooks who can handle the workload in this town. I have worked with cooks whose "smoke breaks" do not include tobacco. And I've worked with cooks who always seem to have a case of the sniffles. And if they can hold their own on the line, nothing ever happens to them.

"Sex is pretty hard to complete in..."

We've found 'em in storage closets, private dining rooms, the walk in, the wine locker, behind the building, you name it...


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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