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liuzhou

Kitchen Violence and Bullying

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I have not been employed in the restaurant industry now for many, many years but nothing that article said surprised me at all. I have seen coercement and bullying in both the front of the house and in the kitchen, and was the target of sexual harassment (and because I would not sleep with the head chef, I was fired from one restaurant). Back then there was no recourse legally either for a woman who had that kind of trouble with a manager or head chef. All that may have been smaller town stuff and 40 years removed now, but, instinct tells me not much has changed (except one might get more sympathy these days from authorities outside the restaurant if harassment was proven).

I am equally sure there are MANY restaurants that run very smoothly - where there are few problems of the type mentioned in the article mind you. I am sure gfron's kitchen is pure zen - but I hope he will chime in here because I am sure he has seen or heard about some stuff over the years too.

There are a lot of egos in restaurant kitchens, a lot of pressure to 'perform', long hours in hot confined spaces, the need to consistently put out perfect food, fast. There are power struggles and there are dangerous 'instruments' there. When tempers fly, I am certain things can get out of hand. A number of kitchen workers too I am told (as far as I know I didn't really run into that in my day - but alcohol was an occasional issue) have addiction problems - doesn't help I am sure.

I don't think the answer is unions, or more regulation. It is probably just people working every day to show that kind of behaviour is unacceptable. The culture needs to change - and that takes time unfortunately. And, yes, I also think that angry TV chefs do NOT help change that culture - rather, they perpetuate it.

Sorry .. rambling here ... what kind of 'thoughts' were you looking for?


Edited by Deryn (log)
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what kind of 'thoughts' were you looking for?

 

Whatever thoughts anyone has. I just put it up for discussion. 

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It's like any abusive relationship....move on.

 

Forgive me, but I consider that to be a ridiculous answer.

 

Many people are in abusive relationships but are unable to "move on" for many reasons.

 

At the most basic level, they may need the job just to survive and feed their family. At the extreme end, do you think sexually abused children should "move on"? 

 

Abuse and bullying is never acceptable and saying "move on" just puts the onus on the victims. 

I am shocked you even said that.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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I have a lot of hearsay evidence from credible witnesses (my ex-SIL, and her then husband, my brother, as well as random friends/co-workers of theirs at the time) with this issue, but not direct experience.

 

They all worked at a country club. SIL front of house, and my brother was Food and Beverage Manager in the 80's.

 

The chef apparently had deity status, and could do no wrong in upper management's eyes. From all I heard he was a true psychopath with many issues. The sexual harassment directed toward front and back of house female employees is surreal to me when I think back on their stories. Apparently one attractive young "salad girl" or prep cook took the brunt of it. Even back then, that level of insanity would have called for a lawsuit in any office setting I ever worked in.

 

I sincerely hope the restaurant business culture has and can continue to move on from this ugly underside that not everyone knows about.

 

And I agree with liuzhou, most people in abusive relationships are in them because they are relatively powerless, many times for economic reasons. People don't actively choose to be abused. Money as it pertains to survival can be a powerful motivator and trap.

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Public pressure might help change the culture. If I knew a restaurant was being run with the violence and/or bullying described in the article, I probably wouldn't eat there. However, I wonder whether and how I'd know about it. Maybe my favorites ARE run like that without my knowledge.

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My thoughts, based on 35 years in the hospitality industry, in 3 continents?

 

Yes, it exists, but then show me any industry--or even an office environment where it doesn't exist.

 

 

The lawyer and secret camera business?

 

Maybe in the U.S.--I I dunno, I've never worked there, but  understand it is a very litigagious (sp?) society. 

In mot parts of Europe and in Canada you go to the labour board with your complaints, they don't charge and they don't take a piece of any settlement for compensation.

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Forgive me, but I consider that to be a ridiculous answer.

 

Many people are in abusive relationships but are unable to "move on" for many reasons.

 

At the most basic level, they may need the job just to survive and feed their family. At the extreme end, do you think sexually abused children should "move on"? 

 

Abuse and bullying is never acceptable and saying "move on" just puts the onus on the victims. 

I am shocked you even said that.

 

 

You can't change other people.

When I've had abusive employers the ultimate solution has been to move on.

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Moving-on is not the equivalent of condoning bullying.

 

If moving-on is do-able...do it.

 

This thread is getting like Chowhound.

 

Oy.

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I have experienced it to a degree as a student in culinary school and to a lesser degree as a chef instructor. I am continually amazed that the perpetrators remain employed, but, then again when I was an instructor at one establishment I was amazed that my boss's boss was also prone to having shrieking fits over perceived slights to her status.

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I have had pans thrown at me, cussed at and have been physically abused in a kitchen from egotistical, uneducated, misinformed chefs that cannot get their point across properly. The only thing it does for the future of an educated chef is to learn from their mistakes and not to make the same ignorant mistakes for the next generation of kitchen workers.  The best chef gives positive reinforcing feedback with consideration to technique and how to improve, not belittling and making a mockery of what someone is trying to achieve in their career. 

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I've been there....done that...so to speak.

As a natural bully (not that I was, but certainly wanted to be), I've learned the hard way.

Being bullied is simply unacceptable, PERIOD. When someone tries to bully me, I solve the problem quickly, quietly, and with a greater show of force.

If you threaten and shove me in the kitchen; I punch you in the mouth, then hit you with something heavy. This will usually solve the problem quickly, and efficiently.

Being bullied in the kitchen is just like being bullied anywhere else, I think. When you're threatened, respond with quick, quiet, and overwhelming force...leave NO doubt that this behavior is UNacceptable, and WILL be met with consequence...

 

Thats just my opinion, though...I'm a different kind of guy, I suppose...

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Isn't there a passage in "Kitchen Confidential" where Chef Tony uses a cook's fork to defend against a bully? I don't believe in violence in most situations but the whole "quick, quiet, and overwhelming show of force" does appeal in a sort of equal and opposite way. Bullies and sexual predators usually get what's coming to them.

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While I'm all for standing one's ground and the right of self-defense, I'm going to stick with "get the hell out, you can't change other people" or, if you're not in a position to make such a choice, MAKE SURE EVERYONE YOU KNOW, WITH EARS, KNOWS WHAT'S GOING ON!!!!!!

The situation can too easily get out of hand.

When I was in high school, retaliation for bullying by a kid led to the stabbing death of another kid....I remember that day like it was yesterday!!!!!

Death! Horror! A Trial! Lawsuits! Anxiety! Stress! Fear! Anger! Hate! Nightmares!


Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)
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I think for sure that I see it less than less these days. When I was younger, I worked for the kind of chef that would throw cast iron pans at me, and promote an environment where it was ok for the staff to destroy your things, ridicule you, etc. This was more common, at least for me, 10-12 years ago? I've still worked with a few chefs over the more recent years who essentially said that if I wasn't a dick, that if I wasn't an asshat to the younger guys, that they wouldn't toughen up without bullying - I've never been a believer in that, and these days I never run my kitchens that way. And luckily, I don't see that as much either with other places- people have been opting for more team building environments from what I've seen - I mean, food generally should taste better and things will run more smoothly if the person cooking or running the kitchen is happy, right?

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Bullies can't stand it when you are unfazed by their sh!t. 

 

I got an egotistical waiter fired at my last bartending job. He confided in me that "he wished he could break my arm" which I then asked him to repeat several more times. 

 

Next day I told the restaurant manager and went on a three day Memorial weekend. When I came back he was gone and the chef and his cooks were thanking me for getting that dude shitcanned.  :biggrin:

 

In my industry we call the phenomena "horizontal violence" and unfortunately it's rampant. 

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Even my short stint in the food business  I been bullied. My first  job I was used like a tennis ball in  crazy town Wimbledon between two people,  got one order by  medium boss then told by told by top boss to do something else and then getting blamed for something I hadn't done, nor been told too do or what little boss was doing wrong.

 

Second one, well I stopped listening to the  orders barked and just followed the list given and  ignored the fact we weren't allowed to bake and cook as many orders as the lady took in..  A woman who only could speak few word Swedish  so the orders was also sometimes wrong. I got out there after 3 months.

 

And last  well I got the job even tough the boss wanted his daughter there, I got kicked for stealing money. How ever the money  got stolen when I wasnt there and only  when    the boss daughter and the boyfriend was over. Thank God  I  got that off my CV nor was taken to the police because some one else,  who likes me,could prove them wrong .  I was asked if I wanted to come back but I said no.  So the daughter got the job and with in  1 year the place was bankrupt and  the police was looking into it.

 

And that is when I felt my heart wasnt into  cooking and stopped  having fun with food.  It was only when my friend came back from London, he worked as chef there, he had been bullied, abused to the point of starvation. He weight  80 pound , when he was flew in with the medical airline, that isnt much on a 6.3 tall body.   I started  cooking with him to get his spirits back and he got well  but the love  and passion I used to have is gone.  

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