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I'm a professional chef for about 7 years now and I notice a definate trend here. Why is it this is the only profession I can think of that chefs can yell and scream at people. Also in the sence that they humiliate people and degrade them just because they can or that there was a mistake, or for just the plain old reason of stress. This makes no sence to me. I mean if this was any other profession it would not be tollerated. So why do we put up with it or let it happen and tell people its part of the bussiness and you need to have a thick skin. If you think this is allright to do let me know maybe I'm wrong.

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Actually, this kind of behavior is a trend that is falling off, not rising. It was worse back when I started.

Do I feel it's acceptable? At times, yes. If a cook makes a mistake and I can see that they know they screwed up and they are willing to hold themselves accountable for their mistake, I say lesson learned and leave it alone. When they get whiny and the excuses start to fly, let's just say I have zero tolerance for that. Let me add that it would also have to be a repeat offender.

Sorry for the edit, but by my error I had posted copyrighted material. I'll see if it's still on-line, or should Bourdain happen to stumble by soon, get his permission to post it.

Found the article (and others) here

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The arguments used to defend bullying and abusive behaviour in professional kitchens remind me of the arguments put forward by gangsters from slum backgrounds justifying their sadistic crimes:

"It's a dog eat dog world out there"

"It was the only way to survive in that environment"

"If you didn't hurt them they were going to hurt you" and so on.

In fact its all BULLSHIT. 99.9% of people from poor backgrounds have never deliberately hurt anyone and would never dream of doing so. What Bondo highlights is bullying plain and simple. I don't know but I would hazard a guess that the majority of chefs don't do it. In London two of the top chefs-Michel Roux and Pierre Koffman- are known for treating their employees with fairness and courtesy while still running tight well organized ships. If they can do it why can't everyone else.? Others have a tendency to bully and abuse others and have found an environment which enables them to do so with relative impunity. Claiming that they are weeding out the men from the boys or putting their hapless victims through a rites of passage are classic arguments used by bullies to justify their behaviour since time immemorial.

Every single study of human motivation in the workplace has shown that people work better and more effectively when treated with courtesy and respect. This does NOT mean a lack of rigour or discipline or frank discussions with employees about their performance. But cruelty,humiliation and abuse seve only to satisfy the inner needs of the perpetrator. They serve no other purpose and no -one should kid themselves for a minute that they do.

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Well said, Tony. I agree, that kind of behavior sounds like workplace bullying to me.

Sad to say, restaurants are not the only place where this sort of thing is tolerated and even encouraged. There are quite a few law firms that have yellers, screamers, mind f*ckers, and all sorts of other miscreants. I worked at one firm where one of the partners was famous for throwing things at you when he got mad. The excuses that chefs give for behaving like idiots are exactly the same ones that I've heard from some lawyers (especially litigators) about managing their law firms. Same crap, different setting.

So no, chefs are not the only ones who behave badly in the workplace. Far, far, far from it. One of these days, these *cough* "managers" will learn that bullying is no way to motivate people. Just type "workplace bullying" in Google and you'll pull up a whole bunch of interesting stuff.

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And some chefs, no matter how talented, are just crazy. Remember the one who came out of the kitchen waving a knife at a newspaper critic, screaming at her? Her review was about his bizarre behavior, rather than his food.

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From what I know of them, Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller are both perfectionists who yet maintain sane kitchens. While Steve P might not agree about Trotter, I think the general consensus is at the very least that these are two chefs who deserve to be taken seriously.

Tinpot "chefs" could learn more than presentation from these two.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Sad to say, restaurants are not the only place where this sort of thing is tolerated and even encouraged.

absolutely. the restaurant industry is certainly not unique in that aspect. this is a much broader issue.

For example, at eGullet.com, I enjoy treating my fellow coordinators this way -- paticularly Andy Lynes.

I can second Choco's comments. I've been on the inside at a few law firms and Wall Street corporations, and people who've worked in even the worst kitchens would be very surprised at just how ugly it can get. For that matter, I hear the publishing industry is no walk in the park, either.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Jacques Maximin is supposed to have the worst temper of them all. Max Bernard of Park Bistro told me a story about him when they worked together at Club A many years ago. Someone sent their food back, something like the scallops were undercooked etc. Maximin asked Max to step outside the back entrance where he was screaming at him never to do it again while waving a large slicing knife in his face.

As for Bondo's original question, I think yelling goes on in lots of professions, not only in kitchens. But I think that societal behavior changes more slowly in places where the traditions are historically chauvenistic and authoritarian in the first place. Doesn't anyone see a connection between the employment of apprentices or stagieres and the type of behavior being described? I can't think of many other work environments where the lowest workers screw up right under boss's nose. Yelling will stop in places like law firms before it stops in kitchens. And it will probably stop because someone will bring some type of abuse case/ interference with job performance case based on a superiors abusive treatment. Then like most laws, it will trickle into every other profession.

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Its also because the bullies know that there'll be little or know organized resistance to their antics in terms of union backup. Kitchen work is often casual and low paid and workers are unlikely to be union members or have their union taken seriously by their employees.

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From what I know of them, Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller are both perfectionists who yet maintain sane kitchens.

Trotter's management style is described in the 2001 book "Lessons in Service from Charlie Trotter", by E Lawler and Trotter. I expect to read the book before I visit Trotter's for the first time.

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearc...isbn=1580083153

The chapter headings in the book include:

"Leading: Hiring, Motivating, and Training Your Staff

--Help Wanted: A Passion for Service

-- Stoking the Fires of Passion

-- Learning the Ropes on a Tight Ship"

Below is a link to the first chapter in the book:

http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearc...layonly=chapter

Included in the chapter is the following discussion:

"'You have to earn the best customers coming in the door. You have to earn the best employees willing to come to work with you. You have to earn the right to have the boss give you the best new equipment because of the way you are treating the current equipment'. . . . 'And I think we have that mindset here where fifty-five people have complete respect for everything around them. They are earning the right every day to continue earning these great opportunities. They take nothing for granted.' Of his fifty-five employees, twenty-five have been with the restaurant from five to fourteen years. 'They are the unofficial archivists or reviewers of the policies. They can point things out to the newer employees and remind them that it's not always done with such attention to detail at other restaurants.'"

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There are crazies everywhere. In a previous life, I was a Research Associate in the psychology department of one of the colleges of the City University of New York. Talk about bizarre behavior! (them, not me) Anyway, academia is another one of those "industries" in which the institutionalization of "child abuse" is not just permitted, but encouraged. By this I mean: the ethos of "I was treated like shit by my thesis advisor, so I'm going to treat my students like shit." Just the same as the old brigade system in the kitchen. Steve Klc's response below explains it precisely:

Many of these old French/European chefs are jerks in the kitchen and act, to varying degrees, inappropriately as pompous egotistic autocratic Marine drill seargents because when they 13 they were thrust into the care of that previous generation's ill-mannered chef and beaten down to the point that it's an ingrained cycle--so that it's ok for him to treat anyone he comes into contact as the equivalent of the 13 year old boy he once was. All the while saying "mon cherie" and smilingly flirtatiously to any female outside his kitchen and of course keeping up the disingenuous facade with any food media. Heaven help you in the kitchen.

Thankfully, with the acceptance of some 20th-century theories of management, that no longer holds in full force in the kitchen. But yes, it's still there.

BTW, Edward E. Lawler III -- Trotter's co-author -- is one of the most highly respected authorities on the subject of performance appraisal

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Everyone handles stress and pressure differently in any occupation or profession.

Perhaps part of the problem is that cooking has not historically been viewed as a profession but rather as a trade or occupation. Does anyone really think line cooks at small restaurants are treated significantly better, on the whole, than low level auto mechanics changing oil in a gas station somewhere? But all those eGulleteers bringing a white collar perspective to this thread have expanded the issue--that it is more of an all-encompassing issue of abuse, workplace rights and or unprofessional conduct which cuts across much more than the pass.

When Steve P. writes "But I think that societal behavior changes more slowly in places where the traditions are historically chauvenistic and authoritarian in the first place. Doesn't anyone see a connection between the employment of apprentices or stagieres and the type of behavior being described?" I found myself answering most definitely "yes." At times kitchen help are barely treated better than migrant farm workers. Many of these old French/European chefs are jerks in the kitchen and act, to varying degrees, inappropriately as pompous egotistic autocratic Marine drill seargents because when they 13 they were thrust into the care of that previous generation's ill-mannered chef and beaten down to the point that it's an ingrained cycle--so that it's ok for him to treat anyone he comes into contact as the equivalent of the 13 year old boy he once was. All the while saying "mon cherie" and smilingly flirtatiously to any female outside his kitchen and of course keeping up the disingenuous facade with any food media. Heaven help you in the kitchen.

This was called "paying your dues."

I'm hopeful this is changing but the last vestige of this old guard is still at the stove and in some cases, still are our reigning media darlings and "top" chefs.

That's the interesting upshot of all this--which the US might be the driving force behind--is that we're smarter, more sensitive, more media-savvy and more aware as a society now, even if a high percentage of people going into food and cooking have not gone to college first. Going to college and entering a white collar profession isn't a way out of this.

But in the US we have more and more college grads becoming chefs, professionals changing careers to willingly enter food because they are passionate or creative and can't get food out of their blood. Far fewer products of the French/European apprentice/guild/trade school system will remain. I suspect whatever change we've seen so far, as some posters on this thread have said they've witnessed, will just continue to reach critical mass. Chaulk another one up for America.

It's hard, hot, stressful work. There's yelling. Get over it. However, the most important issue to realize is you don't have to stand for an abusive situation. Leave. Get a new job. You are empowered by your talent and work ethic and you are ultimately responsible for how people treat you. There are union-protected jobs mostly in hotels which are at times stifling creatively but offer no filter or protection for sensitive souls; there are also very nice, very professional chefs and pastry chefs out there in restaurants, hotels, bakeries who will treat you with respect and show you loyalty. You just have to value yourself enough to try to find them.

Until you pay your dues enough to control your own destiny.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Having worked in both the front and back of the house, I must say that I think the potential for being abused is worse in the front. There, you get yelled at by your customers, the bartender, the manager/maitre'd, and the chef. When I worked in the kitchen I only got yelled at by the chef. No one from the front of the house dared say a cross word to anyone in the kitchen no matter how low on the depth chart.

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I don’t know how many other eGullet members are or were trained professional cooks/chefs.

I am! Retired for the last two and one half years, after a couple of months over 48 years always in this business. I never either pumped gas nor sold bibles, never before, during or after my time in the Hospitality Industry.

And yes, I am European trained, a three year German apprenticeship, at the tender age of 15 to 18 years old. The time frame was 1951-54. These were six day a week, 10-hour split shifts. 09:00 to 15:00 and 18:00 to 22:00. (One Sun off every two months). Apprentices (we were three in the kitchen) lived in. (Room and Board). Rules existed, as the establishment’s owners (delegated to the Head Chef) were totally responsible for us, in regards to our Parents, the Government (license to teach/instruct), the Chef’s Association, the Union, the Restaurant Association , and I forgot who else. But we were under age. And “live-in” meant “not leaving the premises after 10pm”.

Now, was there yelling, shoving, hitting and other abuse? NO, NO and NO !! in CAPS.

There was hectic and raised voices, a bit of temperament, let’s call it excitement.

I had a very good head chef, 34/35 years of age, kind and understanding.

I must have liked him then and also appreciated him in later years, as I tried to renew contact with him when I was long in the States (1982), and found out he was too. We always stayed in contact during all those years. He is dead now. God blesses him.

After apprenticeship, I found a job as Journeyman Cook in another, larger Hotel in Germany. “Brigade” of 22, Headchef an Alsatian Jew. The only reason I mention this, is because I remember he was one who definitely was for “must taste right” food. Every one of all the cooks liked him. No LOUD noises here !! Expectations yes: punctuality, cleanliness, aiding others. Five apprentices there, plus about same Journeyman cooks, so “young guys”. No abuse.

Next job aboard ship, brigade of 10, not counting Bakers, Butchers and Pastry Cooks.

Scullery, KPs and “pantry” men also not counted. 1,200 people to feed every day, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Many long hours and continued days while at sea (11 days Germany – Canada).

No yelling screaming, knife throwing or other abuse. To NO ONE – by NO ONE !

On I went: South America, French Head Chef, from the old Garde. Taught me some French and Cooking.

Came to the States in ’57, Fry Cook in Philly, learned all the bad language English provided. I found “cooks” with a lot less knowledge and 20 plus years more experience than I, and they got yelled at by a, sort of tough, Swiss Chef . Down the road, 18 months at the Americana in Miami Beach, German Head Chef. Hard to work for, but fair and reasonable. No abuse to anyone. Stern words for laziness, unsanitary work and tardiness. Guys that did not show up for work as scheduled did not have to come back.

Many other jobs followed. Became Head Chef myself. Did I ever abuse anyone?. I am sure I did, I am a very critical person, and expect at times too much from others. Often even assuming “they should know”. And then “platzt mir die Hutschnur” , I explode, I have belittled people, I have called them ignorant, dumb, stupid but never any foul names. My nature does not permit me to swear – and I don’t.

Have I ever worked in places that care to use the kind of treatment as described in various posts above, I must say No. Never to the extreme as the article quoting Bourdain is trying to make us out.

Same as others describe the old European Chefs from 50 plus years ago. I simply do not believe this. They are not around any more. And in Europe, apprentices today have more rights than we ever had. They also learned how to sue, and will.

Here is a quote: “Americans are impatient of the slightest criticism and insatiable for praise...”

Tocqueville's "Democracy in America"

And Newton Minow said : "We've gotten to the point where everybody's got a right and nobody's got a responsibility."

And, you all can quote me, Peter, : “I stand corrected”

-

Peter
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Every single study of human motivation in the workplace has shown that people work better and more effectively when treated with courtesy and respect. This does NOT mean a lack of rigour or discipline or frank discussions with employees about their performance. But cruelty,humiliation and abuse seve only to satisfy the inner needs of the perpetrator. They serve no other purpose and no -one should kid themselves for a minute that they do.

I whole-heartedly agree. The type of behavior which I've stated has it's place at times does not include "cruelty, humiliation and abuse". If my communications with my staff serve no constructive purpose in the smooth operation of my kitchen, then I am clearly wasting energy and everybody's time. Except the time a guy decided that conducting a little physical horseplay which resulted in him falling on the floor 2 feet away from the fryer was a good way to have fun. It was one of the few times I had ever dressed down an employee harshly (actually made him cry), but I would do it again given the same circumstances.

BTW, have you worked for the Roux brothers, Tony? A chef I once worked for trained with them for a year, he said they were not so nice. That was a while ago, though, and people do change.

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just wondering if anyone remembers this one ???????...

"Tom Aikens, the youngest chef in Britain to be awarded two Michelin stars, has resigned from one of London's top restaurants after being accused of 'branding' a teenage colleague with a hot pallet knife."

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It's interesting how closely this discussion of kitchen interaction parallels another very old-fashioned hierarchical social structure requiring absolute discipline; namely, the symphony orchestra. The arrogant behavior of conductors was once legendary, along with the stupidity of viola players and the bolshevism of the brasses -- a whole network of control and resistance to control which nevertheless functioned when necessary as a single complex organism. Just like a huge hotel kitchen.

Today the situation is very different. Simon Rattle, one of our greatest living conductors and a good friend, is a persuader rather than a commander; in the many concerts in which we've worked together, I've never seen him express anger or disrespect to a player during a rehearsal, onstage or off. It was this profound respect, together with his breathtaking competance and artistry, which made him the Berlin Philharmonic's overwhelming choice as their new conductor, forcing their collective will on the administrators and politicians who had considered other candidates.

A still younger conductor -- and another good friend -- is David Robertson, a rapidly rising star whom I've known since his student days at the Royal Acadamy. He's a young Californian with great talent, knowledge and enthusiasm, and he occasionally guest-conducts orchestras in London which include young musicians who were his Academy contemporaries. They love him -- because he's totally competant and runs a tight rehearsal, but still treats them as his equals.

Modern orchestras don't play worse because of this burgeoning democracy -- they play better. It's a new age we're living in. I wouldn't want to go back to the days of dictatorial arrogance, either in the orchestra or in the kitchen. I think I could taste the bitterness in the soup.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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BTW, have you worked for the Roux brothers, Tony? A chef I once worked for trained with them for a year, he said they were not so nice. That was a while ago, though, and people do change.

Joe, I confess I have never worked in a professional kitchen,let alone for the Roux brothers.However the Michel Roux I'm referring to is not Albert's brother who runs the Waterside Inn at Bray,but Albert's son who took over the reins at Le Gavroche a couple of years ago and who apparently is far calmer,courteous and less volatile in the kitchen than his father and uncle,according to reports anyway.

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I'm a professional chef for about 7 years now and I notice a definate trend here.  Why is it this is the only profession I can think of that chefs can yell and scream at people.

I just realized it was a trick question. My new answer is, because chefs generally work in the foodservice field and not other professions. :biggrin:

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. . . Bourdain's "In Defense of Hazing," . . .

Nobody rants like Bourdain. :laugh:

These chefs who believe that hazing is trivial, builds character, is all part of dues-paying, etc. should be forced to sit through the first half of "Full Metal Jacket." (In the movie, a "boot" played by Vincent Donofrio is systematically insulted by R. Lee Ermey, who plays his sadistic drill instructor. On the last night of basic training, Donofrio finally goes nuts and shoots Ermey, and himself.) One of these days, a trainee's going to come back to the kitchen with a pistol and scratch one famous chef off the menu for good. There'll be a big scandal, of course. It seems nothing's ever done about a problem until the situation ends in tragedy.

Hell, why would the trainee even need to leave to GET a pistol? There have to be at least thirty ways to kill or maim someone in a kitchen on the spur-of-the-moment with whatever's handy. Why, in the name of God, would anyone humiliate and degrade a trainee who's standing within ten feet of sharp knives, flames, hot oil, etc. etc.?

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