A series of anecdotes with or without any connection to the running of a restaurant.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Slaving over a hot stove...

There are days when I enjoy running restaurants as much as a trip to the dentist's.

Yesterday was one of them.

Our 22 year-old French 3rd chef rang me:
"Je ne peux plus travailler dans des conditions pareilles!" (I can't work under these conditions!)

He explained that there was a horrible atmosphere in the kitchen between the head-chef and the second-chef.
The former, an old friend he has been working with me for the last 11 years, while the latter 7 years. A bit of an achievement when you consider that catering staff are some of the most nomadic workers in the world.

I went over to the restaurant and listened to all three chefs.
The problem had started Saturday lunchtime.
The restaurant had been very busy but at 2pm the head-chef got changed and left the others to get on with preparing 21 desserts, a job that took over half an hour.
The second-chef got even more irate when the head-chef arrived back at work at 5.50pm instead of 5.30pm.
"No respect! I am sick of this!"

What do I do?

Shall I scream and curse and stamp my feet?
Shall I kill one of the chefs and get back to the stove myself?
Shall I sell up and go on an extended holiday?

Argh, decisions, decisions!!! I abhor confrontations.

Needless to say, I think I defused the situation by listening to all the arguments in a mixture of English, French and Algerian...and then suggesting that they sit down and work it out among themselves.

I doctored this photo of the Alhambra and added a ray of sunshine...

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Blogger Akelamalu said...

Sounds like you handled it well. Hope the chefs are happy now?

Ah, the Alhambra Palace looks even better with the ray of sunshine - if that's possible! :)

28/3/07 1:04 PM  
Blogger Akelamalu said...

By the way thanks for the tip re the music - it worked!

I have been reading back through your blog and picked up another tip - striking through - I will try this out soon!

These posts made me laugh out loud:
A Pig's Ear
The original name for your food blog and
Cool Calm Customer Service

and I'm only up to June 2006!

28/3/07 3:04 PM  
Blogger LDahl said...

Shall I scream and curse and stamp my feet?
Shall I kill one of the chefs and get back to the stove myself?
Shall I sell up and go on an extended holiday?

Well, you could have put your face in your hands and cried like a baby until they felt pity for you and went back to work... at half the pay. But that would have taken buckets of tears, it might have been easier to hire a thug just to beat the crap out of them! (Just kidding(hey, you were wanting to kill one of them))

28/3/07 5:01 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Akelamalu, the Alhambra is beautiful anytime of the year but I'd love to go back to see on a sunny day.
I am honoured that you reading my waffle. Watch out, it gets worse...

L, I like your drastic/no-nonsence approach.
I really felt like saying: "Bugger it, you have the lot, I'm off!"
I am very fragile at the mo.

28/3/07 5:47 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

I have the perfect solution: south of France, country inn and cookery school, art lessons also offered.

Get your people to call my people.

Meantime, have a good cry and I'll make my favourite Irish Whiskey cake with Lagavulin instead and be over in the morning...

28/3/07 8:43 PM  
Anonymous greedy blugger said...

Ahh...the joys and sorrows of restaurant ownership...

I'd still love to run my very own one day...

They've stayed with you for that long????

You must be doing something right...

28/3/07 9:06 PM  
Blogger zoe said...

seeing as masterchef has just finished i'm sure that there was one chef that you would have likened aboard your team - n'est-ce-pas ?

28/3/07 9:11 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

I love that, Andrea: Get your people to call my people!
Yes, wouldn't your plan be nice!
Try Isle of Jura or Talisker for your Irish cake...Or on the other hand, just drink the whisky and bugger the cake!

Greedy Blugger, yes I must be doing something right but I do not know what. One of the cleaners has been with me for 20 years.
With your culinary experience your restaurant would be good.

Z, I'll have to nip up to Newcastle to find that snivelling Geordie.
But I worry that he might water down our sauces with his tears...

28/3/07 10:42 PM  
Blogger Guyana-Gyal said...

Hi Cream, gee, look at all the things that have been happening since I was gone, chefs fights, you in a book, lawn mowers used as cars...it's good to be back :-D

28/3/07 11:02 PM  
Blogger Dizzy said...


You must be doing something right in order to keep staff for 30, 11 and 7 years, that's fab. I don't imagine that happens in many restaurants, and certainly not the one I worked in for 6 months, the staff turnover was terrible.

Sounds like you know how to handle them, let them sort themselves out. Well done.

Take care of yourself...

28/3/07 11:29 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Gigi, welcome back, girl! Yes, the saga continues.
Really missed you...

Dizzy, yes, I think I am fortunate. Either that or the staff like my Algerian humour.
But, honestly, I think it stems from the fact that I have done every single job in catering since giving up Naval Arch...
From pot washer to waiter to chef.... So I know exactly what everyone of my staff feels like during service. And a good word of encouragement here and there goes a long way.
Tonight, after service I had a drink with the head-chef and explained that he needs to be hard on himself and show the example so that the rest of the team follows and respects him. All is back on track, I think.

29/3/07 1:30 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

Good for you, Cream! I also have a really hard time with confrontation, it sucks. I'm still learning how to handle situations, I'm not sure I'm doing a very good job. I get all emotional and take everything to heart. Your solution was great, I hope it worked.

Sorry I haven't been around much lately. The husband has been off and if you can believe it, he expects me to pay more attention to him than my blogger friends, the nerve! ;) Good to see your new posts and lovely photos. :)

29/3/07 3:40 AM  
Blogger Hayden said...

amazing accomplishment to keep staff for so long! In the restaurant industry! and chefs, always tempermental!

amazing, I am in awe.......

29/3/07 4:32 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

I wish I could eat 21 deserts in 30 minutes...

29/3/07 7:19 AM  
Blogger lettuce said...

so you don't aspire to the Gordon Ramsay school of kitchen management?

29/3/07 7:49 AM  
Blogger Cream said...

The Nerve, Christine! All these demanding husbands!

Hayden, I bribe them with better days to come. Oh, yeah, chefs are very temperamental and so vain, too! I was one of them once.

Mike, the Sahara might prove a bit dry;o) A dollop of cream may help.

Lettie, I swear under my breath in Algerian, count to ten in Greek and then I smile.
Kitchen management à la Cream!

29/3/07 9:14 AM  
Anonymous edvard moonke said...

was the head chef entitled to leave the others to make dessert? is he allowed to be 20 minutes late? if there are no rules and no accountability, then people are bound to push the boundaries and fall out with each other.

difficult I know, especially with people who have worked with you for so long, but you have to lay down the rule and crack the whip, man, cream!

29/3/07 9:31 AM  
Blogger Cream said...

Marcos, I tend to lay unwritten rules based on mutual respect and relaxed boundaries within which staff are free to roam.

This kind of conflict is very rare but when it crops up it is due to someone getting into a rut and stepping beyond those boundaries.

A friendly word tends to get everybody back on track and harmony rules again.
And I can get back to blogging in peace...

The last time I saw a whip was many moons ago in Amsterdam...;o)

29/3/07 10:23 AM  
Blogger SpanishGoth said...

You could have made them pick straws and explained before hand that whoever drew the shortest was not going to be cook but rather COOKED.

Amazing how the threat of death can alleviate a situation ;-)

29/3/07 11:45 AM  
Blogger Cream said...

SG, I think this is a blooming fair idea!
Since the dawn of Time, the threath of death has always been the greatest motivator!

29/3/07 1:56 PM  
Blogger My Marrakech said...

Oh eeek! But really, I must find a way to visit one of your restaurants. Will you give me a seat by the window if I come?

29/3/07 1:59 PM  
Blogger Queenie said...

Visitedyour blog via a friend, love it. will be back to read more.

29/3/07 4:54 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

Maryam, I hope you make it one day. A window seat is waiting.
Sounds like you are enjoying your Egyptian holiday...Great!

Welcome, Queenie! Your blog is lovely, too.

29/3/07 6:08 PM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

you did the right thing! funny story and beautiful picture!!!

29/3/07 6:17 PM  
Blogger Merisi's Vienna For Beginners said...

Food business is like theater, the show must go on, no matter what, and nothing's like the calm after a good storm. ;-)
Looks like the sun's out again, I am glad for you.

29/3/07 9:41 PM  
Blogger Cream said...

I think I did, Val. Life is back to normal.

Merisi, you are right there, it never stops. Yep, the sun is out again. Thanks.

30/3/07 10:51 AM  
Blogger kj said...

a wise man you are, cream....

31/3/07 4:52 AM  
Blogger anna said...

Mon Dieu! I just love their passion! Confrontation is good - it clears the air.

31/3/07 10:12 PM  

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