Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It's been a bad week for...

To borrow a tag line from the Globe and Mail, "It's been a bad week for ... our Executive Chef."

When I left the corporate world along with my job as insurance adjuster I thought I would free myself of all the corporate goings-on that bothered me so. Instead, I found myself working in the kitchen of a corporate club, naively thinking the long arm of the corporate machine will not reach the kitchen. Hrmph. Leaving all the unpleasant details aside I will just say that between being leaned on about labour costs, his car breaking down on the road while on his way to open for breakfast (thus having to call his breakfast cook at 6:30 and ask her to go in to work within 30 minutes) and, finally, losing a Sous-Chef last week, it's been a bad week for our resilient Executive Chef.

Our Executive Chef is a very tall, very skinny, fourty-something (?), easy-going guy who I have heard yell only once. He's not the throw-stuff-at-you kind of chef, nor does he yell or swear at his staff. He does correct our technique if needed, and most often our plating, but I have seldom seen him really lose his patience. Sure he'll get annoyed if he's shown you how to do something more than three times now and you still mess it up (or forget), but he has the ability to let it go and the next day, or even a few hours later, you start anew and it's like it never happened. Short term memory, unlimited patience, or the knowledge that although you messed it up he's still invested in you and you are not that easily replaceable in a kitchen who can only offer seasonal employment for average pay? Maybe all of the above. I think it is difficult for him to have almost entirely re-staff his kitchen every year. I am sure that people come and go in every kitchen, but it appears that in ours the staff leaves all at once. Only a couple of people will return for the next season so Chef is left with having to hire 14 cooks and helpers each and every year. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

One girl who has been there four years (an anomaly), said she has worked with four different groups, one for each year. Where are these kitchens I've been reading about, where the staff is a cohesive group and they stay together through the years? Our group is far from cohesive. I ended up going to the staff party last week, and there were only five cooks there. Five! Some had brought their significant others, so it looked like there was more of us than there actually was. I definitely do not get a sense of togetherness from our kitchen staff.

I do like the job though, despite everything, and I am very aware of the fact I am here to learn and not necessarily to form long-term relationships. I know I won't find my BFF in this kitchen but it would be nice if we all just got along.

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