By L. Adam Weiner, CFSE
Mind the chef, don’t steal and watch food costs. Students should live by these and eight other essential dos and don’ts to remain employed in that job for which you’ve trained him or her.
Last issue I addressed how to help your students get jobs. This issue will be about how to make sure they keep their jobs. Here are 11 key points to cut out and give to your students:
1. Be on Time. Depending on which survey you read, 90% to 97% of firings occur because of failing to arrive on time, not showing up at all and/or leaving early. Timeliness and attendance are so important because the schedule of the kitchen is based on everyone being there, and everyone being on time. If you come in 15 minutes late in the morning, the kitchen will be behind all day.
2. Yes, Chef. When the boss asks you to do something, ask yourself three questions: “Is it illegal? Is it immoral? Is it dangerous?” If the answer to all three is NO, then there are only two responses: “Yes, Chef” or “Thank you, Chef.” If you don’t know how to do what he or she is asking, don’t say “I can’t do that.” Instead, say, “Yes, Chef, could you please show me how you would like it done?”
3. Have a Good Attitude. No chef or manager wants to fight with you all day or listen to other people complain about your attitude. Every chef knows that the kitchen is a stressful place and that there will be some times when you are on edge or rough. However, you will do best with a smile and a willingness to work hard. Also, make an effort to get along with others.
4. Dedication to Quality and Quantity. You must be willing to work hard to turn out large amounts of food, and to work even harder to make sure that the food is of high quality.
5. Eagerness to Learn. Don’t argue with the chef when he/she tries to teach you something. You might think you know how to do it, but you probably don’t know how to do it in the manner that particular chef wants. If you don’t know how to do something when asked, don’t fake it because that wastes money and time.
6. Understand the Basics. Take a look at the Culinary Cheat Sheet published in “50-Minute Classroom” in the May/June 2009 edition of “The Gold Medal Classroom.”
7. Do What the Chef Says, Not What You Think the Chef Wants. This should be obvious, but you won’t believe how often it is violated. Listen to what the chef says and do that: no more, no less, nothing different. If you are uncertain, ask in a respectful way.
8. “My Bad” Is Not an Option. Chefs can’t sell excuses. Apologies don’t pay the bills. You need to understand this cruel reality. When it is time for you to be paid, you want a pay check, not the boss shrugging his/her shoulders and saying “My bad.” When the chef wants you to turn out something on time the way he/she asks, that is what is expected, that is the minimum. You wouldn’t accept “My bad,” and the chef won’t, either. Excuses will not make up for the fact you did it wrong. If you make a mistake, say “Sorry, Chef, I will do it again.”
9. Watch Your Food Costs. A riddle: “What do you call a chef who doesn’t watch his/her food costs? UNEMPLOYED.” For a chef to keep food costs low, everyone needs to work efficiently in the kitchen. Watch your food costs, ask for help if you don’t know how to do something, and don’t burn product.
10. Don’t Steal Food, Time or Money. If you worked in a jewelry store you wouldn’t put a diamond ring in your pocket. That would be stealing. Making food and taking it home or giving it to friends without permission is the same thing. When you are texting, surfing the Web or on your cell phone, you are not working—you are stealing time. Stealing money will land you in jail.
11. Remember What Your Job Actually Is. You will never see it in a job description. It will never be described on Craig’s List, but your job description is really very simple: MAKE THE BOSS LOOK GOOD. Everything that you do at work should be done with this in mind.
Chef L. Adam Weiner, CFSE, teaches a 20-week Introduction to Cooking program for JobTrain and the Sequoia Adult School on the San Francisco Peninsula.