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Advice for a New Executive Chef Originally posted by Chef Dave-

Originally posted by Chef Dave-

I have recently accepted a position as the exec. chef for an up and coming Inn. The restaurant seats fifty and is open year round with heavy seasonal traffic. I have never been an executive chef before and have had limited sous chef experience. However, I am confident in my abilities to improve upon the current sutitation there. My responsibilities will include all of the menu development, costing, purchasing, wine list, and general management of the restaurant as a whole. I am seeking good advice from anyone who may have been in a similar situation or who can offer some direction on how to get started. The ex-chef was a poor manager of people and money and I don't want to make the same mistakes.

Any suggestions?

Posted by Chef C-

Stick with traditional menu planning and offer seasonal specials created around the best ingredients available at that time. Trust in your abilities to produce the best product but always look for outside input to boost the creative process.

Posted by Andrew-

Talk with the people currently working there. The cooks, prepcooks, dishwashers, waitstaff etc. They can tell you what goes on day to day in your place and where the former chef went wrong. They will also respect you more since you are giving them respect by asking them their opinion

Posted by Chef P -

Asking the current employees their opinion is an absolute must. But beware!!!! Some of the remaining employees are still loyal to their previous boss. And would like to see his replacement fail. Also don't be too critical of the previous chef. There are probably things going on where it may not have been totally in his control.

Posted by Chef Rene

Hi Andrew:
Good advise listen, ask questions but don't trust anyone. Employees will tell you what you want to hear.
Good Luck
Chef Rene

Posted by Chef Dan

Having been a workaholic chef myself I feel uniquely qualified to comment on this dilemma. I have worked 60, 70, 80 hour weeks, gone for weeks and months without a day off, until I burn out and self destruct. Unfortunately as long as chefs permit thenselves to be exploited, they will. Although no one ever forced me to work killer hours, I was often put in a situation where if i was not there, the food would suffer, which to any Professional, was not an option. There is a solution, I have used it, and it works:

  1. Job Specialization and Training Lets face it, most of what a typical chef does is various levels of grunt work.Separate "mis en place" from service. A good mis en place makes service easy. Create job descriptions for all functions your menu requires according to degrees of difficulty, starting with veg prep and knife work. Lets say you're making a soup. Have the "grunt" set up a whole mis en place for the soup,lay it out on a sheet pan and have the chef assemble it. Create other levels such as butchering, garde manger,assistant pastry chef, stocks and sauces and so on. This also creates a ladder, a series of tangible goals that can be easily achieved. The Key is training and communication. The Chef must show exactly how he wants everything to be and the crew must know what is needed.
  2. Plan ahead. Almost everything can be done well ahead of time without any loss in quality or waste. Lets say you know know you'll be needing creme brulee tomorrow. Why not have a grunt separate the eggs, measure out the cream and sugar and assemble the dishes? The chef should not be spending his time doing tasks that anyone can do.
  3. Utilize the kitchen during slow times. Ever notice how production slows down during crunch time, right before service? This is because everyone is competing for pots, pans and utensils, stove space, counter space, not to mention chatting with the waitstaff. Why not have a small crew come in at 2am or 6am? Leave em a list a things they better get done. This also works great in the summer, when the kitchen is excruciatingly hot.
  4. Try the "tag team method". I noticed this phenomenom many years ago and have been able to utilize it for maximum efficiency. I noticed it took one of my cooks a hour to bone a case of chicken breasts. One day I needed them in a hurry, and assiged a helper. They were done in a half hour, and were able to to get it down to 20 minutes. I realized that I had created a competition, and also prevented boredom. Try it next time you need a few cases of potatoes peeled.

By using these methods, (and I have many more) A chef can get his hours down to 40 or 50 tops. A chef or line cook should able to come in an hour before service to be ready for a busy night. You may think that this will cost a lot money, but it ultimately will save thousands in overtime and replacing burned out cooks and chefs. It will also enable you to serve a consistantly excellent product, as well as a more friendly working environment. Consulting services available, your feedback welcomed.

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