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    EOL Coverage of Chefs Championships at IHMRS

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    Preparing Lobster for Competition

Workaholism in the food service industry
Originally Posted by Glenn Messick-

Once upon a time I worked 90 hour work weeks. I fully appreciate the need for dedicated culinarians at all levels of the cooking game, from the under paid line cook at the seasonal seafood restaurant on the coast of NJ, to the highly regarded 4 star executive chefs in the big hotels in New York City. One aspect of our business I refuse to accept is the belief that a chef has to be in the kitchen every waking hour or he isn’t dedicated, or is somehow inferior. I’ve done the "no day off for 14 straight weeks, and I'm gonna stab someone soon” circuit, and it is not for me. I love this business, and I wouldn’t leave it for anything, its just that there is more to my life than food costs, scheduling, finding a qualified saucier, the canceled reservations for the Johnson reception, or the broken infra-red bricks in the broiler. I have a life outside this game, and I'll be damned if I'll give it up!!! I hunt, I fish, I play music, I read. I've had stretches where I haven’t even left the restaurant for 3 whole days, sleeping on piles of linens on a prep table. I think that the days of the chef as an example of how to burn yourself out is over. The place I run now, I have 2 days off and work an average of 60 hours a week. We (2 cooks, 2 prep guys, and myself, plus 2 dishwashers) put out beautiful food for 200 on an average night, 250 weekends, with not a container of base in sight. I work a 10 burner sauté station, a cook to my right does broiled entrees and the guy to my left does apps, and two entree items. Its all natural classical stocks, with a premium placed on freshness of product. I am VERY proud of the product we put out, and I don’t have to kill myself to do it. I think chefs (some folks I've read here talking about 100 hour weeks, please) everywhere need to rethink their stand on the whole "iron man” chef mentality. I for one refuse to kill myself for a matter of labor cost. I'd like to here your thoughts on this subject.

Posted by Andrea

Hey-
You gotta do what you gotta do.
In the summer and at Christmas I work over 100 hours a week.
In January- March I Have a life!
Try kick boxing-it's awesome!

Posted by Francois

It’s not just an adventure, it's a way of life

-

I happy that you found the proper balance in your life. The key words being "your". In the early days of my short cooking career I would say "you can't hate it, you can't like it, you gotta love it". You sound a little burnt out. We all get to that point sooner or later. I have considerably reduced my hours since my last post. But I still fill my time around food related pasttimes (i.e. starting an 80 acre organic farm that someday will include a dairy, poultry, grist mill, foie gras production, etc.; collecting rare 19th and 20th century French cook books; menu collecting; eating in restaurants; cooking dinner parties in other states; etc.). But food is my reason for living. My outlook is different from yours. I do not look down upon people, such as yourself, who have a different passion. I also believe you get out what you put in. I think the term "workaholism" reflects when someone has a problem with something they truly don't love. I compare it to alcoholism in that the work starts to destroy your life. BUT I hardly consider the person that imbibes upon too much 1985 La Tache and 1967 Chateau d'Yquem an alcoholic. They are wine geeks.

To paraphrase Rudolph Chelminski in his excellent book entitled "The French at Table": The men and women who compose the industry of the stomach today, are an extraordinary bunch of people, as endearing as they are admirable. "That I find them commendable far, very far, beyond the common range of mortals - how infinitely more estimable is a man with a reputation for a special touch with green beans than a senior vice president of Megalo Motors or Imperial Toilet Tissue (ITT) - is not just for their constantly bubbling inventiveness, which has carried French cuisine to an apogee of creation probably unmatched at any other time in history; not just for their instinctive intelligence, which, with the best of them, matches that of any company director, politician or scientist I have met; and not just for the astonishing professionalism that allows them to keep from sinking with enterprises that any business analyst would qualify as pure folly: labor intensive, unmechanized, inefficient, agonizingly subject to public whim, low in profit margin, generally mistrusted by the tax authorities and demanding work hours that are so absurd that any other trade would reject them out of hand." What separates Chefs from almost all other people is the conviction and passion and joy with which we conduct our profession. As Alain Senderens once said "You've got to have le feu sacre to succeed in this business"

I hope I die the way my grandfather's best friend died. He hunted deer in the morning; came home for a wonderful lunch; and did a face plant into his foie gras. What a way to go!!! Please lord let me go that way...

Francois de Melogue

Posted by Nice Chef

It is just plain ridiculous to kill your self by living in a kitchen
You have to keep balance in your life or you work will suffer along with everthing else.
I have a wife and 3 daughters at home. I am never going to be
married to my job divorced from my family.

Posted by ChefTim

I've always worked harder and had less accomplished when My boss was a bean counter or a plate carrier. When I worked for people whose Knowledge of food came from some book or corporate manual it has always sucked. Constantly trying to make up for their misconceptions of the way things really are.
This lends its self to something that is constantly heard in these forums. 'Get some experience before School.' Of course Gerard would say forget school and that is really the point. Cuisine is like life itself. Could someone from another planet read a book, some great novel like "David Cooperfield" and know what life is. No it's impossible there are to many things that are implied. It is the same thing with Cuisine any cook book or primer or Class for that matter can only give a narrow view for a specific instance and condition.
Which somehow brings me back to being a workaholic. The Glen says he works 5 days and 60 hr. and we (us chefs) look at that a think 'that’s reasonable' any other industry would say 'that's crazy'. The bean counters and the plate carriers that I have worked for never worked more than forty. So why do we except 60 hours as something that is perfectly exceptable?
Really that is a rhetorical question because we all (chefs) know the answer; Our name is on every plate in the dinning room. Not Bean Counter Fred's or Plate Carrier Jim's, it's ours "The Chef".
Our chosen profession is a true VOCATION. Few of us get rich. Few of us make more than an average wage, yet still continue to do or work because there is nothing like that gratification of going out to the Dinning room a getting a standing ovation from the guests. For those few seconds your the ‘king of the world’.

TRB

Posted by Gerard

>>Few of us get rich>>

But we are, look at the wannabe's, they are dying in their 38 hr $60K yr jobs from dead spirits, they get nothing but money from their work and no amount of cash can fill the void, they are spiritually dead.
I thoroughly enjoy my work.

>>Standing ovation>>

Tim, you really have to quit dancing on the tables, the linen can't take it!

Cheers, Gerard

Posted by Gerard

I hear ya, Francois is getting something new going, I'm just doing what I like to do but SHOULD take some time away.
Supposedly workaholics have kids that are more screwed up than alcoholics because at least the parent is home, even if pickled, whereas the workaholic children have a vacuum instead.
Often times its due to the present situation we are in that makes us look like workaholics, often I'm too lazy to get work done ahead so I can take a day off.
And then we act like heroes right?.

Bottom line is, if you don't take time off you become ineffective.
Ideas become stale etc.

Regards, Gerard

Posted by Mark

I'd love to add my thoughts to this subject, but I have WAY too much to do!!!
Skaal!,


Mark

Posted by kai

Cute, Mark :)

Over-work syndrome or by whatever name it is called is partly a
symptom of
a) poor management,
2) worry over potential job loss, and,
iii)* a world economy where those with the $ and power go where
they, TPTB (the powers that be), can reap the most profits,
(oh, and, four, TIIC--the idiots in charge--who don't understand
the importance of continuity, character, and integrity).

* Thanks to Click and Clack (the cartalk guys) for this example
of non-parallelism, sort of.

There are few solutions, but here's a couple of ideas:

1. Stay true to our ideals
2. Respect our customers
3. Learn from the lessons
4. Continue to strive to do our best

I think there must be tons more I could add, but, why complicate
matters? If one follows the steps above, at least when you get
the boot, you will have some padding to soften the fall. (These
steps work in most professions, btw.)

FYI (not that anyone cares), busting my buns has always pleased
my bosses--regardless of my tenure--and has also always impressed
the next boss *more*. More importantly, I have learned, and, therefore,
have much more to offer to the next boss (including when that
"boss" was me).

Enjoy 99...
"...like it's 1999" (by the artist formerly known as...)

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