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Sunday, November 28, 2010

“Culinary Essays at the New Elemental News of the Day—the Chef as Manager, Part IV!” by Chef Stinkbug



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COUNTDOWN TO THE END OF THE MAYAN CALENDAR



Here is the countdown to December 21, 2012: from today, we have 744 days to go until the End of Days, the End of Time, Armageddon, and the End of the Mayan Calendar!  Everybody, beware!



STINKBUG 2010







Chef Stinkbug

END Commentary 11-29-2010

Copyright © 2010 by MHB Productions

Word Count: 3,845.



CULINARY POLITICS



ELEMENTALNEWSOFTHEDAY.BLOGSPOT.COM-STINKBUG—THE HEADLINES

Elemental News of the Day Commentary-Opinion-Sports-Foodservice for Monday, November 29, 2010 by Chef Stinkbug



CULINARY ESSAYS AT THE NEW ELEMENTAL NEWS OF THE DAY

Culinary Essays at the New Elemental News of the Day—the Chef as Manager, Part IV! by Chef Stinkbug



Bakersfield, CA, 11-29-2010 M: Today we are going to finish our four-part blog on the Chef as Manager and we are going to pick up where we left off yesterday. We need to finish our work relationships with our bosses and fellow employees as well as the salespersons and what not.  There are also discussions on what to do with drug-using employees, the bane of ANY foodservice establishment and you know as well as I do that any cook or foodserver who is using drugs or abusing alcohol is a detriment to the establishment. Just the fact that they could injure themselves or someone else, God-forbid a guest, the lawsuits could be enormous. It’s important to that ALL management keeps it eyes wide open and acts responsibly at policing the staff and protecting the business. I have seen some pretty hellacious and costly accidents in my time I can assure you!

Recently, this was brought home on a somewhat painful level- my boss on my current position, Executive Chef Kirk Parks (who’s 10 years younger than myself), and I were talking in regards to something that dealt with why he no longer felt it necessary to come up on the line.  His reply surprised me when he said that he “no longer needed to prove himself up there as he had already paid his dues”.

     I know that he was not totally thinking of my situation when he said that but it came out none-the-less and made me feel bad. It really hit home and I did not know how to answer it so I let it drop. What the chef did not realize is that any of us in the foodservice industry can find ourselves in a brand-new set of circumstances every day. While Chef Henry’s advice was good, it did not take into account that if worse comes to worse, we still have to pay our bills and support our families. There is only one thing worse than being a 45-year old fry cook and that’s an unemployed 45-year old fry cook.

 f) Discipline:

     Discipline is something that comes with the management of people. It is something that the majority of us do not care to do but have to, sometimes on a daily basis. In this industry, many marginally unfit dysfunctional people seek refuge here. Its bad enough we hire ones we do not know, but it is even worse when that someone is friend or family and we know they are unfit but have to take them because we are in a pinch. There is nothing worse than having to fire (not just terminate) that friend or family member, let me tell you, it is the pits.

     #1 Problem: Cannot get along nor work well with others or cause disruptions through words or actions

     #2 Problem: thief;

     #3 Problem: tardiness;

     #4 Problem: alcohol or drug abuse;

     #5 Problem: blabbermouth, liar, or can’t keep confidences;

     #6 Problem: emotional or sexual relations with co-workers;

     #7 Problem: excuse-maker;

     #8 Problem: “double-agent”;

     #9 Problem: abuser of company equipment, waster of foodstuffs and supplies;

    #10 Problem: anything else;

 1) The problems:

     #1: This heading takes in many of the troublemakers that a chef has to deal with on a daily basis. Many people are hard to deal with and cause disruptions within the framework of our businesses. We cannot have belligerent employees saying racist, sexist, or otherwise foul things in our restaurants. Furthermore, we cannot deal with legal issues that troublemakers bring against us.

These people definitely have to go but it is up to us to research our prospective employees and pay close attention to work histories and references.

     #2: This is simple enough- if we catch a thief, we must deal with it quickly. We hire people whom we think we can trust but if we catch them taking out a piece of silver everyday so they have eight matching sets at home or a whole filet mignon carried over their arm with their sweater over it on the way out, we have to rid ourselves of these people. Although pressing charges is a sometimes-difficult thing to do, we can hurt them other ways by sidestepping questions posed to us by their next prospective employer or just refraining from answering their questions at all. While we cannot just come right out and tell the person who is thinking of hiring them the cold facts, we can lead them to see the reality of the situation.

     Of course, we can try to keep up with the times by trying to understand their need to do the things they do, the social reasons behind their need to steal from us but in the end, it still comes down to the same conclusion: fire them and fight their unemployment claim.

     #3: It is ok to be late once in awhile but when it occurs all the time, if that person cannot change the error of their ways through discipline, and then they have to go. You cannot run your business with employees who are not punctual because a) you cannot depend on them and b) it causes disruptions with the rest of your employees. If you allow one to slide, you have to allow all of them to slide.

     #4: Anyone who uses illegal drugs or sells them to co-workers has to go immediately. Anybody who is on medication has to clear it with you by providing a note from his or her physician stating the his or her need(s) and what to do in case of emergency. As for alcohol, the use/non-use of it on the job must take place at the time of the interview preferably from the start. If it has ok for the chef and sous chefs but not for the cooks unless it is cleared by the chef, that has to be made clear right from the start.

     #5: They need to discipline anyone exhibiting any of these tendencies OR let go because they disrupt the smooth flow of things. Too much gossip has a detrimental effect on the work environment and under no circumstances is tolerable.  The manager is to explain this now of the hiring interview and the employee is to acknowledge their understanding of the rule and possible consequences.

     #6: Emotional and/or sexual relationships with co-workers can cause a multitude of problems on the job; believe me, I SPEAK FROM EXPERIENCE! From the time I was 17, all of my relationships except for my present one have been with people on the job. This is a dangerous thing because people who become involved with one another will be in a world all their own and many times, neglect the business on hand whether it is through flirtation or the inevitable arguments to follow.

     People infatuated with each other will try to get the same work assignments and schedules so they can be together and when they cannot, problems might ensue. In order to be together, one or the other might call in sick, which creates problems and hard feelings for everyone else and if the affair is extra-marital, terrible things can happen like the spouses of one or the other showing up at work and causing scenes.

     If things ever get to this point, management disciplines employees and if necessary, lets them go. You cannot have disruptions of this sort occurring at work. While it is always wonderful when someone finds us attractive, we as professionals have to ward it off at arm’s length. In addition, when we are the BOSS, we really have to avoid it because people will use us to obtain whatever they feel necessary to. I cannot stress this one enough; all of the relationships I have been in over the years have practically ruined my life and wonderful career. DISCIPLINE IS THE ANSWER!

     #7: Excuse-makers are good for an occasional laugh but after awhile, you have to put them out in the street because after awhile it gets old. It is always “somebody did this, somebody did that” over-and-over again. I remember my old friend Chef Henry Gutierrez saying, “I’d like to meet this somebody; I’d fire his ass right now!”

     His complaint is common when you deal with excuse-makers; they always put the blame on an unknown individual, or far worse, tack it on to somebody else by lying through their teeth about it. Anything that they are responsible for, anything they have done is always the fault of somebody else. If food is mishandled or wasted and you are trying to find the underlying cause of it, they are the people that you lay your suspicions on first. While they may not be as bad as thieves may, they are not far behind. Always respect the person that tells you the truth especially if their job is on the line- keep these people!

     #8: Double agents are nefarious in the scheme of things because if you do seek counsel with somebody close to you regard-

ing a situation regarding one of your other problem type persons and they relay that information back to the person in question, all hell can break lose. Anybody that would share confidences or worse yet, overhear something that is being said to someone else in a confidential circumstance and take it back, that is far worse because they may only have a piece of information but not all of it.                                                                                                                                                   

     People who fall into this category are just as bad as any of the other problem types and worked out because they can undermine your authority. Unless you personally know every man in your crew, be careful who you share information with at first. Being chef is sometimes a lonely job and all you can do is discuss things with your superiors and/or your family.

     #9: The abuser/waster is someone who definitely does not have your best interests at heart because he-or-she has no regard for your property or supplies. Beware of anyone who mishandles equipment or supplies leading to loss or damage and then laughs about it. Usually, it is best that they laugh all the way to the unemployment office.

     One thing that I have to say about the newer generations is that many of them have no idea or regard for the things that the older generations adhere to with respect. We knew that the Hobart mixer and its attachments were worth a great deal of money just as we did the knives, pots, pans, and whatever. Have you ever seen the younger members of banquet crew’s traying wine-and-water glasses into the kitchen, losing control over them and then laughing about it as they crashed onto the floor? Believe me, it happens all the time although somewhat sad, it does not say a great deal about the younger generations!

     Make these people responsible for the damages they cause because if allowed to go unchecked, they will cost us our businesses! Just think, if you lose a dozen plates a day for everyday of the month without stopping it, where is your profit? In the poorhouse, quite possibly, or maybe no one is going to get their yearly salary increase. No raise in pay means loss of morale, which means your business might go down the drain. Either way, you lose!

    #10: Everything else—this includes anybody other that harms your business whether it is through morale or direct assault on your business philosophy or rules. These infractions can include subtle ones or blatant ones. Take for example something that committed by me, the sous chef and a couple of our apprentices back in the days we worked at Stockdale Country Club:

     During the Eighties, we used to listen to all sports broadcasts in the kitchen via the radio. With the exception of my ex-wife, we were all fans of L.A. teams, The Lakers, The Dodgers, The Angels, The Rams and The Kings. (One of our apprentices was from Chicago and liked Chicago teams). Anyhow, it was good for morale to listen to our teams play although the only winner we had in those days was the Lakers. One year, The Dodgers won the World Series but that is unimportant.

     Chef Juan began letting me bring in a small, black-and-white portable TV so we could watch play-off games while we worked on the line as long as it did not interfere with our work. It was great for a while but one summer when Chef Juan went on vacation for the month of August, we took it up one notch, which really should have gotten all of us into trouble.

     The four of us talked to the maintenance man and asked him what it would take to put a splitter on the TV in the men's locker room and string a cable over the ceiling and into the kitchen right where we placed the television. He told us what we needed and the four of us went in on it together. We got the necessary stuff to do the job and in a day-or-two, we had live cable TV in the kitchen; tell me what job would allow that! Even the general manager, Mr. Z, said nothing as we figured that he left it up to Chef Juan to deal with when he returned.

     Well, the beginning of September arrived and Chef Juan returned from his month off. As it was the end of the baseball season as well as the beginning of the NFL, the NBA and the NHL, we had the TV up-and-going. At first, I think he was stunned and could not believe his eyes but he said nothing and the perfidy of what we had done sank in. Since more than one person was responsible for this problem and not knowing exactly who did what, there was nothing he could to any of us.

     He did not order us not to have the television in the kitchen anymore but one day, it came up in a conversation between him and me. He asked me who did it and I told him that all of us had a part in it. He asked us why and I told him it was good for us because it made us work harder (except when Timothy Murray became obsessed with a battle between the Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks and would stop what he was doing and yell, “SCORE! SCORE!” when the Hawks were driving on L.A.’s goal).

     Needless-to-say, he was disappointed because he felt that his power had been usurped by us not asking him (which it was), but he accepted it and did not make me keep the TV home. If anyone of us had been more responsible than the other, he could have fired that person but there was no way he could have replaced us all as we were still the best crew in Bakersfield back in those days. The only thing he did was to restrict us as to what we could watch which was fair. Only play-off games and major ones, which again, were entirely fair under the circumstances, were we allowed watching. 

     I was not anything more than the night sous chef back in those days and pointless to say, my judgment was definitely flawed. However, now as a chef, I would have to make an example of someone. Therefore, he must severely reprimand or terminate the employee(s) and their TV must go with them. As executives, we cannot withstand challenges to our authority without doing something about it. Now, let me tell you how the process works:

     #1: Usually, with less severe infractions, we do what we call “Building a Book” (or case against someone). Nowadays, employment applications specify that the worker or the employer have the right TO END THE JOB AT ANY-

TIME WITH-OR-WITHOUT NOTICE! This is a completely new ball game; no longer does the employee have to give us two-week’ notice (which is necessary if that person wants a GOOD recommendation) nor do we as the employer really have to give any advance warning either.

     However, in order to do things the RIGHT way, we have to BUILD THE BOOK (BTB) so if we have to fight the Labor Board or unemployment office; we stand a chance to win. Therefore, STEP #1 requires us to give the employee two VERBAL WARNINGS UNLESS IT’S FOR A DOCUMENTABLE BLATANT ACT LIKE THEFT (WHICH IS GROUNDS FOR IMMEDIATE DISMISSAL). They design this to give the employee a chance to think about his infraction, which will not re-occur.

     #2: The third time, we write them up. This consists of a written report on the problem and at this time, the employer can exercise his discretion by giving the employee a day off with-or-without pay. It depends upon how much this employee is to you and whether or not he-or-she warrants the trouble of changing their ways.

     #3: This is the final write-up and it does not have to be for the same infraction, it can be for anything that is wrong. They definitely give the employee 1-2 days off without pay and have them write a “Plan-of-Action” In this “POP”, management gives the employee his or her last opportunity at saving their job. He-or-she writes in it how they will see the error of their ways and diagram how they will work hard to improve their standing within the company step-by-step. At the end of this, they sign their name and history takes their course. Either they live up to what they have acknowledged as their problems(s) or work hard to correct it or it is out the door.

     This gives you as the employer the opportunity to keep your conscience clean by knowing that you gave that person every chance in the world and you if you have to terminate them, then that’s because they’ve failed, not you. Of course, if you have no problems with conscience, then you could have done it a long time ago and take your chances with the government bureaucracies.

     Union jobs normally require that all of the preceding steps are followed which also usually include the shop steward in attendance to advise the employee of his rights and to protect those rights. It is generally very difficult to rid one of bad employees on union jobs as I found out when I was a Cook III at Maui Memorial Hospital back in the mid-Nineties. We had employees that had gotten their tenure and then, after that, they just about got away with anything they wanted to. Every other weekend, the other Cook III and I exchanged weekends. Every morning at 6 a.m., start time, the same people more often than not called in sick. We could not ask the worker about the problem nor when he or she returned to work—in this matter, the law tied our hands beyond the shadow of the doubt! They had three days before they even had to call us back!

     Therefore, in order to rid ourselves of troublesome employees, we had to begin BTB on them and even that was a long shot. Once you have your tenure, you are in for life just about. Even thieves have numerous opportunities to retain their jobs—in order to get them out; the manager had to catch them in the act at least three-4 times. As you can imagine — this was, difficult because a supervisor could never ask to see what was in their backpacks, handbags or other bags. I knew all the tricks of the trade myself but I could never bust a single individual in the three-plus years I worked for the state.

     The only lesson that I learned is if you are an employee on a union job, you just about have it made but if you are a supervisor, you are SOL. I really do not think I would take a managerial position on a union job again; the only way I would do it is if I were an employee. Management is not easy but once you cross the line, you have to do it whole-heartedly without taking any short cuts and DELEGATE, DELEGATE, and DELEGATE! Share your responsibility with your sous chefs and employees and they will work harder for you.

--------------------------------------------

As always, we have a great time around here and that is why we want all of you to become a part of the organization by submitting articles to us for inspection and full-credit.  It is a great thing if you would do this, as it is a symbiotic relationship: we give you the space to share your recipes and in return, you send us more and more people who will become dedicated followers of the END.  Currently of multi-diversity across the Internet, it is important that we hear the voices of more and more people from all walks of the foodservice profession —join us. We urge our readership to write to us, leave comments, and if there are any of you, who would care to write an article for us, please get in touch via Magnolia Hilltop Brewers, P.O. Box 20669, Bakersfield, CA 93390-0669.  We obviously do not pay anything but give YOU full byline and that, my friends, is worth its weight in gold.  We want as many people who want to write to be able to do so and we believe that by presenting a forum for our fellow chefs, we are doing something for our beloved industry.  We love diversity and hope to add new and different authors to our pantheon of chefs, food and beverage directors, and culinary professionals.  Come on and join us, it will be fun! Expect that when all of us have run through our cycle, we will be introducing some brand-new talent or so Stinky says.

Please remember to avoid doing business with AARC Technology in Bakersfield, CA.  These people do not care about the small customer anymore but instead put all of their attentions onto their corporate customers. It is sad to not remember why one has the success they do or from where it came.

            Thanks for sticking around and enjoying our new refurbished blog thanks to the kindness and good sense demonstrated by Google!  Were it not for them, we would be self-published and no one would be reading us.  I am excited that the times are good for bloggers like us as the desire for additional and continuing foodservice education increases daily.  Please tell all your friends, family, everyone to come to us for their foodservice, culinary history, and stories of the times and I promise that we will NOT let you down, not at all!                                    

Anyhow, let us close with this impassioned plea—please leave some comments and/or become a follower and why not spend some money and purchase an album by the Flamin’ Groovies’ and/or buy a cookbook from Amazon.com—we want to make some money here so help us out by buying something!  Allied with them, we are pleased to market their merchandise! See you next time around! Bye!  

Thank you!

Stinky

Stinkbug
American Bakers’ Association, ACF, CWC

This is I back in the 1980's when I was the sous chef of a large foodservice operation in Bakersfield, CA. I began my cooking career in the 1960's when I apprenticed underneath a great chef, Master Chef Ulysses S. Paz.  I have lived and worked in Hawaii, Washington State, Arizona, and California.  Even though I am in my late 60’s, I am still actively involved at a hotel here in Bakersfield, CA.

Stinkbug writes from OILDALE, CA.

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The END Commentary for Monday, November 29, 2010 by Chef Stinkbug



Please note that everyone who writes for the Elemental News of the Day is their own person entitled to their own opinions, attitudes, and insanity so does not necessarily speak for all of us.  Thanks, Stinkbug.

REFERENCES:

The one-and-only Chef Stinkbug wrote this original essay.



Recipe created by Chef Stinkbug on November 13, 1982 in Bakersfield, CA.

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2 comments:

  1. Hiya! I know this is kinda off topic nevertheless I'd figured I'd ask.
    Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest writing a blog article or vice-versa?

    My blog addresses a lot of the same topics as yours and I feel we
    could greatly benefit from each other. If you might be interested feel free to shoot me
    an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you!

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    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a great post here today, folks, one has to love the original posts written by Stinkbug on the art of becoming a chef. We use these posts as a teaching tool as should you because all too often nowadays, we have a bunch of young kids who have no idea what lard is, much less veal. Good job, Stinky!

    ReplyDelete

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