Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Personnel Blowout. Hissy Fits and Personality Disorder in the Inn Kitchen

'If anyone can cook fresh pub grub and fancies a couple of months in beautiful Cornwall please get in touch as our Head Chef had a major blowout last night and walked out'...

This not uncommon plea was posted this morning in a private forum I help admin, Licensees Supporting Licensees, where publicans discuss issues of the moment and the wider world and freely share support, advice and guidance based on combined hundreds of years' experience of the pressured, but perennially brilliant, public house catering environment.

My comment based on twenty five years of work in the hospitality industry is below. By the way, if anyone reading this is interested in the job above, do get in touch and I'll make the introductions.

Long time work in Catering tends to attract people with needs that are different from other professions, people who don't 'fit in' into more conventional working structures, often people who rely on personality, wit, graft and improvisation rather than formal qualifications for career progression. The people who can't hack 'Head Chef' positions in more stable and highly regimented pressurised restaurant catering often fall into the more laid back, less formal areas of catering such as in the burgeoning Pub food area. These charismatic broken personality, usually drug or alcohol addled, fallouts from being unable to manage the demands of higher things in the dysfunctional broader catering world come along to the pub sector basically trained to be mercurial bullies who get the job done by mimicking the bastards they worked for above but without the skills needed, or indeed the staff, to delegate the whole job of getting a menu out reliably consistently delivering quality and value and enough profit to pay the kitchen's overhead...

They come to the job saying they didn't get enough creative satisfaction in their previous posts and are looking for a challenge where they can set out their stall, make a name for themselves and their new adopted pub Establishment, and make a mark on the world. They're out of their depth and blagging it. They don't know how to train without screaming at people, they can't delegate, there's probably not enough people to delegate to anyway, and the only way they can get their head around achieving everything they say they can do is do absolutely everything themselves, from peeling veg to washing pans because no one else in your kitchen is capable because the previous 'chef' was shit. They're totally out of their depth and incapable of admitting it because then their pay would be compromised and they wouldn't be able to sustain their drug habit, and they work all the time, burn their candle at both ends and flog everything to psychological and physical breaking point until blow out happens.

Nicky and I resolved this perennially difficult reality by working very hard on the always reliable 'line cooks' and 'dish dogs' and training them to run the kitchen without the presence of any arsehole prima donna whose main role was to keep everyone else around them believing the world will collapse without their own presence dominating every last corner of their working lives. Resulted in the most stable and productive years we ever had in the kitchen.

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