Thursday, 7 January 2010

New year, new job(s), new beginning(s)

The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity for me and its only now that I finally have the time to sit down and reflect on what has been going on :)

After finishing my stage in Paris (end of October), I was leading a bit of a nomadic existence flitting between London and various other places. Despite this, I managed to land 3 job offers before I headed home for Christmas, giving me great confidence that I would be back in employment again before the New Year. After much consideration, I decided to take a pastry position working for a French restaurant within walking distance from where I lived. It was a restaurant which I had eaten in a couple of times and was impressed by the food they served, as well as the service and the overall ambiance. At the trial, I also liked the way the team worked and everyone seemed pretty friendly and helpful. The hours were no slouch - 4 double shifts a week with 3 days off. My thinking was that by choosing somewhere so close to home, I was giving myself the best possible chance of success given the long working hours.

I started work here the week after Christmas and was immediately thrown into a lot of  "mise-en-place" work, all leading up to and preparing us for the New Year's Eve onslaught. For the first couple of days, I worked alongside a colleague who wasn't a pastry specialist but we got on fine and I was able to produce almost all the things he wanted with just a recipe (lucky I had done all that cooking practice at Christmas!). On New Year's Eve, I was working with a colleague who worked mainly in the desserts/pastry section - a little more challenging than the first few days as he was less used to delegating. Despite the fact that a lot of the mise-en-place had been done the previous days, the lack of organisation on New Year's Eve meant no afternoon break for us, meaning working 16.5 hours straight which was tough going. Up until then, I had next to no experience of doing service and on New Year's Eve, I was thrown into the deep end - when the orders started to pile up, I had to get stuck in and help plate what was the most complex dessert of the evening - no problems there, I just got on with it.   

After a couple of days off, it was back into the kitchen and also my first days working with the head chef in charge (he had been away on holidays until then). As far as I was concerned, everything was fine - I was able to get on with my work......if I didn't understand anything, I would ask my colleague what I should this point, I was still not involved in service therefore my interaction with the head chef was minimal (a couple of conversations lasting merely seconds).

You can therefore imagine my surprise when after service on Monday night, he asked me how I was getting on and I said "Fine", to which he immediately responded with, "I get the feeling that you don't want to be here....let's have a chat in my office" (?!!!). I was then subjected to the following barrage of comments and accusations which left me feeling a little gobsmacked:

  • I don't "get" you.
  • You make me feel uncomfortable.
  • I get the feeling that if you find a new job, you will leave straight away (despite the fact that my work to date has been good and according to his "psychoanalysis", if I had an attitude problem, surely my working standards would slip?).
  • You seem to think that just because you worked at "X" in Paris and "Y" in Hong Kong that you are far superior than the rest of us.
  • I was surprised to hear you asking a question about the pastry - you've only been here a week (i.e. how dare you question anything, shut the fuck up and get on with your work)
  • I've been hearing "rumblings" from others (no examples given but admittedly I did not ask)
  • I have no problem with you asking questions but there are others in the team and if you ask too many, it can get wearing. Also, this is not a cookery school.
  • You are too over-enthusiastic.
  • You're not fast enough (pretty hilarious, as by the middle of Monday night, I had finished everything that was asked of me and was hanging around service to the point where he said, "Can we find something to do rather than stand around and cross our arms?" - actually, the person giving me work had nothing for me to do) 

I was more than happy to explain my side of the story saying that the questions were only to help me learn how things should be done in his kitchen as quickly as possible so that I can then integrate faster into the team. (his response was that you are new and it was too be expected that I would not know everything immediately, no appreciation for me trying to pick things up as quickly as possible). After the conversation continued for a bit longer, I realised that he was the type of person who was not willing to listen to anybody. I already suspected him of being a bit defensive after my day trial and this conversation confirmed my fears. He also revealed himself to be someone who was insecure with his own ability and knowledge and only managed to get others to obey him through rank (and therefore supposed authority) only. Despite my explanations, I got the distinct feeling that he was not convinced. He had made his feelings known and to be honest, I didn't particularly want to stay working in a  place where I was not wanted.

Luckily for me, I was able to return to work this morning and say that I did not wish to continue working there (I was on a preliminary month trial) - another opportunity presented itself to me over the last week and after several interviews, I am happy to say that I have secured myself another job. I was not expecting to switch jobs so soon but all I can say is, it looks like the type of place where I can learn and thrive and enjoy my work, my experience of the organisation to date is professional and communication is open. The food and concepts excite me a great deal and the chefs I have met have been friendly, welcoming and encouraging.

As you can probably imagine, the last few days have been stress-filled for me but hopefully, things should look up from now on and I am looking forward to a new start in a week's time.

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