Speak Up

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Job Jumping

ChefWife Karol brought it to my attention that her chef changes jobs quickly. "Don't worry, my chef has three different jobs in 1 year. At this moment he is in process to have another new job as a Sous Chef in a new restaurant, so is crazy, but the chef is looking for a new experience in the kitchen all the time. But I pray to he can stay in a job for 2 years."

This isn't only the case of job jumping. It seems to be a plague among chefs and cooks in the culinary world. Just when I really get to know a few cooks that Erik works with, they up and move to a new city or restaurant. And of course it happens during restaurant week or on Christmas Eve and always without the formal two-weeks of notice. But the question is: WHY??? What's the deal with chefs moving around so much. It's got to be hard to learn a new station at a new restaurant. And unlike most jobs the hours and days off are different for each restaurant and each station. So why bother?

I've got a couple theories about job jumping. I don't know if any of these apply to your chefs, but we'll see.

1. DNA. Maybe the personality of a chef is what drives them to job-hop. After all, chefs are always trying to get better and be the best. Maybe once they realize the faults of the restaurants they are working in, they move on in hope of conquering something better.

2. Education. It's a possibility that cooks and chefs want to learn different cuisines so they take a taste-so to speak-of different restaurants and kitchens. Asian, Asian fusion, Asian-French, Asian fast food, and even Asian Texan. (Not quite sure if that last one really exists :-)

3. Grass. Is the grass really greener on the other side of the kitchen? Chefs and cooks are practically tortured to cook late nights over severe heat. But when they peruse StarChefs or Criagslist for a job offering benefits, complete creative control, and best of all a salary, it's hard to resist making the transition.

4. Promotion. This seems to be the most probable explanation. It's all about money and power. We all want it. And in the food industry moving from kitchen to kitchen might be the best way to get to the top.

I'm really only guessing here and I'd love to hear what other people think. My chef, Erik, has been working for Jean-Georges for the past 5 years. I know a lot of other JG chefs who have also been with the company for a long time. I think when a cook finds a chef/kitchen that works for him or her, they stay there. Not every kitchen is for everyone and not everyone is for every kitchen.



Katie said...

I've always equated being married to the chef to being married to the military. Only we move more often, and we're the one's usually footing the bill for the move. One day, we'll get smart, and not buy a house.
I keep thinking of the "fun" places his career has taken us: Montgomery, AL; Cape Girardeau, MO, places where no chef dare to go.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Thanks for this articule.
Karol (from Puerto Rico). I'm inviting to all my facebook friends to go to your blog and read, so everybody can understand the adventure of all Chef Wife!!

Anonymous said...

Grass. Grass, grass, grass! :)

Anonymous said...

my fiance got promoted to a head chef just recently and at the same time, the management is trying to make him learn 'marketing'...which means....less time for me.

lonestarstudent said...

What a great post! I think it really depends on the situation. My husband has found a great company (CP) and they treat him really well. I think he'll stay with them as long as possible.

BUT...My dear chef husband was told (right before we got married) that he should try to work at as many places as possible before he settles on one cuisine. He didn't listen and this is one time I'm thankful that he's stubborn.

I'm very interested to know what other chefwives have to say.

P.S. - Not sure if Asian Texan exists, but Wolfgang Puck did just open an Asian-fusion place here in Dallas. This may be the closest thing.


Anonymous said...

oh yes. That rings a bell!! My chef is on job #10 in 15 years, in four different countries, and only counting those where he stayed longer than 2 months, so add a few more for that!

I keep adding pages to his CV. Do you all do your partners paperwork too, by the way? Are they computer-illiterate and short-tempered with malfunctioning hardware,too? Just a thought there.

I agree with all of the mentioned explanations for this phenomena, but would like to add another one: Temper!! I have stopped counting how many times the chef came home ranting about how he "really lost it last night" and "nearly walked out". So apart from the greener grass and the experiences to be made, a lot of the changing jobs had to do with that. It's a terribly stressful job and finding a kitchen brigade that works together well is hard, so many times it just didn't work out.

My chef has a good job at the moment, at least it's a senior position and ticks the boxes for quality of food, reasonable pay and hours- a rare find, especially the latter, as you all know. He has started 6 months ago. He thinks out loud that it would probably be a good thing if he'd try to hang onto this job for a few years, settle down a little, maybe even start a family after all this moving around. The thought really puts him in a cold sweat sometimes, he really panics!

Anonymous said...

My chef hasn't stayed anywhere longer than 2 years. We just had a job scare yesterday, and I thought he (ok, we) would be moving on again. Thankfully, everything is fine. For him it's usually a struggle between him and the owner (he's always worked in small family places) over menu control. He's a genius, but a little cocky.

And Katie, my apologies for being stuck in Cape Girardeau. At least we're within 2 hours of big cities! Let me know if you ever get up to Columbia...

Chelsea Rogers said...

My chef seems to find that he gets burned out being in the same environment -- it's like clockwork, every two years he will want to be moving onto something else. He loves the challenge of coming into a kitchen, transforming it into an efficient machine and then taking on a new project.

And yes -- my chef certainly fits the bill when it comes to computer-related tantrums. He has no patience for things that take any time to grasp whatsoever. That's also a reason why he's left kitchens before -- the chef position required more office time pushing paper more than out in the kitchen. Not a good fit!

cabin on the ridge said...

i love your blog, thanks for having something like this for us ladies to relate to!!!! as we speak, i'm in the heart of the black forest in germany, my chef is staging here for a month while i'm in paris on exchange from my university (sarah lawrence). he's been working all day, i've been up in his room above the kitchen, drinking wine and waiting for him to finish dinner service!!! sending love to all the chef significant others out there!!!

Anonymous said...

for those who is not in a managing position, they tend to burn out quick and it is voted as one of the most stressful environment to work in....


lewis said...

As a retired, by way of disablement, working chef I must agree with your four points and point five brought up in the comments. And, somewhat sorry to say, it the changing jobs lasted my whole career. Points 1,2 and 5 were my main factors. Take a look around, where do you see the 50 and 60 year old cooks. I am old school and reserve chef in the classical style. We are all cooks, makers of joy.

anyway great blog on people and lives we don't normaly see outside of our own craft.