Not the act of cooking something in a hot liquid – but rather, the act of stealing someone away from another restaurant with the offer of better things. I had read about the act of poaching crew members away from restaurants in a few of my Bourdain books. Apparently it happens a lot.
* The names of restaurants have been omitted to protect the scheming *
My general manager brought up the idea of me becoming a kitchen manager about a month ago. I wasn’t so keen on the idea because I knew what it entailed. There’s a lot of delegation and a lot less of the hands-on activities that us grunts come to expect in a restaurant. Sure there is better pay but I have come to love the feeling of satisfaction at the end of a physically strenuous day. I really love working with food – not telling other people to work with food.
After a few weeks of coaxing I finally relented, but I was completely honest with my intentions. If my house sold I would be moving to a different apartment and going back to school. My GM consented and my kitchen manager training started immediately. I started to learn how to take inventories, prepare truck orders and deploy crew members. I’m learned how to keep the walk-in well stocked until our next shipments come in and how to arrange the kitchen so that it is neat, clean and effective – pretty much all of the things you would expect in a KM position. Soon after it was decided that instead of my training taking 4-6 months, they would try to rush me through in 2 months. It is a lofty expectation and not one that I was particularly fond of.
After a week or so my 22-year-old GM pulls me into the office to tell me he has received an offer to be a consultant at several up-and-coming restaurants and bars located at the inner harbor. Some of them were ultra-modern cuisine, some were comfort food – but all were very nice and located in a prime tourist area. They are all owned by the same family and they basically wanted to steal him away. He gave them a ridiculously high number that he said would be necessary for him to quit his job. It was a salary that was double what I was payed even at my best job. Though I admired his guts, I laughed at his asking price. Then he surprised me with a question.
“Would you like to go with me if I left?”
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“The pay would be better and you would be working in a bigger and better environment.”
“We’ll see.” I rationalized, “They haven’t even responded to your pay request.”
Apparently my GM mentioned me in negotiations and the restaurant owner had been secretly spying on me as I worked. I felt flattered, but was pretty sure his deal would never materialize.
Then, on the same day, two unthinkable things happened.
They approved his salary and we sold our house.
At this point I started rethinking my plan. Should I put school off and work a job where my connections and friendships with an expanding company will provide me with solid connections, or should I go to culinary school while working part-time on the side in hopes that it will be worth it. I haven’t found the proper ratio of “who you know” to “what you know.” Either way, I couldn’t stay where I was.
Skip ahead to present day. After a 2 weeks notice, a few interviews and a lot of sad goodbyes later, this week is my first week at the new restaurant. Already I see many changes that are going to have to happen to bring everything up to snuff. It’s going to be a lot of hard work. My schedule includes three days of working until 3 AM, the drive is 40 minutes one way on a good day and the parking is $2 an hour, but hopefully it will all be worth it.