Monday, March 23, 2009

training: how to pick them and how to break them in

What do you look for when you're hiring a new cook? Do you keep the same job description in a file on your folder, to be posted over and over again on craigslist? Does your restaurant/bakeshop/kitchen have a high rate of turnover? If so, do you know why?

Do you seek input from your fellow cooks or front of house managers, those above you? Do you ask them what is so important about what you do? or how can I best communicate the particulars of this job? Do you have cooks come in first for a face-to-face, do you make a point of knowing something about the places listed on their resume, do you ask them why they want to work for you? Do you ask them why they want to work with you? Do you set up a trail and if so, how long do you plan to keep the cook and what do you have them make? {item I've been asked to make most frequently while trailing: pastry cream}

Do you hire them on the spot? If so why? At what point do you know that you will hire someone? Do you ever hire someone before seeing them work? How long do you keep that stack of extra resumes around? Are you honest with the cooks you see about the realities of the position, the things you value, the numbers on the books, the hours they should expect to work?

If you are not honest about these things, please, please, be honest. If you knowingly under-represent the conditions of the job by inflating your covers by over 100 or by telling the cook you'll give her three full days when you expect to send her home after five hours (to keep the costs down) or you tell her she's plating only but can do some production when you know she'll only be baking endless silpats of tuile cookies, then you are lying. You are lying to the cook and lying to yourself. There is a very slim chance that you will hire someone you are happy with, and who is happy with you--and in a town as small as this one, your reputation most often precedes you.

When you are training a hired cook, do you hold his hand? Do you tell him it's sink or swim time? Do you think it? Do you tell the cook what and why and how of everything you ask him to do, or do you keep it simple, do this over and over and over. exactly like that. until you know that the cook begins to see, at which point you tack on another piece of information?

What do you do if you don't like someone? If you feel you made a bad decision the first time around? Do you ever dislike someone for a reason you can't quite articulate? Can you tell if they don't like you? Can you tell when a cook swears she wants to work for you that she's truly desperate for a job, any job, could give a shit about your job in fact, just needs a paycheck? What do you do when the one thing a cook promises you {I'm fast, I'm punctual, I'm neat} is so far from the truth that you'd laugh if it were funny?

Do you learn lessons for the next time around?

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