This is a seemingly never-ending subject that affects all in our profession. I am sure that from the day we begin working in a kitchen to the day we retire/achieve Supervisor/Sous Chef/Executive Chef status and beyond, we will suffer from the seemingly inevitable shortage of time, spanners in the works--or "who put the clocks back and turned out the lights?"
The scenarios and stories I am sure our readers have will also be of interest to all of us. You know how our colleagues always wish to share not only recipes for dishes, but also how to solve problems. We are not much into gossip, but rather into sharing ideas on how to resolve problems and assist our culinary colleagues, for "small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, and great minds discuss ideas."
Who of our readers has experienced something similar to the following scenario?
A last minute banquet had been given to sales the evening prior and you as a.m. Sous Chef have just walked in to find that Night Manager pass you a handwritten Function Order.
No one is in the Storeroom, but you have an idea of the stock levels; yet you're sure that the specified basic meat item is not readily available.
You know that the Executive Chef and Banquet Chef will not be in until 10:00 a.m., and you have no means of contacting them.
You are supposed to have a meeting with your morning staff at 12:00 regarding service and quality, gratuities, etc., and points to resolve certain problems, plus discuss a new menu being installed for the following week.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
PANIC?!?!?!? Sure, for 5 seconds-------and then..........
THINK (as with a recipe) in rational, thought-out stages
1) Call a reliable supplier whom you know is open and will have the meat. Place the order and stress the urgency---explain the situation briefly as time is going and there's no time to chat.
2) As your morning Brigade is setting up for their service, have a very quick meeting with them to explain the situation. Be sure to inform them that the meeting will be postponed until approximately 12:30 or 1:00 and that you understand that they have concerns to discuss in this meeting, but ask for their support in this situation first.
3) Divide the work load and do not forget to include the Stewarding Department. Also inform the Senior Service Staff Supervisor because by this time the Night Manager may be on his final rounds, or checking with a guest on early check out, checking Night Audit, etc.
4) Assist with and help to speed up your ordering from the line staff and for the function. Do not forget to inform Storeroom staff of the situation and the need to work together, and also that you have had to by-pass the system and order the meat.
5) Once you are confident that Breakfast Service is set, check where you can/and whom you may ask to assist on the function prep. (Do not forget the Bakery and Pastry--for extra bread and pastry, etc.)
6) Even though the main item of meat is not there yet, prep basic needs, salads, appetizer, soup or even court bouillon for cooking; example: shrimps for appetizer, etc.
The more you organize now, the better---as you never know what else may happen:
A PHONE CALL---Chef will not be in as he has a fever of 102.
ANOTHER PHONE CALL--Banquet Chef will not be in until 11:30 and the function is at 12:00 (you were unable to talk to him as the Operator passed on the message).
KEEP TO YOUR PLAN! When the Lunch Staff comes in at 8:00 and 9:00 a.m., have a quick meeting with them and explain the situation briefly. Have someone who normally assists on Banquets set up everything needed in the function's area.
10:30 a.m.---SUPPLIER CALLS----his vehicle has broken down and cannot make the delivery until 11:30 at the earliest---??---Inform supplier that you will send a taxi to collect the meat and ask for the location of the broken-down vehicle. Explain the situation to the Concierge and/or Sales, and ensure they send out transport.
YOU KNOW that this will definitely hinder the production of the meal and will surely slow down the service time by at least 1/2 hour----WHAT NOW?
Go to the Maitre 'd and explain + have them stall--give a complimentary cocktail upon arrival, etc.
Now the Banquet Chef and Staff are in----take time to go through prep, explain what has already been done, tell the location of items and inform them that the meat should be there in a short time, etc.--don't worry about explaining problems.
ALL GOES OFF WELL
Now you have your meeting with your staff. Make it constructive and a morale booster. Thank them for all their assistance---a confidence builder--and assure them that you feel that the new menu should not cause any real problems for them, having seen the conscientious efforts they put forth today.
When Chef returns, ask if it is possible to have a meeting with Sales and clarify that if a similar instance occurs to explain to the guest that the specific meat requested may not be available and that a substitute may have to be used.
Make sure that some form of written thanks is distributed to staff for their assistance and send a carbon copy to all Departments, including General Management, etc. (Show your organizational and problem solving skills.)
Now--what was the real solution to the problem??????
COMMUNICATION!----It's the factor that either makes or breaks all our efforts; not memos, chat or complaining, but communicating. You could be the best surgeon in the world, but if you are unable to communicate with staff, nurses, technicians and patients, where would you be? It applies to all areas of one's life and all forms of work and situations.
Many diverse and worse scenarios have happened to me in my 25+ years of working in a kitchen. Sometimes, it seems they just keep coming and on the rare day that all goes well, you feel that it may be the calm before the storm!
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