Friday, June 12, 2009

More (Pissed Off) Musings of a Kitchen Apprentice

Times like these - when I'm all slouched on my computer desk reading work- related mails is when I really think of my career life over. I get so bored at the on- going problems brought by too many little governments in our company... the operations, the marketing... the copycats (who I wanna tell- take your hands off my kitchen!) Has my life- and taste for fine food really deteriorated?

To go into the details would be like being a little too immature- I might get executed by my boss and other members of the board room who I know are reading my blog. This is a personal page and I am entitled to express everything... the devil may care.

Well this is my point. Much as I wanted my chefs to participate in the conceptualization of new ideas, I should have known that there's a peril to it after all. So true was the saying that too many hands ruin the cake. The other day, a leaflet landed on my lap and a stranger (who happened to be a chef) approached me, "You see that banner of yours over there? That menu was copied from this..."

I wanna scream. "You're nothing but second-hand, trying hard- ...!!"

I thought from the start that it was an original idea of a chef from the south. Now I realize that that menu was full of crap... you would know it at first glance on the recipe because baked macaroni is made with a crappy concoction. In a way I could blame myself for this. But I remember that at the time when such project was presented to the boardroom and I was making comments, the board room people were opposing my suggestions including my boss (who at that time I was into a heated argument with). So there you got it- you won't listen to your executive chef, and now you had your way. And the one who speaks against it - to me now- was a total stranger. Of course, the chef who made it won't go into the frontline of the war- I do. (I defend you all when things got screwed, helpless brats... Now, pay homage to Sun Tzu!)

Really, I wanna throw a chopping board against the wall.

I mused much about my kitchen life. Five years I have worked with a highly respected man in the business (which I really consider my true mentor) , whose sense of values and business ethics provided the true grounds of my career. All employees who underwent his tutelage enjoyed many privileges in the culinary world- the first choice of employers from everywhere. When I was having interviews, the interviewers asked all sorts of question of what the secret of Boss Mao* was. However, when I got here in the company, it was all too different.

God, Boss Mao's art of war was entirely passive. He didn't give leaflets to customers to come to him - he stayed put, made good food and the customers by natural instinct went to him. The marketing strategies of our company right now puzzles me.

If I didn't learn the other rules of the kitchen from Boss Mao, then at least I learned refinement, business ethics (utter professionalism in the truest sense of the word) and a pioneering attitude. Boss Mao was an originator of things, not a follower of them. That alone, even if your boss screams at you, is enough to earn your respect.

My current boss had sometimes told me that I can get all too cocky - speaking my mind and answering back when all the board room people are "yes- man". (I.e., "What makes you think you're better than anyone from the group?") I despise the free lunch with the board room people and stay in the kitchen with my cooks. I stayed at the kitchen in my chefs whites during the opening of our new restaurant (while everybody was rubbing elbows with celebrities) and looked over the food. I said, my place is in the kitchen and not in the limelight.

Times like this is when I look back at the great people who influenced my life. Sometime this week I sat in a monthly meeting of the managers. I wanna cover my ears at the exchange of words (i.e., the cursing, the labeling at the people who were not around, etc.). I sat there as an observer. I said, I'd rather have everyone think of me as snob, indifferent - throw any crap - but I am embracing the fact that I do not belong, and cannot belong.

Besides, Boss Mao also taught me to be bold.


If you want a taste of Boss Mao's creations (and see for yourself what I'm talking about- quality business that is), here's a preview. Click on this link and enjoy the menu. Or better yet, go to the branch nearest you.

*Name was changed? Oh, but you got it right there at the links.

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