Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Oh What Fun

Operational Illiteracy
New Menu Rollout, what fun!
Weeks of planning, engineering really, all comes down to this – the moment of truth.
All the homework has been done; products sourced, yield tests, operational analysis; new menu items run as specials to gauge guest satisfaction and receptivity – now for the real work to be executed.
Menu Worksheets, check
Station Maps, check
Revised Recipes, done
Updated prep sheets, cut sheets and order guides: complete.
All new bulk prep has been done, and backed up to estimated par levels; one never knows until it‟s time to rock after all, and now - it is.
“What type of pasta comes with the Scampi?‟ I ask the pasta cook as I demo the dish in front of him, confident that he‟s had time to review the new menu specifications I‟ve prepared in advance.
“I don‟t know chef‟, he offers weakly.
„What do you mean, it‟s on the menu.” now I‟m getting frustrated, the adrenaline jacks into my bloodstream in preparation for what is to come.
All systems are go ready for launch Captain.
“No, it‟s not Chef”, I can feel the burning in my ears as my blood pressure rises to meet this new demand.
“It‟s right there” I stab at the menu with a greasy finger to the words „Angel Hair‟. After 5 double shifts getting everything ready for this I was a little short on patience.
As ready as I felt this was something I was not prepared for – ignorance.
“Please read the menu to me, aloud please” my voice rising.
I was considering making an example of him; an example of what to expect from Chef if one comes to work unprepared.
“C‟mon man read it!‟ I almost shout.
“You‟re making me very nervous Chef.” I bet I am, I would be too if I were in his shoes.
“We‟re running out of time, read it!”
He starts to, hesitantly, following my finger across the line of words.
It‟s then when it strikes me like a slap in the face from a jilted lover.
He‟s not reading the description as I‟ve written it, he‟s reading it as I‟ve explained it to him.
My word and stars, the man cannot read.
By any outward appearance he‟s a fully functioning member of society at large and a crewmember of some standing in the little world of our kitchen but in reality he‟s functionally illiterate.
I had completely taken it for granted that he could read the information that I had so diligently prepared but it was all of little or no use at all if he couldn‟t process it.
I took a good long look at my crew and started to ask myself some hard questions, most disturbing of which was, „How many more are like him?‟. He had been here for some time prior to my arrival, „Had this ever come up before?” and if so, „Why hasn‟t someone done anything about this?‟
We‟re all familiar with the language gap of emerging populations and have even come up with a bastard language, „Kitchenese‟; adaptable to any language it‟s mostly spoken Spanish & Creole crew so that their supervisors can understand that they were shorted on their paycheck or that they need new uniforms.
ESOL or English for Speakers of Other Languages has done a great job at preparing immigrants to enter the general work force but kitchens are dangerous, fast paced environments that require a stronger hold on the English language than most possess but there‟s been a disturbing trend in our industry in recent years.
A few years ago when skilled labor was hard to come by some Chefs and managers took crew with little or no language skills to do menial tasks by showing them the specific job and without the knowledge of why or where their part fell into the larger picture they drilled these „cooks‟; repetition crystallizes the skill in memory and then the task requires neither supervision nor any critical thinking.
This might have solved the manager‟s immediate crisis, someone to fry tortilla chips everyday, but it came woefully short of caring anything about the person in any way that would ensure the empowerment that comes from the skill of reading and writing language well.
It‟s the height of hypocrisy to protest about why this person preps the same thing, in the same quantity everyday whether we run out or end up with 2 cases of molded julienne peppers.
Hey, now worries, they‟ll just punch in today and do another 3 cases, whether we need it or not; smiling all the while because they think they‟re doing a good job and really, it‟s not their fault.
It‟s ours – we didn‟t care enough about them, as a person nor as a professional to want to set up an ESOL class in our facility for the neighborhood workers who could use language training or prepare them for the inevitable changes that must occur if we‟re to remain viable in any market.
Or make it mandatory to attend such a class, or to do anything of consequence so that the crew could learn, grow and remain an asset to the organization.
Just didn‟t care enough about them to care.
It‟s called „The Peter Principle‟ and there‟s only one way it ends and it‟s not with a promotion.
All we did was set them up for failure; we failed them and in doing so ensured our own downfall so don‟t be so surprised when we meet in the unemployment line because we couldn‟t be bothered with someone else‟s welfare.
my note:
Oh, Brother, Brother - don't you get that it's the bigger man that admits his limitations - regardless of the how and why - and asks for help so that he can get beyond them instead of engaging in the backstab of gossip in order to deflect attention from something that could have been corrected so easily. No matter what happens to whom or who gets thrown under the bus you're still left with your educational deficit and the fact remains: While a job is a job is a job you STILL cannot read and while the opportunity existed
you weren't courageous enough to do something about it at the time. I pray for your sake, and those of your family, that someone comes along that cares enough about you, and willing enough to hold you in your highest, to do something about it and this time, THIS time I hope you meet him/her halfway. Stand tall and frosty my friends Be a River

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