Monday, December 17, 2007

The Weeds

Anyone who is in the business knows what I'm talking about. It's inevitable, no matter what your job is sooner or later you'll be in "the weeds". Simply put it's being overwhelmed with time sensitive tasks. Pressure personified. I've seen people just say "fuck it" and walk out and quit on the spot. Countless numbers of waitresses break down into tears. Chef's losing it and throwing plates. (I won't mention any names) It's a bad place to be. A very bad place to be. If you watch Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares (I do not) you'll probably see it often. A cook being in the weeds can have a snowball affect. If you're unable to get the food out in a timely matter it puts the servers in the weeds, which in turn can put the Host in the weeds, which can compound the server's weeds which compounds the cook's weeds and the bartender is probably in the weeds too. It's not pretty.

Young cooks need to be exposed to it for educational purposes. Once you're in the weeds you need to get out. In a word, survive. Experience is really the only teacher. I have a favorite phrase after surviving being in the weeds. "Pressure makes diamonds." It's true.

I got in the weeds big time last week. It was a very bad day. It doesn't happen that often. I can usually control the factors that lead to it. I let my guard down and trusted an employee too much and I ended up suffering for it. (not to mention another 5 or 6 people I was working with) I find as I age I'm not quite as good dealing with it as I used to be. That's one of the reasons I keep my line work limited these days. It was however a reminder to be ever vigilant when prepping, scheduleing and booking tables. The weeds is a place I don't like to visit and hopefully I won't be back there soon.

If you're a civilian and can't figure out why your food is taking so long and why your server has that "deer in the headlights look" and then disappears, chances are the restaurant is in the weeds. Be patient, you'll get served sooner or later. Probably when your server feels safe going back into the dining room.

4 comments:

RAHiggins1 said...

I believe Bourdain refers to "System D" as a method to get one's self out of the weeds. I recall it as everything shifting out of phase for me, as if time slowed down and my brain ground to a halt. Not good when your kitchen is the focal point of the restaurant and EVERYONE'S eyes are on you. Whew! I'm glad I do not do that anymore. Yet I miss it. Not the Weeds, but the rest of it.

Scott said...

For me it's hell on earth.

RAHiggins1 said...

You could however install a Chef's Table and make money off of it.

Brian Bruce said...

Ahhh, the weeds. I remember getting out the weed-whacker a few times in my management days!

I liken it to being at the beach. There are going to be waves. You can ride 'em or be crushed by them. It all depends on your awareness and ability to negotiate what you encounter.