A failed experiment

12.2.11 § 2 commentarii

Bugger. That didn’t go well.

I’m unemployed again. It turns out that my unease at taking a job at the Bakery was justified: it turns out that I’m actually not all that successful at maintaining a façade of normality outside the trade, just as I feared. Going by the look of horror on my team’s faces, apparently threatening people with knives and telling them to fuck off isn’t considered to be “normal” behaviour out in the Real World. Some people just can’t take a joke. I mean, it was a bloody bread knife, for gods’ sakes. It might not have helped that I have been known to refer to a certain individual whom I particularly dislike from another shop as a junior tampon (viz. they are both stuck up little cunts.)

This, of course, is not the reason I got fired (rather a pair of illustrative anecdotes demonstrating the dissonance between my standards of workplace normality and theirs)- in fact I didn’t get fired at all. Not technically. Nor did I resign. It was all really very amicable. My employment, as is normal, was subject to a probationary period of twelve weeks, which in my case was extended to sixteen weeks as a due to having been interrupted by the insanity of the Christmas period. I had my final review on Wednesday with my area manager, and we agreed that not only was I not the right person for the job, but also that it wasn’t the right job for me either.

Since early January, I’d been having serious doubts. I just stopped enjoying it and started to be irritated by it. The company’s insane internal bureaucracy was becoming a source of major frustration: as well as the bracelet issue that some of you are aware of, there were a number of less personal but equally frustrating episodes. For example, one day we ran out of milk. Now, the simple and obvious solution to this is to pop over the road to the newsagent and buy some more. No. Instead, we had to phone head office, speak to the Health and Safety Manager and get her permission to buy milk. On the fourth attempt, she answered and told us firmly that we needed to go to a reputable supplier, so we had to go to the Co-Op ten minutes away. The serial numbers of the milk had to be recorded in the due diligence book, along with a reason why they had been bought and a case number from head office. The receipt had to be sent off to the HS manager, and we had to inform her when the milk had been used up so the non-compliance notice could be removed from our file. Now, to me, this is insane. It reflects two things which I grew to hate about the company[1]: micro-management from above and a near-pathological obsession with food safety. Food safety is important, don’t get me wrong, but were the Bakery a person rather than a company it would be in intensive therapy for OCD and mysophobia. I suspect that within recent history they’ve had a serious food poisoning scandal and the current levels of vigilance are an case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.

So the company annoyed me. Suck it up and carry on. Which I could easily have done: after all, the job itself is not difficult, nor is it something in which I am completely inexperienced. From 2006 to 2009 I was a restaurant manager, my kitchen duties only occurring in the off-season. I know management, I can look after cash and paperwork, and I can successfully lead a team. Indeed, I started at the Apiary not as a chef but a restaurant supervisor. What I can’t do anymore, however, is customers. I’m too old and too unwilling to fake that smile these days. I’ve lost the ability to smile and apologise if somebody’s rude to me. I simply don’t have the patience for the general public: prolonged exposure makes me misanthropic and depressed. If I’m honest, I’ve realised this for a while. What got me back into the kitchen when I worked at the Apiary was a realisation that I was suffering from a particularly bad case of burnout. My manager there was good enough not to tell me to pack up and find a new job, but to shift me sideways into a kitchen role. I was a fool to think that I’d gotten over it, that I could deal with customers again.

The weirdest thing, though? I realised that I missed being a chef. Having read over some of my previous posts about how much I hated my job, I have to wonder now if it was just the place that needed changing, not the career. O’Murphys was a shithole, sure, but I’m actually a pretty good chef, and mucking about with food something I’ve always enjoyed doing. As I’ve got a couple of years of making money and saving before me until I can afford to apply for a master’s (and let’s face it, the current economic climate in academia isn’t particularly reassuring for the humanities), why not spend it doing something I enjoy? Besides, I’m too old to go on the game now. The discerning queen isn’t going to pay for a scruffy bloke in his late twenties suffering from incipient bearism.

So ultimately, it’s a bit of a relief, really. The Bakery is basically paying me a month’s wages, so I’m not up Excrement Estuary yet. And, as this is the first time I’ve not resigned or been fired, I can actually claim JSA this time around. Having shown my face in the appropriate places and reestablished the appropriate contacts, there’s a couple of jobs I’ve got my eye on. There’s a nice pub in Vetus Moriconium, where I’ve drunk a few times before, and they’re looking for a sous chef. And there’s also a nice French restaurant on the Quay needs a chef de partie, and I kinda-sorta know the chef there.

I’m actually feeling more positive than I have in ages.


1) The third thing which really got on my Hampton was how they referred to disciplinary action as “counselling”. That kind of faux-inclusive corporate buzzword arse-drool really enrages me.

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§ 2 Response to “A failed experiment”

  • Lee says:

    yikes! that level of micro management sounds hellish. I always found that when managing people the best tactic was to ensure they knew their job and then to let them get on with it; they invariably used common sense and things got done when they needed and in a manner that was required. Any other involvement and it all started to get a bit stressful and bothersome for everyone. I think my bosses didn't like my hands off approach but couldn't really argue with the results :)

    well, good luck getting back into Cheffing

  • Frenchie says:

    I understand your frustration, they sound completely impossible to work for. The whole nonsense with the milk would've driven me spare.

    Holding thumbs the chef jobs work out better, although I'm sure you'd be able to find a distinguished older gentleman with a roving eye for a young chap with a more... ursine figure :p

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