Long story short, I finally became an executive chef in 2009 after years of proving to people who at first didn't think I could do more than mix lettuce with vinaigrette or deep-fry something. I took my first executive chef position, a step up from sous chef, only for the opportunity to implement my own menu because the salary was the same as my previous job. I knew I would be working harder and longer hours as the head chef at a new independent restaurant with no sous chef to help run the kitchen.
I trained the staff and opened Relic Restaurant & Lounge in three days featuring a test menu, which was smaller than what I had planned. Over the course of two weeks, I'd worked the line with my cooks and added more items to complete the menu. In came the food writers from Metro Mix (WUSA9). I read the review they wrote the next day. It was more generous than I'd anticipated but I took it as a reward for the two weeks of work without a single day off. The compliments from the customers at Relic and raving reviews didn't pay my bills.
I accepted a job offer to be the chef of a soon-to-be-launched restaurant. The pay was slightly better at Scion Restaurant but still below average for this line of work. I was in the resume-building phase so couldn't complain much. I was the first person that arrived in the kitchen in the morning and the last person that left the kitchen at night. I put in 72 hours of work a week working 14 hours each day for six days. On my one day away from work, I had to get much needed sleep for hours, and I didn't have energy to spend quality time with my three-year-old. Although I had a sous chef, his competence level was below par so I ended up "baby sitting" him along with other kitchen staff so there would be no cutting corners to compromise my dishes, my labor of love. On one night, I was able to get out 15 minutes early, and the next morning, I stepped on the floor covered with food crumbs that had been left without being swept. And this was only a minor problem out of all.
One of the owners had an ego bigger than herself _ she was a large female and literally twice my size. I created signature dishes such as the Kobe burger with peach ketchup and fried pickles later referred to as a "killer burger" by The Washington Post and called "first-rate" by The Washington Times. She backed off after she realized that I would not be told how to cook. Since she so much enjoyed being the center of attention, I figured I would always be held back and shut down from becoming the next "rising star" in culinary arts. It was time for me to move on.
After I left, the food was "prepared" and "cooked" by people who should never have been allowed in a professional kitchen in the first place. They got their jobs because they knew the owners or the owners wanted cheap labor. The "bosses" wondered why they started getting bad reviews on Yelp on a regular basis. They sued Yelp. I know many restaurant owners or managers with only half of their brains functioning but these clowns made me laugh. The cooks and my former sous chef whose tongue was up in the owners' butts had no ideas of their own so they kept my recipes that they knew of but couldn't get them right or consistent every time. Imitation is the ultimate form of flattery, and they are good at it when it comes to recipes with less than four ingredients like those for peach ketchup and Kobe burger patties. After replacing a few of my original and ambitious menu items with their own that were straight forward and uninspiring, they were set to go.
The owners at the two restaurants I helped launch and developed recipes and menus for were happy to take full credit for the food as if they had thought on their feet and cooked any of it. No mention of the name of the person behind the food. Of course, they would have been quick to put the blame on the said person if the menu had failed (which could have been possible if I had paid attention to them getting in my face with their unsolicited "advice" on what to put on the menu or how to run my kitchen while they had set me up for failure by basically hiring people off the street who turned out incompetent and made the same mistakes over and over because they were untrainable). That's what many skilled chefs that don't kiss up get from working for manipulative control freaks with money. I was so glad to have held my head up high and walked away with whatever was left of my energy and passion. I'm no longer anybody's puppet. I've learnt not to waste my talent in unworthy places.