Chef John Malik

a writer trapped in a cook's body

Help Wanted

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Many years ago I was the Executive Sous Chef at the glorious Mills House Hotel in Charleston. When I took this position, I really thought I would soon be their Executive Chef. During the interview process the Executive Chef repeatedly told me he would soon be headed to a hotel in the Caribbean. His position in the Caribbean never materialized, and I left the Mills House after 18 months. He was still there ten years later.

I loved being a part of this hotel. Its location, architecture, the team I worked with, the steady influx of interesting visitors, and its numerous quirks (the ghost on the fourth floor that liked nothing better than scaring a housekeeper) of this 140 year old grande dame all made for a memorable 18 months. My main responsibility was the gorgeous Barbadoes dining room and upon accepting the position I was told to “make the customers happy.”

Mills House

So when I saw an ad for Executive Chef of the Mills House, my heart skipped a beat. Wow…should I apply?

And then I read the ad in its entirety. After a very short job description, the ad rolled through the “fundamental requirements” of the position, most of which I’ll share with you. The BOLD is all mine.

Work with other F&B managers and keep them informed of F&B issues as they arise.

Keep immediate supervisor fully informed of all problems or matters requiring his/her attention.

Coordinate and monitor all phases of Loss Prevention in kitchen areas.

Prepare and submit required reports in a timely manner.

Monitor quality of all food product and presentation.

Ensure preparation of required reports, including (but not limited to) Wage Progress, payroll, revenue, employee schedules, quarterly actions plans.

Oversee all aspects of the daily operation of the kitchen and food production areas.

Respond to guest complaints in a timely manner.

So reading between the lines, one would think the Mills House is a hornet’s nest of problems. Notice all the negative words and connotations? The first requirement is to handle “issues” which we all know is code for “problems.”  The second requirement is to tell your supervisor about your problems. The third requirement is to keep an eye on your staff because they’re going to steal, or allow food to spoil. The fourth requirement is to fill out reams of paperwork detailing the theft and problems in your kitchen, the fifth requirement is to “monitor” quality and food presentation. So if the food looks terrible but I monitored the process to make it look terrible, I’ve fulfilled my requirement, correct?

And notice the seventh requirement is to respond to guest complaints in a timely manner? Monitor, problems, comply, reports…shall I keep going?

What Debbie Downer wrote this job description? And who’s going to respond to this in a positive manner?

Come on, people! This is one of the best known hotels in the South, in one of our country’s most heralded food cities. So why wouldn’t you look for someone that can “excite your guests” or “lead a staff of dedicated professionals” or “spot and encourage excellence in your team” and “define and interpret the lowcountry cuisine of the Mills House”?

Think about this the next time you’re looking for help in your company. What corporate picture will your job description paint? Will your candidates see a Pollack-like abstract of chaos with problems, distrust, and paperwork or will they see an opportunity to join a cohesive, goal-oriented team and the chance to make a difference?

I’ll be staying in Greenville for the foreseeable future. And while I’m here, if you’re looking to inject a little spice into your company, especially if you write job descriptions for Wyndham Hotels, perhaps I may be of assistance?

Author: ChefJohn

Cook without tattoo, writer without a pen

One Comment

  1. Great point! Good read. The hotel wants to be positioned as a service brand. The brand strategy should resonate with every touchpoint. Even HR.

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