How did it all happen?
This was 2003 the beginning of a whole new era in my life, I was working as an agency chef and then in early 2004 a major company took me on board. I was so excited as this job was set to be THE job, I knew I had to take a step back, this did not matter because I knew wholeheartedly that I was about to embark on a very amazing part of my career.
I worked hard, I have always worked hard, I had always worked late morning and afternoon shifts all my career. Its what I loved best, even if I missed out on a lot of things after all had always been a night owl.
I was then put on mornings, I asked the Chef De Partie what do I need to do and he was very blasé he also did not have much ready for me either. It was strange. Nonetheless I went to work at for a 5am start, up at 2:30 am get to work by 4:15 and make the big trek from front door to my outlet. It’s a massive place!!
The first morning what can I say, the other chef had totally thrown me under the bus, I never ever should have trusted him. I was so angry with him. It was my first morning working the buffet, a very busy morning and the asswipe left me with nothing!! What I was to find out this was going to be a common thing. I would work my ass off make sure that all the stock levels were up and he would waltz in use it all up and do nothing. He and myself were the only two chefs that did the 5 am start. If he was on 5 am I would be on 6 am, the 5am person ran the buffet and the 6am person ran the omelette station.
I would often get very upset with him because of his blatant lack of team work. His idea of teamwork was everyone do his work!!! He was very very lazy and very good at taking all the credit too. He was also very good at throwing people under the bus for his own benefit too. I was working the omelette station and he would be asking me to do things back of house. One day the executive chef walked in and I got blasted. Nonetheless good ald Chef de Partie stood there egging him on. Till I asked CDP had I finished the big list of things he was screaming for and was I now allowed back out the front where I SHOULD be. LOL!!
Another day it was a bit quite and I made sure that there was an extra amount of stuff on the trolleys. It did not matter to do a bit more because the food gets turned over very quickly. The next morning there was a massive problem at one of the other outlets. I was on a 6am start so it meant that he would be working the buffet and I the omelette station. So as I had done so much work the previous day he had more than enough to cover this onslaught, in fact I doubt it even altered what he would normally do. The executive chef walked in and saw that everything was going very smoothly. He gave wonderful praises to CDP, of course CDP never ever said that this was a TEAM effort, nor did he say that I had him so stocked up that it really did not matter. I listened on as CDP talked himself up to the Exec Chef and got madder and madder. HE had NOT done the work, it was done FOR him, he should have been HONEST!! Asswipe!!! Just another in the exceptionally long list of things that he did to make himself look better. You see he was a very lazy person, he really didn’t do much at all. He may have been there for 12 hours each day but so was I, he was always nicking off, going for a cigarette break while I never ever got a break. Pretty disgusting really to have to work all these hours without a break!! Sadly this was now something that had become a serious issue. What was also very apparent was he was not the only person that was incredibly lazy in the kitchen. There seemed to be quite a lot of double standards in place. One chef was allowed to waltz about the kitchen at a relaxed pace, on the phone, chatting to friends while others like myself had the whip cracked. One chef would leave a mess all the time and others had to fix that persons mess. I lost count on the amount of times a group of 3 of us had spoken to the Head Chef. Head Chef didn’t care, he was the type of person that was awesome at telling you what you wanted to hear but would never fix the problem. Head Chef liked to play “the good guy” but never solved anything EVER! So because Head Chef played favourites each and every shift I would find my workload increasing (obviously I was not a favourite, LOL) as those whom were allowed to slack off slacked off more and more. I would find meat in a heat box from a carvery on a Monday morning, the meat was used on Friday night, the chef that was working the carvery didn’t clean the area up!!! I would say something and you guessed it, it was ignored and the following week there would be twice the mess. I and a few of the other non-favourites would be yelled at to clean it, yet the person whom left the filth would get away without as much as a peep!!! Now as the workload was already huge, having more dumped on me made a workload insane it was dangerous and impossible.
Most chefs will agree, you get to work, you work hard to get everything sorted and prepped, and you pick up the pace when service starts and when service is really busy you move like the wind. Then when service ends, you drop the pace back, clean up and off you go. What I am saying is there is a bit of a slow, med, fast, and slow down type rhythm to it all. Not so here, it was high paced run like a lunatic from the second you walked in the door and then hoped to escape within 2 hours of what should have been your finish time!
Nobody can work like this, it’s very unsafe to do this all the time and I knew this! Which is why I kept saying something, I wanted to protect myself and others in the kitchen. Sadly I should have just spoken to a brick wall, I had said something more times that I care to recall each and every time, ignored. I was even threatened with losing my job, as “you obviously cannot handle the workload, I will have to find someone else”! I even went to the union where I was told to get everyone in the kitchen to “gang up”. I even had friends say to me not to make waves or I will find myself cutting fruit for 8 hours a day 5 days a week! Exactly what a chef that has a desire to learn wants to do! NOT! I explained countless times, working people like this is going to result in accidents, even when one chef did have a serious accident nothing was done. This chef is like me, old before his time, robbed of his life because he was not listened to or supported!
You see no-one was listening, I tried and tried and tried, one day I started work at 6am, I was supposed to finish at 2pm, well I finished at 11pm! Guess what time my FIRST break was, a pitiful break of only 10 minutes?? It was at 6pm!! I had been racing SOLID for 12 hours before I got even a moment to think to myself!! Does anyone have any idea WHAT that does to the body!!??
To add salt to the wounds guess what else was happening!! I was regularly being ripped off and not just a little but a LOT!! You see it was a rare occurrence that a break was to happen, the legalities of this says that we are supposed to have these breaks and if we do not have those breaks we are supposed to be paid accordingly. Well this never ever happened! In hindsight I should have made my own time sheets, where I would sign in and sign off and write if there was a break etc. What struck me as sickening was we had a clock card system, you clock in, you clock out. You clock in and out when you have your breaks too, this data is given to the Head Chef and he or she signs off on it and you get paid. Well what was happening is the chef was altering the hours, ALL THE TIME!! There was NOT ONE week AT ALL that I was paid as I should have! EVER!!!! Every week I would see my pay-slip with every day saying I worked 7.5 hours every day and a total of 37.5 hours. This basically meant that I did utterly NO overtime whatsoever and I had my break EVERY day! Now try to add this up…. I worked on AVERAGE of 12 hours per day, 4.5 hours more per day than what I was paid, just THAT alone is 31.5 hours, multiply that by rate of pay equals near $600 per week unpaid hours! BUT here is the clincher, after 4 hours without a break you are actually paid time and a half, at 8 its double time, so its about 16hours unpaid per day or 80 (ish) unpaid hours per week….it adds up a LOT. I “should” have LEGALLY been paid near $1800 (ish) per week after tax, and not near $600. This too was another thing that I spoke about countless times and yet again this too was on deaf ears. I was being run into the ground and exploited by one of the best places in Melbourne!
Am I angry about this? You bet I am!! I am more angry than you can imagine really!
I was exploited, I was taken advantage of, I was treated in a shocking manner, as a direct result of the negligence of the company I was working for I sit here now writing this. I am in pain, I am tired, I am hurt. I have not been able to work since and anything I do, do is with great difficulty. I can’t just get up in the morning like you, I have to take it slow, I have learned my limitations but WHY should I have these limitations? Hell I am only young!! I should still be out in the workforce working, contributing, and being something! I should be in the prime of my life! I have been robbed of that, robbed because people did not listen to me, robbed because people thought more of their back pocket than their own staff. I was robbed of my income back then and I have been robbed of an income since. I am as mad as hell, I gave my everything, and all that and more was taken from me! I would not be here typing this if I was listened to and looked after! I was looking after myself and I was working hard for my employer the same level of respect should have been given back.
It’s 100% confirmed that the NF1 tumours would NOT have been of ANY problem if I had not had been injured. All those extra work hours, all that extra pressure, all the weight I had to carry, the literally IMPOSSIBLE workload………….. THIS is the direct reason, nothing else! Can you imagine walking into a kitchen a 4:45am and be under the pump and then STILL have to put pallet loads of things away?? I mean pallet loads too!! I mean boxes upon boxes of vegetables and meat and dry goods, it was all expected to be put away by the time chef milled on in at the relaxing hour of 10am. Rarely would you see chef putting things away, no chef was far too busy changing the roster for the umpteenth time that week. Yes we did have to put up with finding our hours out on a Sunday for the week!! I reckon that Chef was also too busy forging our timesheets to even bother look directly out his door to see that the team needed help.
You see chef you took my career off me, you took the joy I had working, in kitchens you took away everything that was once me, all so that you could look good in front of your superiors. How do you sleep at night? I doubt you even care really, I was just employee number 031112! You know what though chef, I hope that you read this page and think twice next time you think about your ego and back pocket, you destroyed my life as well as the other chef I mentioned earlier. You made us old before our time, you took away any possibility of earning a decent wage ever again in our lives! You are probably sitting back in a million dollar apartment now, lapping up a life of luxury. A life you got by destroying other lives!