Friday, January 25, 2008

Been gone too long! I joined the Circus

It's been a month since my last post, unfortunately. You may recall that I had scheduled myself to cook for 18 days straight, with 14 of those days cooking breakfast over the holidays after giving 3 of my cooks extra time off. So I worked Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, my birthday (the 29th), New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. That was the last day of my solo flight and my cooks were due to return, but I was still scheduled for 3 more days before I could take a day off. And it was on this day, January 2nd, a day that will live in infamy, that the owner decided to fire me! It was not a great surprise, but it was rather sudden, with no overt warning.

But it wasn't the owner who did the dirty work. It wasn't even the General Manager. Neither of them said a single word to me that day, or thereafter. It was left to Dean, their management consultant, whom I one described as an over-inflated Chuckie doll with better hair, who called me into his office, which was a bit of a clue, and, without preamble, began the conversation by saying "This is about managing the transition" and for a moment I wasn't sure what we were talking about. Then I was offered a "termination by mutual agreement", which would avoid the stain of being "fired" on my record, but still allow me to collect unemployment if I chose to. No substantial reason was ever given for the termination, only that "I was not a good fit". I couldn't agree more! Before I took this job I was warned by both the outgoing chef and the current GM that the owner would be my biggest challenge, that he was a constant presence and inclined to interfere. They didn't tell me that he was also boorish, foul-mouthed, insulting and totally lacking in charm. I thought that I could win him over with my natural charm. I don't think I've ever been more wrong in my life. By the end of the first month I was already looking for another job, hoping to have another position to walk into before I cheerfully announced my departure. They beat me to the punch, but I walked away with a great sense of relief.

Since then I have divided my time between job-hunting, working on our other house which we are preparing to sell, looking at small cafes and sandwich shops with a former boss of mine who now deals in restaurant real estate, with a view to buying my own place, and when I can get away, a bit of fly-fishing.

One of the more interesting postings on Bay Area Craigslist was by Manpower for a Chef to work with Cirque du Soleil for their 2 month stay in San Jose. I figured that the Circus would provide an entertaining diversion while I decided what my next move should be. It turned out that a lot of other chefs had the notion that Cirque du Soleil would look great on their resumes and Manpower was swamped with applications. I survived the first two interviews and the final interview was on Wednesday the 23rd, the final decision on the 24 th, and the first day of work on the 24th, which didn't leave much time for reflection. In the meantime I had interviewed with a German couple who had just bought a somewhat run-down cafe in an affluent neighborhood and had plans to turn it into a European-style cafe. They needed someone to run the kitchen and provide direction for the menu. So this was also an interesting opportunity and I really liked the people, so which way should I jump if both made offers? I knew that the cafe would need extensive renovations which might take a couple of months, so I clued them in to the Cirque du Soleil opportunity, and they said go ahead and we'll get back together when the Circus leaves town. I actually had both parties on different phones at the same time when Manpower called with the good news from the Circus folks. I didn't want to commit to the Circus until I had some sense that the cafe owners would keep me in the frame. But it all played out just the way I was hoping. So with luck I can move effortlessly from one to the other. We shall see! Stay tuned for my adventures with Cirque du Soleil.


dubaibilly said...

Good to see you blogging again! I read the first paragraph and was about to commiserate with you, but having read the rest it seems that you have come out of it pretty well! Well done on the Cirque do Soliel job - I imagine that is going to be hard work! And the European restaurant sonds great when the circus finally moves out of town.

PS Fulham tonight - this one we HAVE to win!



dubaibilly said...

How's life in the circus going mate? You must be busy 'cos they are keeping you away from your blog!