Restaurant Manager's Chronicles

Background

Jaime Miller is the chef and owner of Remember That Chef in Canada. It is an in-home dining and personal chef service (catering). He has been in the restaurant industry for over 20 years and in management for six years so far. Besides his current restaurant, he has also worked at Bo Chins, Royal York Hotel, Holiday Inn, Liuna Gardens Banquet Center, Kelsey’s Road House, Good Sheppard, Stinson House Bistro, La Boheme Bistro, and Emma’s Back Porch Bar and Grill. His first job in the hospitality field was at Bo Chins Chinese as a prep cook where he says he learned how not to cut his fingers with a cleaver. He decided to become a manager because of the ability to take charge and to be able to do food the way he felt it should be done.

“Many places I’ve watched them just plate food with no consistency or it looks unappealing when it goes out. People pay good money for their food. I’d take the extra five minutes and plate it right. Also I want them to remember us and come again.”

Career

Jaime manages 10 to 15 employees at Remember That Chef. The qualities his ideal employee possesses are honesty, being on time and dressed in uniform when arriving to work, being approachable, and having a willingness to learn.

He believes a sense of humor, willingness to teach, patience, understanding, and respect are what it takes to be a good manager. He says the qualities he has that help him in his management career are understanding, listening, teaching, respect, and the ability to admit he is wrong. His management style is being straightforward. Something he does that is unique in his management is having fun and working as a team.

The toughest lesson Jaime has had to learn while in management is taking orders from people who really did not know what they were talking about. When he first started in management the advice he wishes he was given was to not talk back even if he was right.

“When I was the chef at the Good Sheppard after a year and a half it felt like the more I did the more they wanted. When told that one person didn’t like liver, I was told to take it off the menu. The other 30 tenants still ate the liver.

Three months later my boss asked me why there was no liver. I told her that she had requested not to serve it again. Her response was, ‘NO, I never said that, but start serving it again'. So I put it back on the menu and had to serve another meat for the ones that didn’t like liver. After three years there they let me go. Why? Because I wasn’t putting up with their politics and they said I had a bad attitude toward some tenants.

The best piece of advice he was given when he first started was to treat the tenants like they were normal people. The place he worked in, The Good Sheppard, was for people who had disabilities. These people were almost to the point where they could go live out on their own, but still needed consulting, which they provided 24 hours a day.

While Jaime was at The Good Sheppard, he was acknowledged for his clean kitchen, always passing inspection, and for the food. So far at Remember That Chef, the clients are raving about the food. He has testimonials from his clients acknowledging the food (you can see some of these on his Web site). Something he has accomplished so far in his career that is he proud of has been opening his own business while other people laughed at him and told him he was wasting his money and time. He did it anyway. “Slowly I’m building my business and learning from my mistakes.” Jaime’s goal for the coming years is to expand his Remember That Chef business so that it becomes a household name.

A Little Restaurant Information

Remember That Chef’s hours are based on when their client’s events take place. They are usually busiest during 3 and 7 p.m. The menus are tailored to their customer’s likes and dislikes. They go to their clients home and prepare their meal. Alcohol is served if the client provides it, and any activity, such as musicians or clowns, are provided if the client would like. Most of their clients are 30 years old and over. Remember That Chef is a member of the Burlington Chamber of Commerce.

Jaime describes the cuisine they serve as bistro to fine dining. All the foods used to prepare the dishes are bought fresh the day of the event. They use local suppliers.

“Our fruit and vegetables are purchased from organic and local farms in the area. (Farm Fresh) Meats are from Nardni’s Specialty, and the seafood is from Dave’s Fish Market.”
To keep costs down, Jaime shops at the Bulk Barn and purchases food from local suppliers. He has reduced his prices to compete with competition before.

“I’m very flexible with prices. I try and work with the customer.” Although he has not had any customers unhappy with their service or food, Jaime says if they did, he would offer them a dinner for free. He rewards a client after five bookings with him by giving them a free dinner for two. They do not yet offer coupons in advertising.
The most important traits Jaime looks for in his wait staff is being able to work independently, friendliness, and dependability. His servers and bartenders are required to wear white dress shirts, black dress pants, and a bow tie or black tie. The chefs are required to wear a chef jacket and black or design-patterned pants. Jaime has had to step in for an employee before.

“One time I was doing a wedding for 25 people in their home. I arrived at 1 p.m. to start the preparation of the food. My server was to be there at 3 p.m. to start with the hors d’oeuvres. At 3:30 I called her thinking she might have gotten lost or was running behind. Her boyfriend said he would pass the message on and have her call me. No reply! She never showed up so I also become the host. Thankfully, some of the guests that attended their wedding helped out in the kitchen and helped clean up. I received an unbelievable testimonial from them.

Jaime evaluates his kitchen staff by their knowledge of the food, how well they work and clean (an example is whether they wipe food from the table onto the floor instead of into the trash), and by any comments he receives from clients on their performance. For his wait staff he evaluates their cleaning and from the comments received from clients on their performance. To handle staff squabbles, he will ask the parties involved to go get a cup of coffee and then meet him in his office so they can sit down and talk.

“There are always three sides to a story. I’ll listen to both sides of their story and then give my opinion. Most of the time we all end up laughing at the problem.”

To wash the dishes most times he uses the dishwasher of the client, unless they do not have one. Then they do the dishes by hand. As for his equipment, he says most of the time the clients have the pots and pans on hand to use. Occasionally he has had to bring along a cuisiart.

“I always bring my bag of herbs and spices, knives, vinegars and oils, meat tenderizer, and other kitchen gadgets. My bag weighs about 25 to 30 pounds. You never know what to expect going into someone’s home.”

When asked if his business had fulfilled everything he felt it should be, Jaime said, since he is everything from the bookkeeper to the chef, he does not believe so because there is still a lot of learning for him to do. Finally, when Jaime was asked if he had to do it all over again would he, he replied yes.

“Owning your own business is the way to go. Mind you I would have learned not to make so many mistakes in the beginning.”

Advice Tidbits

“Do not yell at someone in public. If there’s a problem, take them back into the office. Many times I have seen others being yelled at in the restaurant or in the kitchen in front of the public or staff. Never do it in the restaurant! What are your customers going to think? In the kitchen why embarrass them? If the manager has something to say do it behind doors. No one likes being yelled at especially in view of customers or staff.”