An interesting take from a former back of the house employee at Lynn's gleaned from the "SAVE Lynn's Paradise Cafe" Facebook page. I post it only because I have heard similar stories from others who have worked there. Disclaimer, it it very long but worth a read if you have been following this story. It is an eye opener to some of the inner workings.
I am a chef and I worked at Lynn's for a very brief period. This my entire experience. Please read it before you consider deleting it. It's lengthy, but it will give you an idea of what LPC was really all about.
The place was a tyrannical circus. Every person there, except maybe those in upper management, walked around on egg shells waiting to be fired for something trivial. I always thought it was funny that she claimed her restaurant to be a "zero tolerance, harassment free work place", when in reality it was without a doubt the most stressful and hostile work environment I have ever set foot in.
I was hired, supposedly for a kitchen management position. Lynn told me that for the first 30 days I would be working hot prep and getting accustomed to the way they did business (fine), and after around the 30 day mark, I would assume my roll as a kitchen manager.
I was very excited about the opportunity because I had been out of a job for awhile, and was in desperate need of a way to support myself. I immediately moved from Shelbyville KY to the Highlands to start work. This was a horrible inconvenience, but I was acting on Lynn's word and hated the idea of driving back and forth for the entire month. I couch surfed at a friends house waiting to get my first pay check.
The first day I started work, I was cautioned by nearly every employee in the kitchen, especially my trainer to "never let my guard down and always cover my ass." He then pointed to the ceiling where I observed a CCTV camera directly positioned above our work station. He said and I quote "They are always watching us. One mistake and your gone." I said "You've got to be kidding me." "No sir, I've seen it happen time and time again" he said. "They fire people around here everyday for nothin." Wow, what a way to start a new job right? As the week went on, the horror story continued to unfold.
On my third day of employment, I was pulled into the office and told that the position I had been hired for HAD BEEN FILLED BY ANOTHER CANDIDATE, but not just any candidate, it was a SERVER who was FRIENDS WITH LYNN who had little or no kitchen experience. Evidently, even though she had never run a commercial kitchen, they thought she had the right "demeanor" to be a manager. I was floored, sickened, and angry. I should have walked out right then, but, I was in a terrible position financially at that time, had no car, and was sleeping on my friends couch in hopes of a new job prospect.
"Do you want to continue on working in hot prep, and maybe at some point in the future have the opportunity to work your way into management?" I was asked by PATTY (she is/was Lynn's spokesperson for hard conversations). "Not really" I thought to myself, but then again, considering my current circumstances, I really had no choice. "Are you sure you just didn't need someone with a ton of experience to run your hot prep station?" I said half jokingly (this was EXACTLY the case). Evidently Patty didn't find that very funny. I was excused from the office, and I back about my menial tasks knowing I had been duped.
I went back to my trainer and explained to him what happened. He laughed and said I wasn't the first it had happened to. Wow, was a fantastic recruiting process. Lure experienced chefs in with the promise of a cushy management job, and then demote them on the spot to the position you were trying to fill. Classic.
A week passed and I continued on in the throws of misery until Lynn herself finally approached me. "Even though you wont be part of the management team, I do recognize a good chef when I see one" she said. If you have any thoughts on our menu, or you have any "dish ideas" you would like to bring to the table, I would love to hear them. Ok, got a little confidence back now. I don't know a chef on earth, who doesn't mind having his ego stroked from time to time. Do I have menu idea's? Are you kidding lady? I walk around with a notebook in my pocket full of recipes. I'm constantly thinking about food, having new ideas, and coming up with my own dishes...that's what a chef does. We OBSESS about food.
I foolishly think to myself that there may be hope yet. Surely after she tastes my food, she will reconsider her mistake and place me in a proper position. I begin planning. I review her menu and come up with three or four new ideas that fit the bill exactly. I approach Lynn with these ideas, and she immediately wants me to cook my dishes and present them to her "management team" for review.
The next day I arrive early. I shop for my ingredients and come back to the restaurant to begin cooking my food. My trainer asks what am I doing? I tell him that Lynn is interested in tasting some of my food, and will be reviewing it for a possible menu addition. Again he laughs. "That's a bad idea man. She's done that before too. She'll take that recipe and all the credit that goes with it. If you were smart, you'd just hang your head and do your work like me." Well, I should have seen that coming. My heart sunk. Obviously she was a little tyrannical in her treatment of employees, and her hiring process was a complete and total lie, but surely she didn't STEAL ideas from her workers as well?
I cooked my food. The management team LOVED it...ALL OF IT. I was called in on the carpet in front of them, where they proceeded to tell me how amazing I was. "Now, just write all those recipes down for me, and get them to me ASAP." I went back to work with my head spinning. The rest of the day I poked around, asking questions that others probably should have. I was regaled with horror stories of chefs who had been treated the same as me. Men and women who had come to work for this woman. They were lied to, promised things, and had their creativity OUTRIGHT STOLEN. As I left the building that evening, I was reminded by a manager to get those recipes to them via email as soon as I got home. I never sent that email.
The next day I was immediately pulled into the office by Patty. I thought I was in for more praise...boy was I wrong. She told me that SHE HAD BEEN WATCHING ME ALL DAY YESTERDAY, and at one point, I poured pepper into my hand to add to a dish, instead of measuring it with a spoon. This was while I was COOKING MY RECIPES mind you. She told me that it was a terminable offense, and that if I did ANYTHING else wrong...I was gone. Talk about a hostile work environment. I'm a chef. I've been doing this for years. I can measure a tablespoon of ANYTHING in my sleep without a spoon. Of course, Lynn was always VERY particular about "her" recipes being followed to a tee. I can't imagine why.
I laughed at her and walked out of the office. I didn't go back in the next day. I didn't send her my recipes. I was forced away angry, sickened, and mistreated...like hundreds of others.
When payday came I showed back up to get my check. I was broken, not a dollar to my name. Big shock there was no check to be found. They called downstairs to Patty, who coldly informed me that she had mailed it. She also told me that was "policy", that former employees "were not to be allowed on the property." She then told me that if I came back, even to eat or spend money, that I would be asked to leave or removed. I told her that was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard, and that it WAS BLATANTLY HOSTILE AND INEXCUSABLE. I threatened legal action against them...she hung up the phone.
The short two weeks I spent working for Lynn taught me A LOT about running a restaurant. Most importantly, it taught me how NOT to treat my employees. Of 14 years migrating in and out of various commercial kitchens, I can say my time spent with Lynn was without a doubt MY SINGLE WORST EMPLOYMENT EXPERIENCE. She built an empire on the backs of talented people, tossing them aside when she had taken all she needed. And now that she has made all of the money, she closes up shop and leaves everyone out in the cold..it is a terrible, sad situation. This page is disrespectful to those who suffered under her management, and to those who are suffering now because of her lies and actions. Please, I implore you to take it down...or don't. What do I know? I'm just a pissed off guy with a sauce pan.
Dan ThomasOperator SpecialistKey Impact Sales & Systemsdthomas@kisales.com
"People who aren't interested in food seem rather dry, unloving and don't have a real gusto for life."