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Helper - Should She Stay or Go?

  1. #1
    jgny is offline Registered User
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    Oct 2010
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    hk
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    Helper - Should She Stay or Go?

    I'm really on the fence about my helper. She is an excellent cleaner, no complaints at all.

    BUT she is a horrible cook. I do admit I have high expectations as I am a good cook and I love cooking, but all in all, she can only cook a few basic dishes which my husband and I are sick of. I have to give her a recipe and watch her closely to make sure things are being done right. She does not have a cook's intuition and often lacks common sense - for example, she once almost put 4 bars of chocolate in a recipe which called for 4 ounces. The thing that grates me is that she always give me a blank look whenever something like this happens.

    I see my other friends that have helpers have fantastic Chinese and Western food on the table every night and just think that I will be able to find someone who is good at both cooking and cleaning.

    At the same time I do feel bad for terminating her. I did offer to send her to cooking classes but she was insulted. She told me she could cook but I told her she could not, not up to our standards. She has been trying, but I've concluded she will never be a decent cook.

    What would you do in my situation? Wait out the contract (another 18 months?) or terminate and find a new one? It's also a bit tricky as she is live out.

  2. #2
    Frenchy is offline Registered User
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    If you are a good cook and love it, why don't you do it ? I do love to cook, and cook every day, even though my helper is very able to cook too... I just ask her to cook once or twice a week, things she knows very well, so we don't get bored with her own recipies, and I've sent her to the YMCA cooking lessons too.

  3. #3
    mariaindb is offline Registered User
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    Dec 2008
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    Discovery Bay
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    Not sure of your personal situation. Do you work full-time or at meal prep times? Might it be an idea to get your helper to just do all the prep work? Cleaning/chopping veges, etc...

    If you are a good cook and love cooking, why don't you do the fancy meals a couple of times a week and let your helper do a couple of simple meals a week.

    Not all helpers can do everything! I'd be happy with the fact that she's an excellent cleaner! (Often hard to find...) Unless of course you hired her under the distinct impression that she could cook wonderful meals. If you have the time (again, not sure of the whole situation), maybe you could cook together instead of sending her to cooking classes. This way she can learn from you and see how you like things done. Worth a try instead of terminating...

  4. #4
    lisa88 is offline Registered User
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    I think it depends on how frequently you want your helper to cook, ie how important a job requirement is it? If she has to prepare 2-3 meals a day for you and your family (assuming you have young children) then it is going to be a very unhappy 18 months ahead for all concerned. However if your helper is only required to cook a couple of times a week then it may be a better compromise for you to cook more and have her help with meal preparation and tidying up the kitchen; eat out more, or order in more often.

    If you decide to let her go, here's what I think is fair: if you had not clearly stated at the time of hiring her that cooking was an important job requirement then pay her more than the obligatory 1 month's severance, and give her a good reference letter stating that she is being released through no wrongdoing of hers (or something to that effect). If you can help her find another job that does not require cooking, then well and good. Explain to her clearly why you are releasing her. How she reacts - well or badly - is up to her.

    The next helper you hire - you have to be absolutely clear that cooking is an important job requirement, and interview applicants thoroughly about this. Eg say that you want daily meals prepared, often have dinner parties, can they bake, etc. The way I see it, this is no different than many companies now stating that fluent business Mandarin is a job requirement.

    When I was searching for a maid a few years back, I told the agency that I wanted a maid who was genuinely interested to care for newborns and liked kids. I gave some pretty detailed criteria for newborn care. Those who did not, need not apply. It filtered out a lot of the disinterested ones and probably saved everyone a lot of trouble. The helper we hired turned out to be excellent with my newborn, and she is still with us, 2.5 years later.

  5. #5
    Gracey is offline Registered User
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    When we hired our helper, we asked about her good points (good English, educated, babycare experience, mature) and her bad points (cooking). She was very upfront about the one skill she didn't have. My husband and I discussed it, and decided it wasn't our top priority.

    Now that she's arrived, I've realized that she really is not a good cook. She knows a few very basic things. But like you said, she has little interest or instinct in the kitchen. Sometimes, I'll make her watch as I prepare food, and hope that she will pick things up with time. But I have no expectation that she will be whipping up fancy dinners for us.

    Now, I'm just teaching her to buy the products we like -- people who aren't foodies won't know the differences between wines, imported dairy products, specialty items, etc. There's also a cultural differences. Most helpers come from poor or rural communities. Maybe she's overwhelmed by a modern "expat" supermarket with 14 different types of milk. When I asked what she usually ate, she said "Bread in the morning. Rice the rest of the time with meat." So I can't expect that she will be a gourmet.... And making chocolate at home is hard! If you haven't grown up with that food, you'd have no idea about measurements or proportions.

    Anyway, she's useful for washing, chopping, preparing, etc. For now, we're doing our own cooking, and just thankful that she seems good at the other stuff. Maybe with time I will teach her some more.

    If I were you, I wouldn't fire her. It's a big deal to fire someone -- they lose their job, their salary and their right to be in HK. I'd only do it if she was lying, stealing, not showing up, etc.

    Did you outline cooking as one of her main jobs when you hired her? Is she generally responsible and doing everything else right?

    It is a little weird that she won't take a class, though. If you pay for it, I think she should be cooperative and go.

  6. #6
    Gracey is offline Registered User
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    As for helpers with excellent cooking skills -- most have been in HK a long time and learned on the job here. Former employers taught them, or they were sent to classes, and some of these top-end amahs command higher salaries. A rich friend of mine had a helper who could do a full Western dinner party, complete with starters, mains, dessert and wines. But she was with them for years and years, and was paid much more than the minimum wage.

  7. #7
    ssheng is offline Registered User
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    My vote is for you to send her to cooking class and see if she improves after a month. If she hasn't, then revisit this issue.

    We had a similar situation when my helper arrived. She said she could cook and she did know how to make simple things, but not the type of food that we wanted. We actually hired a woman who was a former helper to come to our house and cook with our helper. Since our helper was learning special foods that she didn't know how to make because they were specific to my husband's cultural background, it wasn't insulting - it was just practical.

    Anyway, I understand your helper seemed insulted by the cooking school, but you can ask her to go anyway. You can also explain it's not to teach her to cook, it's to teach her to cook a specific type of food (Italian, Spanish, whatever) that she doesn't know how to make now and that you yourself don't know, but like to eat.

  8. #8
    Frenchy is offline Registered User
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    Another detail... I can cook anything, but i have no clue how much is 4 ounces ! just because we use a different measurement in my country. So I have a conversion table in my kitchen, with cups/ml/gr/tsp/oz etc... and it makes a big difference !

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