This is a previously posted article, but one that I feel is important. What many people (restaurant guests) do not realize is that although the chef may be the visionary and the designer of the food experience in your favorite restaurant, it is the line cook who actually prepares your meal. I am, and will always be a champion of the line cook – the life blood of a kitchen. I hope that you will SHARE this article with your network.

Originally posted on Harvest America Ventures:


It takes many years for a good cook to become a great cook, to become a chef. There is an enormous amount of experience that leads to the ability to lead a kitchen, to create a vision and set the tone for consistently excellent performance. Aside from a strong understanding of foundational cooking technique, the chef must have accumulated an understanding of purchasing, menu planning, human resource management, inventory management, cost control, artistic presentations of food, sanitation and safety, public relations, wine, as well as communication and brand building. Yes, this position is a culmination of a lifetime of skill and aptitude development, however, chefs must never lose sight of the role that line cooks play in the daily successful operation of a kitchen.

Line cooks are the lifeblood of any professional kitchen operation. It is, after all, the line cook who has the responsibility to prepare, develop flavors and…

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In case you missed this one.

Originally posted on Harvest America Ventures:


Years ago, a friend offered a statement, maybe even a mantra that has echoed within me ever since. It is one of those over-riding beacons of light that sets a course for how you live and how the world views what you do. This “mantra” is simple and succinct; it is obvious, yet profound. The statement is one that truly separates those who have a fulfilling and successful (how ever you interpret it) life from those who seem to simply “get by” and it is the focus of this article. “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” Think about the importance of this sentence and how it might shape who you are.

Every time I pause to reflect on these words I cannot help but wonder how everything would be different if each of us lived by the significance of this charge. What if every person were to approach any…

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In case you missed this one.

Originally posted on Harvest America Ventures:


Once you brush away all of the superficial things that we accumulate in life and begin to prioritize those that are important it is remarkable to see that everyone shares the same list. It all boils down to family, faith, health, companionship, meaningful work, how we treat others and how they treat us and those things that allow us to continue to survive: food, water, basic shelter and clothing. Unfortunately, people tend to get caught up in those things that feed our desires outside of the foundations of a good life. This article will focus on one common denominator that addresses nearly every one of those foundations and can even stretch to encompass a few desires outside of the basics in life. That common denominator is food.

There is little doubt that we all face demons every day. People can easily get caught up in our differences whether they be…

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What are your thoughts about this topic? Please SHARE with your network, I would enjoy hearing other chef and cook opinions.

Originally posted on Harvest America Ventures:


The foundations of our country stem from the concept of democracy or as clearly stated by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address: “a government of the people, by the people and for the people…” a bold, and noble statement that most Americans take to heart, appreciate and support. We have the right and the obligation to vote for representatives who, at least in theory, have our best interests at heart and who stand tall to lobby on our behalf. In truth, we have seen this work at some level, but realize that a true democracy, where everyone has a say in decision-making is far from realistic. Yes, the compromise is to vote in representatives and if they disappoint us, vote for their replacement. We have also seen how representing multiple thoughts, ideas and beliefs can drag on for extensive periods of time without, in many cases, any resolution. This is…

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Attention Young cooks, bakers and supervisors, accomplished chefs, managers and restaurateurs: FIND YOUR BENCHMARK, LISTEN, WATCH AND LEARN. Once you have reached a level of success in your life then it is time to be that benchmark for others.

Originally posted on Harvest America Ventures:


For those seeking to define their place in the world-whether it be professionally or personally, the one piece to the puzzle that allows this to truly happen is the mentor relationships that a person takes part in. The mentor is a person who has the attributes that most closely align with defined success, has the experience of years that allows him or her to speak and act with authority, the passion and drive that keeps him or her in the forefront, the honesty to tell it like it is and the compassion to keep a mentee’s best interest at heart.

Webster’s simply defines “mentor” as:

MENTOR: “someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced and often younger person”

Although this may be the literal definition it fails to focus on the scope of the relationship that exists between mentor and mentee and unfortunately assumes that the…

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This issue is so important and yet it gets buried in political debate or simply shelved in lieu of other issues du jour. All of us who spend our time in the food industry should take this to heart. We cannot and should not assume that government will take care of hunger in America. This is everyone’s problem to solve.

Originally posted on Harvest America Ventures:


We live in the most affluent nation in the world. A country that coast-to-coast still produces more food than any other, a country with the natural resource gift that allows our farmers to grow crops from apples to zucchini, corn to wheat, and avocados to yucca. The breadth of our climate and the quality of our soil is such that tropical fruits can flourish in Florida and grapes for wine can be grown in nearly every state. The restaurant industry is a $500 billion dollar a year business with almost 1 million freestanding operations from coast to coast. The distribution systems that has been designed in the United States can deliver any good to the back door of a restaurant in Chicago or the smallest desert town in New Mexico and most of the largest food manufacturing companies in the world call the United States their home. Yet there are…

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PLease SHARE this important topic with your network. There are few things more important than the quality and appropriateness of our educational model in America.

Originally posted on Harvest America Ventures:


Progress isn’t always for the better. I have taught for many years that America is now a service-based economy and that this transition is a natural progression that we must learn to adapt to. The problem is that we are forgetting how to make things. We are terrific users of goods and outstanding providers of the services that drive our economy, yet is this really progress?

What was most telling to me was an interview a while back with Tim Cook from Apple when he was asked why so many of their products were outsourced overseas (that is beginning to change by the way) and his response was unexpected. I am paraphrasing, but in essence he said it was less to do with the cost of manufacturing in the United States as it was the difficult time they had finding people with the right skills to do the work. Wow!…

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In 1996, Richard Carlson wrote a very successful book on stress relief entitled: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. His approach was to de-emphasize those tasks and issues in our lives that drive us crazy and are, from his perspective, not that important in the big scheme of things. It was a great read and honorable attempt at making our lives less stressful and more enjoyable. Unfortunately, in business and in particular – in restaurants, it is the small stuff that adds up to business success or failure. It will always be the details that separate the business leaders from the lagging followers, the ones that thrive vs. the ones that hang on for dear life.

A chef’s day is filled with important details that must be focused on because it is the accumulation of well-executed details that will build the restaurant brand and create loyal followers. The chef must have a laser sharp mind that can zero in on the minutia and create the experience that guests expect. It will be the small details that differentiate one restaurant from another.

Let’s walk through a chef’s day to point out the incredible detail that leads to success and allows a true professional to look him or herself in the mirror and acknowledge a job well done. Sweating the details is part of a process tuned into striving for excellence. In the book: Lessons in Excellence, Charlie Trotter was quoted:

“I have always looked at it this way: If you strive like crazy for perfection – an all-out assault on total perfection – at the very least you will hit a high level of excellence, and then you might be able to sleep at night. To accomplish something truly significant, excellence has to become a life plan.”


It is 5 a.m. and the alarm clock cries out in a chef’s bedroom. As the fog of a restless nights sleep begins to dissipate and clarity comes into play, the chef starts the process of preparing for another day. After a few stretching exercises, a respectable breakfast, shower and two cups of coffee, this restaurant careerist is off and running.

At 6:45, the chef’s day has begun. The initial walk-through of the kitchen is a mental follow-up on how the evening crew finished their shift, a review of last night’s service, check-in with the prep crew already at work and run through of the BEO’s hanging in waiting for today’s execution. The chef checks the cleanliness of stoves, rotation and labeling of product in the coolers, spot checks glassware and china for water spots, peers under counters to ensure that the floors were attended to, verifies that coffee makers were cleaned properly, looks at the reservation book for the day and runs through the deliveries of product scheduled to arrive. While completing the tour the chef notes that stove top cleaning was not up to par and no one ran the hood filters through the dish machine as was scheduled last evening. He will need to come down pretty hard on the evening crew when they arrive. Failure to clean every day, as was the plan will build into a significant problem if left unchecked.

He or she spends time with the prep crew as it is noticed that far too much flesh is left on the bone structure of fresh fish after filleting. It will be these small “misses” that will make the difference between profit and loss. Stocks are already simmering and breads are coming out of the oven. He points out to the prep cook that his mirepoix was not adequately caramelized and will have an impact on the flavor and color of the stock. Since this is the basis for the restaurants soups and sauces, the stock quality is of consummate importance.

Orders begin to arrive by 8 a.m. and the chef makes sure that he or she is there to check the quality of ingredients, the weights and amounts, the sourcing of the raw materials ordered and the prices that should match what the vendor quoted. Carrots, green beans, and asparagus should be of the right size, color and texture (so the chef will snap and taste), oranges of the right count and when cut open bursting with sweet flavor, scallops must be sweet smelling and dry, eyes and gills on the fish should be clear and vibrant, meat eyes on the strip loins and the marbling of fat – indicative of the USDA Prime grade that was ordered, and any canned goods free of dents. This is a very critical part of the day because the quality of raw materials will determine the quality of the finished product.

The chef reviews all BEO (function sheets) with the prep staff and makes sure that recipes are adjusted to the amounts needed. Yes, the chef uses recipes to ensure that the quality and cost is consistent and well managed.

The dishwashing crew arrives and the chef spends some time checking the cleanliness of the machine, calibration for cleaning chemicals, machine wash and rinse temperatures and organization of the area. Clean plates are the hallmark of a well-run kitchen. The chef reviews the process of making sure that plates are double-checked before being placed into service, stacked and stored in the proper location and free of any cracks and chips.

Throughout the mise en place phase of preparing for service, the chef is inspecting knife cuts and cooking methods as well as tasting items to help cooks build their flavor profile while making sure that the restaurant’s standards are consistently adhered to.

At 4 p.m. the dining room crew arrives for set-up and the chef does a walk-thru with the front of the house manager inspecting table levels, the crispness of table cloths, table top appointments, repairs needed on any chairs, clean windows, appropriate temperatures in the room, music levels, lighting, bathroom cleanliness, bar set-up and the quality of the physical menus.

When 5 p.m. arrives the chef does his final tasting of items on the line and takes part in dinner pre-meal to make sure that the service staff is familiar with evening features, suggested wines, and the manner with which they should approach upselling items to guests. By 5:30 when the doors open and service is about to begin, the chef feels comfortable that they are ready to service the guest and exceed their expectations. All this before a single dish is ever cooked and presented.

It will be this focus on everything that makes a restaurant successful. The cleanliness of the parking lot, attention to landscaping, polishing of the exterior sign and the brass hardware on the entrance door, arrangement of bottles on the back bar, crispness of server uniforms, first aromas when a guest enters and the sincerity of the host welcome will all play into a restaurant’s ability to turn a guest into an ambassador and leverage this for on-going business success.

This is an every day, every minute process that is at the heart of a chef’s job description. Sweat the small stuff-everything matters.

by: Richard Carlson

by: Charlie Trotter


Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant Consulting, Training and Coaching

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Kristin Parker Photography – Saranac Lake, NY



Work ethic is one of those concepts that has been frequently thrown around when discussing the foundations for individual and group success. There are likely as many books written on the topic as there are styles of management but that does not stop others (including myself) from promoting the importance of this basic premise: “a strong work ethic is paramount to professional and personal success”.

The question at hand is whether or not people are genetically inclined towards work ethic – is it part of their DNA, or can work ethic be taught? Is a strong work ethic environmental, cultural, a result of strong family values, built through a progressive educational system or representative of something that is encouraged by others whom an individual respects?

Work ethic is certainly apparent in many fields from construction to engineering, from the medical profession to Wall Street and from the farm to the household. The focus of this article is to point out the need for and the definition of a strong work ethic in food establishments. One of my favorite quotes relates to work ethic and states: “the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” To this end, the dictionary defines work ethic as: “a belief in the moral benefit and importance of work and its inherent ability to strengthen character.” This, of course, goes beyond the benefits of dedication to a given profession, it promotes work ethic as being an essential part of a person’s character. Does this mean that the opposite of work ethic is being lazy and shiftless? Is a lack of work ethic a character flaw that permeates every aspect of a person’s life? Does a lazy person, considering this definition, lack worth and/or character? Actually, Bill Gates was quoted as saying that he would always hire a lazy person for they would spend their time finding the easiest way to accomplish a task. In any respect, work ethic is harder to define than one would think.

There are a handful of characteristics of a strong work ethic that I feel are important to seek out in food service employees. These characteristics are, by far, more important than the specific skills required of a position. I would go so far as to say that these are the attributes that should be sought from any staff member, should be the focus of the search process and the interview and should, to a large degree, be what an employee is evaluated on.

Amelia Adams identified five components of work ethic in a Small Business article for Demand Media: Each of these certainly applies to any industry (Integrity, Responsibility, Quality, Discipline and Teamwork) – including foodservice, but I would add a few more specifics: a member of your food team should have an unwavering commitment to Service, a true appreciation for the Source of the Raw Materials that they use and a desire to Constantly Improve their Skills.

Back to the question at hand – is a person born with a strong work ethic or is this part of character development that comes from the environment that a person is exposed to? Work ethic is, for all intents and purposes, a behavior not a condition. Behaviors can be molded through the example and action of others. Our work ethic will help our children and our staff members establish a standard in their own performance. Chefs are teachers and as such need to set the example for others in the kitchen to follow.

Here is the reality check: if a person wants to pursue a career in food operations he or she must understand that the commitment is unique. Yes, other careers do require a strong work ethic, but foodservice is unusual in that the requirement for work typically exceed what one would normally expect. It is what it is and will not likely change. Here is why: we work so that other people can play. This is our charge, this is what is required and is the nature of hospitality. Holidays are busy days in restaurants – there is no getting around it. Dinner happens after 5 p.m. when others are done for the day – this is the time when we gear up for a long night. Weekends are not for foodservice staff – in fact our weekends are typically Monday and Tuesday, if at all. Accept it – this is what we are about. Food positions are not for the weak at heart. No matter what some might promote as a need to change, this is the reality of work in hospitality. Now, all that being said, those who can make that adjustment will share in the lifestyle of a unique, very special group of people who are hard-working and fun loving – people who are committed to service and do enjoy making others happy. Those who do not fit will move on to something else, those who stay are the heart and soul of the service business and the nurturers of others enjoyment. Work ethic in foodservice must include an understanding and acceptance of this.

Hire work ethic, be upfront with those who apply, enjoy the company of those who are willing to commit and celebrate the dedication that they have to the enjoyment of others.

Strong work ethic is the price of admission in food service.


Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant Consulting and Training


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