Win as a TEAM, lose as an individual

What I love most about working in restaurants is the sense of accomplishment when a team of serious cooks works together to pull off a night of great food or a banquet that draws rave reviews.  Watching everything click when each member of the brigade not only knows his/her station, but is able to anticipate what everyone else will be doing so that the group, as a whole, is “in the zone”.

The expeditor is just like the conductor of an orchestra.  He/she is the person who keeps the cadence, controls tempers, helps to time and coordinate cooking, maintains decorum between front and back-of-the-house and insures that any special orders “don’t upset us”.

I have also witnessed many kitchens that haven’t developed that “TEAM DYNAMIC” and as a result, every day is a crisis and every meal is a battle with winners and losers.

Here are some short tips to follow in building your team:

1. The chef needs to build a team around the chemistry of attitudes first.  There is no room in a kitchen for anyone who wants to be a loner.

2. Teach and train every day.  Every moment is a learning moment.

3. There is no need to shout and demean to get your point across.  Running a kitchen is just like good parenting.

4. Don’t be afraid to compliment a cook when they do even the smallest thing well.  Positive reinforcement wins in the long-run.

5. Do not publicly condemn a cook for a mistake.

6. Remember that EVERY position in the kitchen is important.  Don’t play favorites.

7. Look for ways to build esprit de corps outside of work (it doesn’t have to involve alcohol).

8. Communicate, communicate, communicate!  Take a few minutes at the beginning of a shift to review what is on deck for the day and take 5 minutes at the end of a shift to review what took place.

9. Give your cooks the opportunity to be creative.  ALL serious cooks are frustrated artists.  They need an outlet for their creativity.  Involve them in planning daily features and the process of designing menus.

10. List their names on the menu!  Everyone wants to be recognized.  Let the guest know that you are proud of your team!

11. Sit down with your team for staff meal.  This one act demonstrates how important the kitchen family is to you.Image

  3 comments for “Win as a TEAM, lose as an individual

  1. Michelle
    July 20, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    I worked for a chef who was able to do all of these points (less the Yelling) best time of my life, always a great time going to work, excellent morale which equates to excellent service.
    You should check him out at Liquids and Solids! you won’t be disappointed 🙂

  2. Matthew
    July 21, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    As a chef who wanted the best out of his kitchen I feel that this is dead on. I realized quickly that these people I worked with we’re family due to the time spent together in tight quarters that you should all have respect and a voice. It felt like being stuck in a one room apartment with five brothers and sisters all day. The more you learned from and about each other the more you worked “together” cohesively and less in various directions. Great article.

  3. August 1, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I have all the pointers engraved in my head. Thanks for the lesson, Chef Sorgule.

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