Lately, I have read quite a few posts from angry cooks and chefs as they lament the job requirements, poor wages, lack of life balance, questionable work ethic of young cooks, and demands placed on them by inconsiderate bosses. Like everything else in our “in your face” world driven by the open social media platform, I seek to find ways that people might find common ground. So, in the case of cooks and chefs I compiled a list of beliefs and initiatives that we should all be able to agree on. There is no need to respond, this is just food for thought for all who share some frustrations, but cook because it is what they were meant to do.
 WE ARE PROFESSIONALS
If you want to be treated as a professional, then it is essential that you look, and act as such. This means that you take every part of your career seriously: your uniform, your tools, the ingredients that you work with, your interactions with other employees, your respect for the chain of command, the way that you apply the foundations of cooking, your mise en place, your commitment to standards, and how you plate your food.
 SANITATION ABOVE ALL ELSE
Serious cooks and chefs know that they have an ethical and legal responsibility to understand the importance of food safety through proper sanitation. This becomes second nature to all who cook because it is what they were meant to do.
 CLEAN AS YOU GO
A part of understanding sanitation is to know how to clean and practice the right methods for cleaning in a relentless fashion. Serious cooks enjoy cleaning and know how critical it is to the whole experience of dining for the guest and to their effective and efficient organization in the kitchen.
 WORK HARD – EARN FAIR WAGES
Every serious cook wants to be paid a fair wage for the work that he or she does. Every professional chef understands that serious cooks should be paid this fair wage and that part of the chef’s job is to ensure that fair wages are paid to those cooks. When this is not the case then every cook should seek out an employer who is willing to advocate for fairness. Don’t complain about it – find the right employer/employee match somewhere else.
 YES CHEF
I understand that people may find a chain of command to be rigid, and I know that there are some chefs who, through their actions, may not seem worthy of respect, but every cook does know that because of the demands of the kitchen, the looming threat of unpredictable changes, the need to have someone make “in the moment” decisions, and the simple need for order – “yes chef” does have merit. Sometimes without this understanding the result can be chaos.
 COOKING IS A CRAFT
When an employee becomes a craftsperson, then he or she understands that there is a need for knowledge, dedication, respect, and lots of practice. Cooking, in this vein, is no different than the process of woodworking, electrical engineering, plumbing, auto mechanics, or even proficiency with sports. Without the knowledge, dedication, respect, and practice – a cook will never reach for any level of mastery.
 ELIMINATE MEDIOCRITY
Angry or happy, every serious cook or chef must understand that movement away from how things are done and acceptance of any level of mediocrity demonstrates a lack of passion, a shift away from craftsmanship, and failure of execution.
 TEACH ME WHAT YOU KNOW
If a chef or cook refuses to give back, lacks the desire to help others and share his or her knowledge, then they are failing to live up to what a craftsperson should represent. When you share with others you become better yourself.
Every serious cook must show respect for his or her peers, supervisor, ingredients they work with, tools and equipment they use, and the guests they serve. If cooks look for respect from others then they must first give it freely and consistently. Respect includes honesty, consistency, and trust – this goes both ways.
 SUPPORT, NEVER DEMEAN
Professional cooks and chefs should never demean another human being. Making someone else feel small or less than worthy is one of the lowest acts that any person can participate in. Cooks and chefs should not give one ounce of support for those who demean and should either point out this flaw in others or move on to a property that shows respect for all people.
 BE DEPENDABLE
Any argument that a cook or chef may have about their employer or the work they do is lost if they do not demonstrate dependability. Showing up on time, ready to work; demonstrating that a task assigned will be completed as planned, and when planned; and showing others that a cook can be trusted – is paramount to success.
 BE YOUR OWN WORST CRITIC
Few people enjoy being criticized for the work they do. Most will accept critique when it is accompanied by a demonstration on how to improve and void of any vindictiveness; but most importantly and effectively, when a cook has very high standards and is constantly self-evaluating his or her work in relation to those standards, then the result will be constant improvement.
 DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME
Shortcuts may seem to make sense, especially when time or multi-tasking gets in the way; but in operations where the end result is always measured against high standards, those shortcuts will inevitably result in the need to rework a dish, or duplicate prep. If you can’t find the time to do it right the first time, when will you find the time to do it over?
 BE THE EXAMPLE
All cooks and chefs must realize that the example they set (positive or negative) will set the tone in the kitchen. Issues will always arise, and some things will always seem unfair, but how you deal with those issues establishes the type of professional that you are and the way that you will be perceived. The best examples are those individuals who approach communication and seek resolution through a process that is calm, focused, and professional. Social media is rarely an effective medium for finding any type of resolution to your challenges.
 PRIDE IN YOUR WORK
Finally, every serious cook or chef knows that any plate of food that leaves the kitchen carries his or her invisible signature. Regardless of the challenges that take place on a daily basis, every plate of food that hits the pass should represent the very best of what you are capable of. Take pride in your work, first and foremost, deal professionally with the challenges that you face, but never lose sight of that invisible signature.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC