I was depressed watching the news about the new political climate where the fringe on both sides is slowly chipping away at tradition and accepted norms when it finally dawned on me – this applies to everything – this applies to kitchens and the profession that I have been part of for the past fifty years. Just as the extreme right and left in politics no longer care about the way things have been done (or failed to get done) over the past few decades – young cooks and chefs no longer seem to care about the ways of the traditional kitchen. Should we fight this or learn to work within the parameters of a new world? Here are some of the beliefs that are part of the new generation of cooks and chefs.
 THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT MEDALS AND PLAQUES
I have my share of recognitions, but cringe now when I see some in my profession still getting all wrapped up in having that medal placed around their neck for doing their job, for putting in extra effort, or for being a good example of what traditionalists deem important. Young cooks and chefs are not enamored by this pomp and circumstance. Their reward is in the plate of food that they place in the pass or the feeling of gratification that comes from a team effort.
 THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT WORKING MASOCHISTIC WORK SCHEDULES
How many times have we taken a stance in support of the crazy hours that we accepted as part of the job by criticizing those who shun that norm and accuse them of being lazy or lacking in any level of solid work ethic? Younger cooks and chefs are interested in working hard while they are there, but resist the need to be punching bags for brutal work effort and excessive hours.
 THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT THE TRADITIONS OF UNIFORM
I have great respect for the history of the chefs uniform and as such have always been an advocate for protecting the uniform and insisting that others show it due respect. In all likelihood – I will not change my attitude about this or my insistence, wherever I am working, to ensure that the uniform continues to receive this level of respect. Today’s cooks and chefs are less committed to protecting that and more interested in what seems to fit their concept and comfort at work. We may resist this and claim that it is disrespectful to the traditions of the kitchen, but we need to at least acknowledge that our generation may be the last to feel that way.
 THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT THE TRADITIONS OF “SAME”
Many of us can show, very vividly, that the traditional ways of preparing and presenting dishes, of designing kitchens and dining rooms, and of thinking about the restaurant experience, have always worked and that there are loads of customers who agree, but, the new generation of cook and chef doesn’t walk down that same path. They want to shake things up and move forward. We may fight it, but eventually we won’t be in a position to continue to defend tradition. To some this is hearsay, but to the new generation – this is progress.
 THEY DON’T CARE THAT YOU THINK PROFIT DRIVES DECISIONS
We have been conditioned to understand that for a restaurant to survive it must be profitable and profit comes from being business savvy. We have been convinced that sometimes this requires compromise with ingredient quality, cooking process, pricing strategies, and menu design. Today’s cooks and chefs are not encumbered by this thought process and are less inclined to sacrifice quality at any level. As a result, they approach profit by challenging the opportunity head on and changing the types of foods that are offered, reducing portion sizes, limiting menu selections, and promoting their beliefs about ingredient integrity in a way that allow customers to buy-in to paying higher prices.
 THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE ABOUT PROTECTING THE WAY IT WAS
Traditional culinary organizations are less attractive to young cooks who find that sticking to accepted ways is uninspiring. Whether it is a professional chefs group, a restaurant association, or formal culinary education – what was attractive and sought after just a decade ago, is no longer that enticing. Unless those organizations evolve, they will find it more and more difficult to attract the attention and participation of the next generation of cook, chef, and restaurateur.
 THEY DO CARE ABOUT SUPPORTING ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE ALTRUISTIC ABOUT FOOD AND THE ROLE OF COOKS
Those agile institutions that “get it”, are adjusting to the “stakes in the ground” beliefs that are part of the next generation’s philosophy of life. This philosophy includes caring about people, the issues of hunger in the world, food integrity, sustainability, farms and farmers, and working together to make the world a better place through food – and is becoming more attractive.
 THEY DO CARE ABOUT QUALITY WORK
Don’t misinterpret the change in work/life balance with a lack of caring. Young cooks and chefs still care deeply about the quality of their work and the plate of food that hits the pass. If we can accept their new rules of operation – there is still plenty of pride to work with.
 THEY DO CARE THAT FOOD IS FLAVORFUL AND FUN
The commonly used phrase: “fine dining is dead”, may be exaggerated, but the fact is that this generation of cooks and chefs is more inclined to help create an environment where food is still exceptionally well prepared and presented, but the atmosphere around the dining experience is casual and fun. They believe that fun dining and fine dining need not be mutually exclusive.
 THEY DO CARE THAT FARMERS GET A FAIR SHAKE
Farm to Table may seem to be a shallow marketing ploy to some, but many of those who are part of this generation of culinarian knows that farm to table is not simply about buying local – it means that partnerships with farmers and chefs equate to mutual understanding and support. When farmers can make a decent living, then chefs and customers are the beneficiaries.
 THEY DO CARE THAT WORKER ARE TREATED FAIRLY
This is the generation that will insist on, and work towards, a model of operation that allows and requires restaurants to pay employees fairly, and provide some basic level of essential benefits. As cooks they will expect this, and as chefs they will push for it.
 THEY DO CARE THAT ALL EMPLOYEES ARE TREATED IN A RESPECTFUL MANNER
There is no reason for managers or chefs to treat any employee in a demeaning manner, criticize them without critique, are condescending, or use verbal abusive tactics to try and motivate. Aside from the legal support for appropriate treatment of others, this is a generation that will no longer accept anything but.
Face it – this is the generation that is applying for positions in your restaurant, this is the generation that represents the future of foodservice, this is the generation that no longer wishes to walk precisely in your shoes, and this is the generation that may right some of the wrong in our business environment. There is no going back – learn to work with it and take a leadership role rather than a reactive one.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC