Pride is an alluring enigma, an intoxicating challenge to our peace of mind, and a dangerous mistress that can pull us away from good old common sense. At the same time, pride is the fuel of success, the underlying standard of performance that signals the effort required for any task. Is pride a good thing or a bad thing?

Using the generational song: Both Sides Now” written by Joni Mitchell as a springboard, we could paraphrase and build another verse:

“I’ve looked at pride from both sides now

From up and down and still somehow

It’s prides illusions I recall

I really don’t know pride at all”

-Joni Mitchell – paraphrase

I have seen how pride works in kitchens and have, throughout my career, benefitted from and fell victim to the challenges that pride creates. Understanding and working within the parameters of these challenges requires discipline and a true understanding of the term and all that it implies.

Pride can be a manipulated term used by others to point to a person’s attitude of self-importance, ego, and self-esteem. There are certainly ample examples of chef’s and operators who relish pointing to their own importance, accomplishments, and self proclaimed worth. Some may view this as earned accolades when there is substance behind it, while others simply view it as unfounded self-importance. To this end, even well deserved recognition can work against an individual when he or she is the voice behind that proclamation. When the individual is humble about those accomplishments and the accolades come from others – then a less effusive sense of pride can be viewed as admirable. There is a fine line between the relationship of pride and self-worth.

Pride is oftentimes used as a motivational standard that professionals view as their rule of engagement. Pride, in this case, refers to a self-imposed model of behavior and action that should not be ignored. “Where is your sense of pride” can be and is used to refer to a chef’s or cook’s level of commitment to how they look, act, interact, cook, and present the food that they work with. Many in the profession look at their work and silently ask the question: “Am I proud of this?” Pride pushes these individuals to at least meet, but in most cases, exceed their own and other’s expectations. A cook who exhibits pride in work is one whom others expect to always work towards those standards of excellence. This is motivational and at times burdensome.

A quality restaurant is oftentimes driven by pride. In these instances the appearance of the operation, the quality of detailed service, the excitement surrounding the food, and the ability to exceed the expectations of guests is a standard of pride that tends to connect with every person who works there. The self-worth of each individual is closely aligned with the collective pride exhibited throughout the operation and the restaurant experience. When in sync, this can lead to extraordinary levels of performance and a great sense of pride. When any part of the organization fails to live up to the standard, then the opposite is true. In these instances, pride can result in friction, mistrust, and a deflated sense of worth.

Pride can be a wedge used to place employees in separate silos at work. This results in a separation of those who really care and take pride in their work, vs. those who are less engaged and willing to accept mediocrity. In these environments – results are mixed and inconsistent, and finger pointing is the rule of thumb.

Pride can also be an isolating principle of behavior. Far too often pride is used to keep an individual from admitting areas of weakness and resisting the help that he or she may need. “He is too proud to ask for help”, is never beneficial to the individual, the organization, or the task at hand. This is seen far too often in restaurants where a person is ill placed in a position, or nervous about how he or she may be perceived if assistance is sought. In the extreme, it is quite common to find a person promoted to his or her level of incompetence – referred to as the Peter Principle. Sometimes this is the fault of the hiring process, while in other cases it is not a case of inability, but rather the unwillingness to seek assistance and taking advantage of the support mechanism in place. Seeking assistance when needed is never a sign of weakness – it is an indication of intuitive strength.

Pride need not be directed toward oneself. Pride can be, and is often most beneficial, when it is directed towards others. When a chef designs a menu that is well executed by his or her staff, then pride in their collective work is incredibly powerful and well-deserved. When a chef or manager invests the time in training an individual and feels pride in how well that trainee performs, then the impact on the organization is priceless. When a guest states how exceptional his or her restaurant experience was, then the collective pride in teamwork can be felt through the organization. This feeling of pride is intoxicating. Pride in a group effort and the positive outcomes that are a result is the energy that drives that group to exceed everyone’s expectations. We see this not just in the kitchen, but also in organizations where there are common goals including sport teams, not-for-profits, and others that rely on unity of thought and action.



  1. PRIDE NEED NOT BE EXCLUSIVE TO PRICE. You can be just as proud of a perfectly poached egg, or BLT sandwich as you are of a seven-course wine pairing dinner.
  2. TAKE AND SHOW PRIDE IN HOW YOU AND OTHERS LOOK. Clean and professional in grooming and uniform.
  3. TAKE AND SHOW PRIDE IN HOW YOU TREAT OTHERS. Respect is a baseline ingredient in pride.
  4. TAKE AND SHOW PRIDE IN THE DESIRE TO LISTEN. Listen more – speak less – respect others concerns and opinions.
  5. TAKE AND SHOW PRIDE IN TEAMWORK. United you stand, divided you fall.
  6. TAKE AND SHOW PRIDE IN THE WILLINGNESS TO SEEK HELP. The support mechanism is there and there is no shame in aligning with it.
  7. TAKE AND SHOW PRIDE IN THE WILLINGNESS TO OFFER HELP. A willingness to help is a sign of tremendous character and strength.
  8. TAKE AND SHOW PRIDE IN A COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE. Regardless of the task, do it with enthusiasm and a need to make sure that it is right.
  9. TAKE AND SHOW PRIDE IN STAYING TRUE TO BELIEFS. Whatever is core to your and others character is worth recognizing and supporting.
  10. TAKE AND SHOW PRIDE IN THE IMPORTANCE OF A COOK’S WORK. This is a noble, important job – one that can have a very positive impact on those preparing food and those receiving the fruits of that labor. Stand Tall!


Harvest America Ventures, LLC

Restaurant Consulting


www.harvestamericacues.com BLOG


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About Me

PAUL SORGULE is a seasoned chef, culinary educator, established author, and industry consultant. These are his stories of cooks, chefs, and the environment of the professional kitchen.


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