The best things in life are never easy, and with your career, if you truly want to reach for that rewarding chef position or chef/owner opportunity then it is essential that you set your goals, chart a course of action, stay true to the end game, and know that it will take time and considerable effort to get there. There really are no shortcuts if you want to do it right. There is far too much to learn, far too much to know, and far too many mistakes to make along the way for you to approach your career in any other way.
 BECOMING A GREAT COOK IS A LIFELONG PURSUIT
Understanding the foundations of cooking is the price of admission. Every other style of cooking and every tradition behind ethnic interpretation is based on understanding steps and methods. However, there are so many nuances that define how a group of people define “their” cooking that requires ingredient knowledge, variations in process, taste and flavor, and the essentials of presentation that any serious cook can invest decades attempting to master just one definitive cuisine. Great chefs go beyond being general practitioners – great chefs are true believers and authentic replicators of numerous iterations of a style of cooking. This takes more time than any of us have.
 APPRECIATION OF DIFFERENT CULTURES – A GATEWAY TO GREAT COOKING
Behind the skills associated with a particular cuisine, great chefs invest the time to understand the people, the history, the geographic and political challenges faced by a population, the traditions and socio-economic barriers that loom over a people, and the flavor sensitivity that defines how cooking in a certain area evolved. All of these factors combine to result in food prepared, as it should. This is why a recipe is of little value without the soul behind its use.
 UNDERSTANDING PEOPLE
Career chefs are seasoned psychologists who access their appreciation of various cultures, their empathy with firmness, and their ability to listen and process what others have to offer, as part of their being. These appreciations and skills are what truly separate a cook from a chef. A chef must be a leader and a leader must have followers. When a chef strives to understand people then followership is a natural byproduct.
 BUSINESS ACUMEN IS YOUR SPECIAL SKILL
In the end, it is a chefs ability to operate a business, manage the processes, control costs, drive sales and build a business brand, inspire others to pay attention to the details, strive for consistency, and act in accordance with those analytics that point to patterns of success or failure, that set the stage for long-term success. This does not come easily – it takes time to develop “business eyes”.
 BELIEVE THAT COMMUNICATION SKILLS ARE ESSENTIAL
When a person sets a course for career success, he or she quickly comes to realize that the ability to effectively communicate through writing, public speaking, use of technology, and even proper use of body language will set the stage for strong, positive relationships between the position of chef and all stakeholders who come in contact with the person holding that position.
 THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EXPERIENCES
This statement goes beyond the singular “experience” as it refers to time in a position – this points to engagement in unique experiences (good and not so good) that build resilience, problem-solving ability, perspective, and control over reactionary responses that build a strong leader, an effective chef. The best decisions come from action based on reflection of how a challenge unfolded in the past, how another individual responded to a similar challenge in the past, and the knowledge of how action impacts on other aspects of the business and the lives of those involved.
 BE A STUDENT, BECOME A TEACHER
The number of birthdays that a chef has certainly sets the stage for success, but what is more important is how the chef spent the time behind those birthdays. When a cook is open to learning, open to critique, open to observation and listening, and open to admitting what he or she doesn’t yet know, then a clear path towards career growth becomes evident. Once in the position of chef, it then becomes essential that the person gives back and helps others through that process of learning.
 BECOME A SERVICE PIONEER
When various chefs are observed and assessed on their ability to adequately fill the shoes of the position, it is clear that the ability to understand what it means to serve is at the core of success. Chefs must understand that service means to not just provide what people need and want, it infers that the chef understands what people will want before they even ask. Service requires constant observation and evaluation that will help with understanding and anticipation. Meeting expectations in a service centric economy is only the beginning – great chefs are focused on exceeding expectations of service to both external stakeholders (guests) and internal stakeholders (employees, owners, vendors, etc.).
 WHEN OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS
If you are serious about building a career that is rich and influential then a cook must grab onto opportunities along the way that will help to build the skills, aptitudes and experiences that lead to success. Work for those who can teach, work in operations that build a resume, travel to new locations that allow you to connect with people of various cultures, take positions that you are ready for but will push your abilities to their limit, and take on a process of learning that fills in the gaps along the way.
 KNOW WHAT SUCCESS MEANS TO YOU
Finally, know that success is something that is unique to the individual. To some, success refers to a title, a company, the breadth of responsibility that falls on their shoulders, salary, the chance to build personal brand, ownership, or networking with a certain group of like professionals; while to others it connects to living in a particular area, or gaining a feeling of self-worth that connects to a well-defined philosophy or belief structure. Whatever works for you should be based on how you define “success”. Know what it is, create a roadmap, be patient, and invest in the process of getting there.
As yourself every day:
“Is what I’m doing right now, bringing me any closer to achieving my goals?”
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC