Too much idle time leads to reflection and analysis. “What am I doing” is a question that some will ask: “What am I capable of”, is of equal concern. If you have been cooking at a professional level, if you have always been driven towards doing things right and have shunned mediocrity, and if you have approached your job in the kitchen with passion and commitment, then answering these questions can be straight forward.
“I have spent years in the kitchen and now I am without a job. I know that restaurants will return at some point, but am I stuck? Is there anything else I can do? Am I destined to work in the same career or do I have any real skill sets that can open other doors?” Have you had this conversation with yourself yet? If not, I guarantee that you will.
Allow me to approach these questions in a few different ways. First – we (all of us who have made the restaurant business our life calling) hope that you will bring your skills, passion, and commitment back to the food business and will work diligently to help make us better. We need you, miss your presence, relish the opportunity to work closely with you again, and we desperately need you to become the next leaders of this terrific industry. However, we would never stand in your way if some other career becomes your calling. This has been at the core of the restaurant business forever. To some, we are the professional life choice that defined your purpose, and to many others it was an important steppingstone for other careers.
It is important to know that many of the skills and traits that you developed during your time in kitchens are highly sought after in numerous other careers. If you are a professional you should know that this label signifies that you have embraced certain characteristics and beliefs that are highly marketable. So, as you self-reflect on who you are, what you do, and what you bring to the table – know that whether you continue to contribute to this dynamic, important food industry or move elsewhere – the traits you developed while in the kitchen are now part of your valuable brand. Think about the person that you are as a result of working in kitchens:
As a professional cook you have learned how important your role is in the process of preparing and presenting food. You have conditioned yourself to be where you need to be – on time, and ready to hit the ground running. You also fully understand that when assigned a task (no matter how large or small) it is your responsibility to do it correctly and on-time. The system depends on you to act in this manner every day. THIS IS HIGHLY MARKETABLE IN ANY INDUSTRY.
As a professional cook you have developed exceptional organizational skills. You refer to it as mise en place and experience has shown you that if you are organized and prepared then you are capable of achieving success in any moment. THIS IS HIGHLY MARKETABLE IN ANY INDUSTRY.
As a professional cook you have learned that mistakes and crisis can be avoided or at least minimized if you take the time to effectively plan ahead. You prepare prep sheets for the next day, take inventory of your supplies, sharpen your knives in advance, prioritize work, and evaluate past performance so that each day your planning improves. THIS IS HIGHLY MARKETABLE IN ANY INDUSTRY.
As a professional cook you know that survival and eventual success depends on succinct, effective communication with your peers, the operations chef, vendors, and guests. You have developed a habit of truthful, important communication with all stakeholders and know how important it is to accept the same from others. THIS IS HIGHLY MARKETABLE IN ANY INDUSTRY.
 TECHNICAL SKILLS
As a professional cook you are aware that complacency with skills is never a winning approach. Every day must be viewed as an opportunity to learn new skills or polished the ones that you already have. A constant state of improvement is reflective of who you are. THIS IS HIGHLY MARKETABLE IN ANY INDUSTRY.
 TIMING AND SPEED
As a professional cook you know that after a skill or a process is learned – you must constantly work at quick thinking and building muscle memory that will allow you to improve your speed without ever sacrificing quality. Eventually, your mind began to organize, prioritize, and visualize what needs to be done and develop a timing rhythm that drives your method of operation. THIS IS HIGHLY MARKETABLE IN ANY INDUSTRY.
 PROBLEM SOLVING
As a professional cook – experience has allowed to you quickly reflect on what you have previously seen and strategize on how to approach a challenge with unique problem solving skills. Every cook makes decisions throughout a shift that can impact on product quality, restaurant profitability, and customer satisfaction. THIS IS HIGHLY MARKETABLE IN ANY INDUSTRY.
 TASK COMPLETION
As a professional cook you have committed yourself to finish any task that you are assigned. Follow-thru is an essential part of who you are. THIS IS HIGHLY MARKETABLE IN ANY INDUSTRY.
As a professional cook you have discovered that the quality product that you produce today must be the same each and every time you plate a dish and place it in the pass. The guest’s expectation is consistency and as a result it has become part of your profile. THIS IS HIGHLY MARKETABLE IN ANY INDUSTRY.
Even though they may push your patience at times, as a professional cook you have learned that the customer is right and you are in the service business. If it is possible and as long as it meets the quality standards of the operation, then service means that your response is “yes”. THIS IS HIGHLY MARKETABLE IN ANY INDUSTRY.
You know that professionalism means a fair, honest, appropriate and compassionate approach towards others. Professionalism means that you look and act the part of a consummate representative of the industry and the operation that employs you. You are consistent in this regard. THIS IS HIGHLY MARKETABLE IN ANY INDUSTRY.
 COST CONSCIOUSNESS
You know that the financial success of the restaurant, a business that counts profits in single digit percentages, depends on you watching waste, following procedures, and controlling portions. This has become second nature. THIS IS HIGHLY MARKETABLE IN ANY INDUSTRY.
You pride yourself in the ability to play your role in the team while supporting everyone else in the completion of his or hers. Egos need to be put aside for the benefit of the collective task ahead. THIS IS HIGHLY MARKETABLE IN ANY INDUSTRY.
 IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE
You have become your own most thorough critic. Each day you review your own work and ask: “how can I make it better?” You know that excellence is a habit not a goal and that it must be a constant pursuit that involves not just what you do, but how you do it. THIS IS HIGHLY MARKETABLE IN ANY INDUSTRY.
Yes, you will have limitless opportunity to become successful in the food business, and your future is bright. Yes, our industry will recover and your involvement will be critical in this transition to a fresh, important player in the world economy. But, know that even if you choose to seek another career – the skills that you have developed as a professional cook will open many doors and provide a foundation for success in what ever you pursue.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
We will get through this together
Harvest America Ventures, LLC