Success doesn’t happen on its own – you make it happen.  Yes, as a cook you may wonder when great things will come your way and the answer is – probably never.  You need to seek out the opportunities and prepare to thrive when one is in your sights – success doesn’t simply appear.  Every cook, or should I say every serious cook, has the ability to reach for that elusive chef’s job, discover how to make a difference, create a culinary signature that others will notice, and earn a comfortable living in the process.  The difference between those who reach those goals and those who do not is almost always a willingness to do the right work to get there.

Cooks should be paid a living wage and they should be able to feel secure in their job as long as they do what is required, but beyond that each step towards the position of chef is in the individual’s hands.  So, if you are ready to take the leap – here you go:

[]          PATIENCE:  Everyone wants to reach their goals quickly – to become what he or she aspires to become without the effort and time that comes with the turf, but it just doesn’t work that way.  To truly become a chef requires that you have a wealth of knowledge and experience that never comes easy, always requires extra effort, and involves a sometimes-bumpy road along the way.  Be patient – it will take time.

[]          COMMITMENT: “I am going to do whatever it takes to prepare for the position – I am in it to win it”.  Make the commitment, put it in writing, live it every day, and when you look in a mirror, do so knowing that you never waiver from what is required.

[]          HAVE A PLAN:  Plan, plan, plan.  Establish where you want to be and build a detailed road map that takes you from point A to point B.  If you want to be an executive chef at a private club know that the skill set will include: a deep understanding of a full array of ethnic styles of cooking, the ability to organize complex events, human resource management skills, team building prowess, great communication skills, purchasing and negotiating skills, knowledge of wines, service techniques, cost controls, and how to build a public relations image.  How will you acquire those skills?  Where should you work and whom should you work with to fine tune what is needed to build your brand?

[]          LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY:  Approach every day with a structured plan to learn something new.  It need not be monumental, but any day that goes by that you have not gained a new skill, or a bit of important knowledge is a day that fails to bring you closer to your goals.

[]          PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT:  Proficiency comes from repetition.  Seek out that new skill or bit of knowledge and build it into your routine just like an exercise regimen.

[]          VOLUNTEER:  There is no shortage of opportunity to learn something new from someone else.  You will not always receive pay for what you learn.  What you gain is far more important than a few extra dollars in your paycheck.

[]          KNOW YOUR WEAKNESSES:  Be humble and know that you are human and there are many tasks that you are not very good at.  Sometimes people just avoid engaging in processes that show their weaknesses where successful cooks and chefs approach them head on and work until a weakness becomes a strength.  This is how competent chefs are made.

[]          NOT SO SOCIAL MEDIA:  Your brand can be easily destroyed through social media.  Be very careful about what you say, what opinions you express, how you look, the language that you use, and the individuals and groups that you associate with on Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, and Twitter.  One of the first steps used by employers in researching candidates for a position of responsibility is to check their social media profile.

[]          EXCELLENCE ALWAYS:  Be the person who always approaches every task, no matter how small or large, with a commitment to excellence.  Washing and stacking dishes – be a star, dicing vegetables – make them “show quality”; organizing a cooler – do so like a librarian approaches stacks of books; caramelizing a mirepoix for a stock – make sure that every vegetable is properly browned and ready to release its flavor.  Every single task is a reflection of the cook you are and the chef you hope to become.

[]          EXECUTE AND BUILD TRUST:  If you have your eyes on the chef position then start by becoming the cook that everyone else can depend on.  Once you are given a task, make sure that you follow thru and complete the work as it was intended – always. 

[]          PROBLEM SOLVE:  Watch and learn.  Every day in the kitchen presents challenges that someone needs to approach and deal with problems that require solutions.  Watch how others solve those problems and record the process in your mental data bank.  Sometimes the real hero in any situation is not the person who does everything right, but the one who can correct a misstep if and when it occurs.  As a chef you will become the person whom others expect to rely on as the consummate problem-solver.

[]          NETWORK:  Start making a list of people who you would enjoy having on your resource list.  Make the effort, make the contact, show respect, communicate frequently, and build a relationship with those who can become your “go to people” when support is what you need.  The best chefs don’t have all the answers, but they know who to contact when that solution is not readily at hand.

[]          PRACTICE SAYING YES:  Along the way, one of the best ways to build steadily on your brand is to be the person who says: “bring it on”.  “I need someone to work an extra shift this week” – count me in chef.  “Someone from the line needs to give the dishwasher a hand for 20 minutes to push through that backlog of dishes” – I’m your person chef.  Again, be the person that others can depend on.  Yes, it gets in the way of life and ego sometimes, but it is part of building that brand – a brand that will lead to the chef’s position at some point in time.

[]          BE A PROFESSIONAL:  Above all else – hold yourself to higher standards.  Look the part, act the part, treat others with respect, remain dependable, stay humble, approach every task with an eye on excellence, and know that your brand is made through professional effort.


Your success is within your grasp

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