Sitting is the chef’s office, or what some might refer to as a storage room with a desk, it is always enlightening to look out on the kitchen and watch the motions of those who have found a home in double-breasted white jackets and skull caps.  Any day can be a day of reflection for a chef – a day when life assessment is always close at hand.

 “What is my purpose, why am I here, how did I wind up sitting in this chair, and what value do I bring to the environment I am in?” 

Chefs think about the product that they are proud of, the system and organization that has been put into place, the control of those small margins of profitability, or the special menus that are occasionally developed for events and holidays. 

“This is my purpose and look at the results!”  

Well, this is certainly a major part of a chef’s job description and probably what your paycheck is based on but is this really a chef’s purpose?

Look around the kitchen again and focus on the people rather than that list of measurable objectives that you have committed to.  It’s the people who represent your real success in the position of chef – they are your purpose.  This is the altruistic side of being a chef, and this is the aspect of your character and value that will be remembered.  It is through these individuals that you will be acknowledged as a chef. 

What many chefs neglect to understand is that they are teachers, mentors, and life coaches.  These cooks may very well become the individuals who will fill your shoes or those shoes of solid chefs somewhere across the country.  How they turn out, not just as accomplished technicians, but more importantly as human beings and citizens of the world is partially based on the role that you play in their lives.  WOW, now that is a responsibility.

Look around that kitchen.  For many cooks, the kitchen is a safe haven, a place where they can breathe deep and know that they are in friendly territory.  They are in a place where their value is based on performance and commitment to the team, a place where a certain amount of discipline is necessary and welcomed.  Some may have shady backgrounds, maybe their past was riddled with bad decisions, many are loners or otherwise angry at the world.  But here, in this place, they have purpose, they are good at what they do, their skill is respected, and they are able to produce delicious, beautiful food.  This is a place where no matter how others may label them, the kitchen only sees them as dependable, focused, competent, and willing to work together for a common goal.  This is your place chef – a place that you have developed, a place where different people can come together and produce while they learn to feel good about themselves.

These cooks, through your effort, build life skills that go beyond mastery of a chef knife and the foundations of good cooking.

  • They learn how important it is to be dependable, to show up, suit up, and come to work ready to play their role.
  • This is a place where they learn to act professional and look the part.
  • This kitchen is where they build a lifelong commitment to organization because it is essential for their job.  Once accepted, those organizational skills become a part of who they are.
  • This is a place where standards of operation are at the core of everything that they do.
  • This kitchen is clean – it must be so.  These cooks learn to work clean and pay attention to this in every moment.
  • These cooks develop the ability to multi-task because the environment is too fast and too complex to survive in unless they can do many things at once.  Whether they know it or not, this ability to multi-task will become one of their greatest strengths.
  • This is a place where even the angriest individual learns to depend on the person next to him or her and where they quickly learn to be there for others.  When a fellow cook is in the weeds – they jump in and help.
  • This is a place where details are critical.  The cook learns, under your mentorship to never accept mediocrity – to always strive for excellence.
  • This is a place where these young cooks build an appreciation for the ingredients they work with and the equipment they use.  They take responsibility for this every day.
  • In the right kitchen, these cooks will learn to view each other as equal – whether young or older, tall or short, male or female, white or a person of color, liberal or conservative, straight or gay, college educated or a product of the school of hard knocks – they are all equal when that apron is tied on.

All of this happens because you chef – set the stage and encourage it to be so.  All of this happens because you chef – teach and train, critique, and support, and hold them to high standards and show them how to do so.  This happens when you, as the chef, understand your purpose.  Your long-term responsibility and the basis for your legacy will extend way beyond accomplishments with cuisine or the profit that you generate for a restaurant.  Your name can become viewed as that of a person who spent the time to develop others. 

Look no further than out your office window at those cooks who are serious about their craft, who show up to work on time and ready to put their signature on a plate.  Look no further than those individuals who respect the persons next to them, support those who need it, take that extra second to set up a plate just right, and who relish the opportunity to serve your food and theirs with a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Congratulations chef – mission accomplished!


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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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