A retired NFL coach would rally his team before a game with the words: “Where would you rather be than right here, right now?” This is a sentence that sums up the life’s work of these athletes, a culmination of talent, hard work, and perseverance. To get to where they were in that moment took everything they had and now was the time when they should not only relish the feeling of accomplishment, but also not let down their teammates, their coaching staff, the fans, or themselves. This was the moment they were waiting for, the chance to grab what was in front of them and give it their all.
This is where you are right now. It took a lot for you to get to this point. One would assume that you dedicated the time and effort to your education, otherwise graduation might not be within your grasp. Some of you may have been fortunate to come from a family with the finances to support your dreams, while others may have had to scrape and save and take on substantial loan debt to get to the same point – in both cases it took someone’s financial effort to get you here. Your chef instructors dedicated themselves to passing on the knowledge and skills that you will need to reach for your goals; knowledge and skills that took them a career to acquire. Now you are ready to take the leap into reality, to test what you think you know in a fast-paced, physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding business. The next steps you take will lead to a long career with plenty of opportunity and a fair share of bumps in the road. Here you go!
So, put aside for a moment what you know, or what you think you know and listen up. Here are some critical points to remember, essential understanding that will open doors to your future, help you to fit in with your first and many other kitchen crews, and build a path forward.
 YOU DON’T KNOW ENOUGH – YET:
I know – you spent loads of money for this education and your GPA is much better than average but rest assured – you don’t know enough. You need to approach every position, and every day with this realization and then work on building that portfolio of skills and knowledge. Experience is ultimately the best educator.
 TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN – YOUR EDUCATION WILL
Be a sponge, work for the best, ask too many questions, read everything you can, volunteer on your days off, buddy up with people who are more talented than you, take a course now and then, set a path for your next ten years and make sure that continuing education is a major part of it.
 ALWAYS REMAIN HUMBLE:
Even when you know quite a bit – be humble. Share what you know with others, listen to them, and never exhibit any belief that you are somehow better than they are.
 IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, IT’S ABOUT THE TEAM:
The only consistently successful restaurants are the ones where every member of the team knows they are equal. The end result of great food, satisfied guests, and a profitable restaurant rests on the shoulders of the group working in unison. There is little room for star players, only star team players.
 WE ARE ALL DISHWASHERS:
Treat dishwashers well, lend a hand, treat them like professionals, thank them, support them, and know that without their work, yours would suffer.
 NO JOB IS BENEATH YOU – EVERYTHING IN A KITCHEN IS
If you EVER state or even think that any task in the kitchen is beneath you then it is time to look for a different career.
 TURN YOUR BACK ON MEDIOCRITY:
Don’t ever be tempted by the words: “good enough”. Mediocrity is a disease they will ruin morale, destroy reputations, drive guests away, and quickly turn success into failure.
 EXCELLENCE IS THE ONLY APPROACH:
Throughout your career – approach every task as if it were the most important to your career and the reputation of the restaurant. Peeling onions, slicing mushrooms, turning potatoes, chopping parsley, boning chickens, or filleting fish, taking inventory, washing a piece of equipment, or stacking dishes – every job deserves your very best effort.
 NEVER FORGET WHO HELPED YOU ALONG THE WAY:
Practice this every day and know how important it is and how good it makes you feel: SAY THANK YOU. Say it freely, mean it, and say it often. Stop in to see that chef instructor who put forth the extra effort and say: THANK YOU. Cook a meal for your parents and say: THANK YOU. Drop a note to a chef who took you under his or her wing and say: THANKS. Turn to the co-worker beside you who pitched in when you were in the weeds and say: THANKS!
 TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF:
Sometimes the hours will be difficult, the physical demands relentless, the emotional strain hard to take, and the pressure for release by over-drinking or using recreational drugs too great – but YOU NEED TO TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF and find the time to eat well, rest, exercise, and protect your mental health. MAKE THE TIME and let the chef know that this is part of your lifestyle.
 EVERYTHING YOU DO IMPACTS YOUR BRAND:
This is a tough one – you are still young and let’s face it, sometimes naïve about the impact of your actions. Watch what you post on social media, how you interact with others, obey the laws of the land and the policies of your employer, know what it means to be professional and hold those standards very, very close. Don’t allow your personal brand to be damaged.
 YOU ARE IN THE SERVICE BUSINESS – IF YOU ARE NOT SERVING THE GUEST DIRECTLY, THEN SERVE SOMEONE WHO IS:
You may think you are in the business of food, but we are all in the business of serving others and exceeding their expectations.
 CLEAN AS YOU GO:
As has been said: cleanliness is next to godliness.
 FOOD SAFETY IS A SACRED TRUST:
The most important thing you can do for a guest and for the reputation of the restaurant is to protect everyone’s wellbeing through application of proper sanitation and food handling. THAT SANITATION CLASS WAS VERY IMPORTANT.
 BE COST CONSCIOUS – THE KEY TO BEING NOTICED:
Restaurants work on very small profit margins. The chef and manager cannot watch every penny, but you and your co-workers can.
 RESPECT OTHERS:
Male, female, young, old, dishwasher or executive chef, owner, manager, vendor, delivery driver, co-workers, farmer, guest, health inspector and anyone else who crosses your path – BE RESPECTFUL!
 RESPECT THE INGREDIENTS AND THE EQUIPMENT YOU USE:
Always remember that as cooks we are privileged to work with ingredients that farmers, fishermen, ranchers, and producers dedicated as much passion and effort to as you do the job of cook. We owe them our respect and care. We need to ensure that those ingredients are handled and stored correctly and when in production used properly and to their fullest. Excessive waste is a sign of disrespect for those involved in the process of getting those ingredients to you. The same holds true for the equipment (very expensive I might add) that we work with. Treat it with care as if it were your own.
 BELIEVE IN SOMETHING IMPORTANT and GIVE BACK:
Pick something and make it part of your identity. Be somewhat altruistic with your profession and stand for something that is meaningful. It might be sustainability, waste management, protection of traditions, a pursuit of excellence, authenticity, or connection with the source of ingredients, etc. You will always feel better about your career choice if you take a stand.
 LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES:
You will make plenty of mistakes – they are a teaching tool. Mistakes are a problem when we don’t learn from them.
 BE DEPENDABLE and HONEST:
Show up when you say you will, be prepared to work, follow through and make sure that every task assigned is completed at the highest level and remain a bastion of honesty – something that others can ALWAYS depend on.
 TAKE PRIDE IN THE PROFESSION:
There are centuries of professional cooks who came before you; cooks who defined our profession and established pride in what we do, how we do it, how we look and act, and the standards that define us. Be proud of this and act and look in a manner that pays respect to that history. You are the new ambassadors for an industry.
Now, the world is your oyster – do it right!
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
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