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THINGS THAT EVERY CULINARY SCHOOL GRADUATE MUST REMEMBER

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THINGS THAT EVERY CULINARY SCHOOL GRADUATE MUST REMEMBER

This is the time of the year when culinary schools pass out diplomas and send their graduates out into the world of professional cooking. These young culinarians are eager, full of energy and loaded with ambitious ideas about who they are, what they are capable of today and where will be in a short period of time. Many are ready and some are not, but with that degree in hand they step outside in pursuit of their dreams. As graduates begin the process of starting their career I always feel compelled to leave them with a checklist that will, I am sure, serve them well in the years to come. These are not my thoughts alone; they represent the collective feelings of chefs, managers, fellow cooks and restaurateurs with whom I have had the pleasure to work. So..I would encourage each graduate to read and re-read these thoughts or lessons, fold them and keep them in your wallet for reference multiple times during your career with food.

1. TREASURE TRADITIONS: The profession of cooking has a long and arduous history. Many, many chefs came before you and tirelessly worked to build a place for cooking in the halls of serious professionals. How they looked, acted, approached others, relished food and the processes that they developed over decades will always and should always have a place in your consciousness and in your actions as a serious cook. Don’t forget what came before.
2. BE PATIENT: Your career is a journey, not a destination. It will likely take you 5 years or so to get to that first sous chef position and maybe another 5-10 before reaching Executive Chef. This is an investment you must be willing to make.
3. STAY PROFESSIONAL: Yes, there are numerous examples of unprofessional kitchen environments to choose from. There are those who yell and scream, belittle and undermine, treat others with contempt, fail to thank but rather choose to always find fault; those who are careless with product and do not respect their commitment to the source, the place or the guest. Do not fall into the trap. You have been taught to take the high ground. Stay there and be the example for others.
4. RESPECT OTHERS: One of the most beautiful things about working in kitchens is that they are some of the most diverse working environments to be found anywhere. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to learn about other cultures and beliefs. Remember that at least in the kitchen everyone is equal. Respect others for who they are and they will respect you.
5. YES CHEF: As much as you think you know, there is so much more to learn. The person who holds the title of chef has invested many years to reach the position that he or she currently holds. It is his or her kitchen! The best way to learn and set a path for professional growth is to respect the chain of command and know that if the chef expects something done a certain way, your response should always be YES CHEF (unless it violates rule #3 and in that case still say Yes Chef but start looking for a new environment).
6. THE FOUNDATIONS WILL NEVER DO YOU WRONG: All those hours that you spent in your foundational classes in school were the most important parts of your education. How to hold a knife, vegetable cut dimensions, the basic cooking methods, how to caramelize, the proper way to build a stock, etc. are relevant no matter what style of cooking or type of food that you will work with.
7. KEEP YOUR KNIVES SHARP: Each day before you start your shift make sure that your tools are in order. Use a stone and keep that chef’s steel close to your work area. A sharp knife makes the work much easier, reduces the opportunity for injury (as long as you respect the knife) and is kinder to the product you are working with. A serious chef will check your knives and know how serious you are as a cook.
8. SANITATION AND FOOD SAFETY IS YOUR OBLIGATION: Nothing is more important than proper food handling and your commitment to the safety and well being of your guest. Don’t ever forget those rules of operation that were taught in Food Sanitation.
9. RESPECT THE SOURCE: Food is not something that simply appears off the tailgate of your local or regional food vendor’s truck. A farmer, producer or manufacturer somewhere dedicated their passion to preparing those raw materials for your hands. It is the dedication of the farmer that makes a carrot delicious. Your job is to protect, nurse and define those natural flavors.
10. BE DEPENDABLE: You will quickly learn that the most important trait of a kitchen employee is being dependable. Will they show up on time, with the right attitude, prepared to work and consistent in their approach to their responsibilities? Be the example. The chef can work with any other shortcomings, but a lack of dependability has no place in a kitchen.
11. LEARNING NEVER STOPS: The diploma in your hand is not an end game. Walking across that stage was just the beginning of your formal education. Every day in the kitchen provides a new opportunity to learn something that was not part of your repertoire before or improve on something that you are familiar with. Grab on to every opportunity to learn and know that SOMETIMES THAT MIGHT MEAN “OFF THE CLOCK”!
12. LOOK CHALLENGES SQUARELY IN THE EYE: “I can’t”, just doesn’t fly. When a person says, “I can’t” what they really mean is: “I won’t”. If you don’t know how then ask or research the answer. You will never further your career unless you understand that the only answer is YES, I WILL.
13. STAY HEALTHY: You will be of little use to a chef if you are not in good health. Eat a balanced diet, exercise, maintain a healthy weight, see a doctor yearly, drink in moderation, get enough sleep and maintain those important relationships with friends and significant others. It is the WHOLE person who will become that successful chef in the future.
14. TAKE CARE OF YOUR FEET: You may think that this is a redundant statement after #13, but your feet are SO IMPORTANT to your well being as a cook. Buy the right shoes, change them during long shifts, wear white socks when working, soak them after those twelve -hour days and never take them for granted.
15. RESPECT THE EQUIPMENT IN THE KITCHEN: You will quickly learn that equipment will not hurt a person; it is the person who does not respect the equipment who will hurt him or herself. Meat slicers (if I see another person cleaning a slicer while it is still plugged in I will go ballistic) are only dangerous in the wrong hands, pressure and convective steamers will only burn those people who don’t use common sense, wet towels and hot pans do not work well together, liquids and hot oil in a pan are not friends, 10 gallon stock pots full of liquid that is not properly lifted and carried will be unforgiving to your back, and that great tool: the mandoline will do the same things to your fingers that it does to a zucchini (use protective gloves or a guard when slicing). Then there is the cost of all that equipment that must be shown respect. The blade from the Robot Coupe does not belong in the pot sink (you use it – you clean it), the dicing blade for that same machine falls under the same rules. Each piece of that equipment will cost the operation hundreds of dollars to replace because of your carelessness.
16. WE ARE ALL DISHWASHERS IN GOD’S EYES: An idle moment in the kitchen is a chance to jump in and help someone else. That dishwasher has an awful job, but one that is absolutely crucial to the restaurant. Help him or her out! Ten minutes jumping in on the dish machine or washing some of your own pots will show that person that you care and be reflective of point #4.
17. BECOME A SERVICE PIONEER: We work so that others may play. The guest is the guest and your task is to allow them to have an exceptional experience in the restaurant. Don’t fight their requests, learn to adapt and WOW them with your desire to go the extra mile.
18. READ, TRAVEL AND INVEST IN BUILDING THE RIGHT FRIENDS: Great chefs are worldly individuals who understand other cultures either through hands-on experiences or at least by reading as much as they can about them. Broaden your horizons, associate with other cooks who are equally interested in this endeavor and make the investment in this important part of your life.
19. BUILD YOUR NETWORK OF INFLUENCE AND STAY CONNECTED: Join professional organizations like the American Culinary Federation, Retail Bakers Association, National Restaurant Association, Chefs Collaborative, Slow Food, USA, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, etc. and make a list of those individuals and groups that would be beneficial to your career. Seek them out, introduce yourself and stay connected. Most importantly – find a mentor who is willing to take you under his or her wing and offer you honest and sincere advice along the way. All of these connections may be integral to your future.
20. INVEST IN BUILDING YOUR BRAND: How do you want people to view you? When individuals call your references how would you like those people to portray you? What words would accurately describe the type of person and cook you are? Spend the time and invest the effort in clearly defining and maintaining this image. It is your brand that will be important in the future. Remember it is hard work to build a positive brand, but only takes a single mistake to ruin it. Be aware of this, even with the little things like: the message on your voicemail, the posts of you on Facebook, what you say on Twitter, how you dress and groom yourself, the language that you use and so many other things that will set the tone for your brand. Do what you want, but be aware of how you may be perceived.
21. GIVE BACK: You are fortunate to have a degree or the experience to hold down a significant job. Others have helped you along the way. You are able to work at a job that gives you immense satisfaction. Your career, if you set the stage properly, will have very few limitations. Knowing this should occasionally give you pause. Take that minute to do something for others. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, teach a class, help a farmer, donate to a worthy cause, work on a fund raising dinner, take the time to thank your teachers and give back to the college or school of hard knocks that brought you to this place. Food people are very generous – be one of them.

You have chosen a fantastic career. Foodservice will provide you with a great deal of satisfaction, some trials and tribulations, opportunities to grow and experience other parts of the country or world, meet interesting and passionate people, serve others and bring sunshine to their day and create beautiful food with your own hands. It is a truly special career track and you should feel fortunate to be part of it. Best of luck –make your success – it is in your hands.

I would recommend two essential books for your early library. Rush out (I am serious) today to purchase them. This is your first “post graduate” investment in your future.

Letters to a Young Chef by: Chef Daniel Boulud

Tasting Success by: Chef Charles Carroll

PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
http://www.harvestamericaventures.com

Follow our blog at: http://www.culinarycuesblog.wordpress.com

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LINE COOKS ARE THE ENGINE THAT DRIVE A RESTAURANT

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LINE COOKS ARE THE ENGINE THAT DRIVE A RESTAURANT

It takes many years for a good cook to become a great cook, to become a chef. There is an enormous amount of experience that leads to the ability to lead a kitchen, to create a vision and set the tone for consistently excellent performance. Aside from a strong understanding of foundational cooking technique, the chef must have accumulated an understanding of purchasing, menu planning, human resource management, inventory management, cost control, artistic presentations of food, sanitation and safety, public relations, wine, as well as communication and brand building. Yes, this position is a culmination of a lifetime of skill and aptitude development, however, chefs must never lose sight of the role that line cooks play in the daily successful operation of a kitchen.

Line cooks are the lifeblood of any professional kitchen operation. It is, after all, the line cook who has the responsibility to prepare, develop flavors and consistently execute the menu under what outsiders would consider – inhumane conditions. The chef may be in the driver’s seat, but the line cook is the engine. A driver without a well running engine would not get too far.

I am currently finishing another terrific, accurate book on “a day in the life of a kitchen” that truly depicts the intensity, challenges and incredible skill that a line cook must possess. In this portrayal (Sous Chef, by: Michael Gibney); the author, while living the role of the second in command pays true homage to the line cooks who make his success possible. From experience there are a few realities that drive me to acknowledge the significance of the young, upwardly mobile and sometimes satisfied to stay where they are, pirates of the line.

1. Let’s face it being a line cook is more often than not a younger person’s sport. The physical demands of working the line are only surpassed by the mental acuity that is required as line cooks attempt to keep track of multiple a’ la minute preparations, timings, plating’s and interconnections with other cooks on the line. In my last position as a chef I knew that I could work as hard and longer than most of the cooks in the restaurant (I paid for it with aches and pains that rarely went away), but the older I got the harder it was to process the rapid fire mental activity that is the routine of a line cook. Bending over hundreds of times, 120 degree heat, burns, cuts, clanging of pans, and the speed with which a line cook must act and react is way too challenging for most over the age of 40.
2. Each station on the line is a private entrepreneurship. The set-up, calculated mise en place, position of each ingredient from sliced garlic to clarified butter, from minced shallots to pour bottles of white wine and olive oil and from tongs (a line cooks most important tool) to neatly folded side towels is uniquely that cooks. True, the chef may initially train a cook how to set-up a station, but once they have grown into the position they will inevitably treat that area as if it were their own business. This “seasoning” as a line cook is absolutely critical for the efficient operation of a kitchen and once it is set, it needs to be that way – always.
3. Although a good portion of the pre-work for the line may be done by an earlier prep shift (stocks, mother sauces [where they are still relevant], peeled shallots and garlic, braised meats, fabrication of steaks and chops, filleting of fish, trimming and blanching of vegetables, etc.), it is the line cook who must know how to cook as completely as he or she knows how to breathe. He or she must know how to cook a perfect steak, when to turn a fish on the plancha, the right time to add a splash of wine, how to season items in a pan by holding that salt and pepper above the dish and allowing it to evenly forecast, how much time is left in the cooking process so that the plating of a table’s order can be orchestrated and most importantly; how to taste (a great line cook MUST have a well define palate). The line cook needs to have an eye for plate presentation even though the layout may have originated from the chef and must know how important it is to take a few extra seconds to show the finesse to place each item at its perfect spot on the plate. Maintaining the discipline for all of this to take place is hard to imagine.
4. The chef will undoubtedly know how all of this is done and he or she probably taught the cook early on how to manage these steps, but most chefs, once they reach that position would find it very difficult to step in and do the job as well as a line cook.
5. Finally, the line cook, as I pointed out in a previous article (Life Lessons from a Line Cook) https://harvestamericacues.com/2014/04/11/life-lessons-from-a-line-cook/ must be a consummate communicator and in most cases “listener”. The chef, on a busy night sets the cadence for the line and is the sole voice in the kitchen. Service staff will use the chef/expeditor as the portal for communication with cooks, but line personnel know that it is that voice that they must tune into. When a directive or question is posed, the line cook must zero in on the command, acknowledge it and then network with other stations as they execute the directive. Sometimes this networking is handled with simple eye contact and a nod, other times it will be succinct words like “fire, plate, garnish, sauce, hot, pick-up, hold, etc.”. All of this takes time to develop, but once it is there, the line can hum on all cylinders like each station entrepreneur is electrically connected to each other station and the chef/expeditor. This invaluable relationship is magical and goes way beyond the importance of the chef as an individual.

The dining room may be full of people who have heard of, know about, met or would like to meet – the chef. They may, in fact, have come to the restaurant to try the “chef’s food”, but rarely do they truly understand that the chef was probably never involved in the actual cooking of the dish. The chef is in the limelight and he or she has earned that position through many years of extremely hard work, but the chef could never function without the efforts of the team of line cooks who stay behind those swinging doors. The chef knows this all too well and although he or she may not thank the line enough until there is a gap in staffing, this knowledge that they are where they are because of the dedication and seasoned entrepreneurial spirit of the hourly paid line cook is always present in a chef’s subconscious.

It may seem that I spend an inordinate amount of time talking about cooks, even more than chefs, it is because having experienced a return to a great and reasonably busy chefs position in the later part of my career I learned very quickly how much I depended on these crucial members of the team.

PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER

Harvest America Ventures, LLC
http://www.harvestamericaventures.com

follow our blog at: http://www.culinarycuesblog.wordpress.com

READ THIS EXCELLENT PORTRAYAL OF KITCHEN LIFE:

Sous Chef
by: Michael Gibney

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WHY DO PEOPLE OWN RESTAURANTS

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WHY DO PEOPLE OWN RESTAURANTS

Having worked in the restaurant field for more than four decades, I have often wondered why it is that people take the leap into restaurant ownership. There are numerous documented reasons why this is not a good idea, yet thousands of people each year choose to plop down their life savings, convince family members to chip in and somehow manage to take out a bank loan (banks typically shy away from restaurants) because: “they have an idea for a restaurant” that can’t fail.

At last count there were in the neighborhood of 990,000 free standing restaurants in the United States. This does not include Business and Industry operations (offices, plants, hospitals, schools, etc.) or catering companies that dot the American landscape. Total freestanding restaurant sales in the United States last year topped $475 billion with another $205 billion from those B and I segment operations. 70% of those freestanding restaurants are single-unit operations.

(data from the National Restaurant Association – Pocket Fact book)

Click to access Factbook2014_LetterSize.pdf

What few can seem to agree on is the failure rate for those restaurants. Some figures are as high as 66% failure rate in the first year, but that is debatable. In any case, the failure rate is significant. From my experience, those who remain in business tend to struggle and depend more on positive cash flow than they do on actual profitability. So, the question remains: “why do people own restaurants”? I felt that it would be important to look at some of those reasons: a few are admirable, some are funny and others just plain sad. Since I have spent many years preparing others to enter this field I felt that it was only fair and right that these realities be placed squarely on the table.

First, let’s keep in mind that every serious cook and chef that I know, in his or her heart, would love to own their own restaurant. In fact, I have wrestled with this urge for the full length of my career, but have never taken that leap (maybe the smartest thing that I have NOT done). This may be part of that “American Dream” to own your own, be your own boss, answer to no one except yourself and hope that anyone can create the next “big thing”. We admire those who make a go of it and do so with great success and feel for those who try and fail. What are people thinking when they jump to become a restaurateur and what is the formula for success?

These are my observations (un-scientific):

WHY DO PEOPLE OWN RESTAURANTS:

1. OWNING A RESTAURANT LOOKS LIKE A QUICK WAY TO GET RICH: well, those of us who live it day in and day out know that this is a pipe dream. Some may look at the prices on menus and the cost of that steak in their local grocery store and come to an immediately conclusion that restaurants make money hand over fist. The truth is – if a restaurant is on their game, controlling costs, training staff and managing vendors they might make 5-6% net. Unfortunately, most restaurants are not that astute. Restaurants are faced every day with waste, spoilage, theft, rising prices of raw materials and a struggle to convince their staff that every penny counts.
2. IF I OWNED A RESTAURANT I COULD ENJOY HAVING MY FRIENDS VISIT AND BE DAZZLED BY MY HOSPITALITY: Owning a restaurant is where you are able to clearly separate TRUE friends from people who are looking for an opportunity for a “deal”. “I know the owner” are four words that every server, bartender and chef dreads hearing.
3. I LOVE COOKING AND HAVE BEEN TOLD BY MANY PEOPLE THAT MY FOOD IS SO GOOD THAT I SHOULD OPEN A RESTAURANT: wow – there is a significant difference between cooking for family and friends and bumping those numbers up to 100 plus every night of the week. If you are the owner – no matter how much you like to cook, you will not have the time to do so, nor should you. Cooking is the fun part – you are an owner now and must dedicate your time to running the business (marketing, accounting, hiring and evaluating staff, customer relations, problem solving, training, etc.).
4. IT WILL BE SO MUCH FUN BEING A HOST AND WELCOMING GUESTS TO MY RESTAURANT EXPERIENCE: Yes, hospitality can be enjoyable, but first and foremost it is hard work. You must be bright, positive and understanding every minute of every day. Most guests are nice people who appreciate what you and your staff do, but there is a 5% group that will eat up most of your time and energy. These are the ones who always find fault, know more than you, start with a negative attitude and leave with an even greater one. They still need to be served with a smile.
5. I LOVE FOOD AND WILL HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO EAT LIKE A KING OR QUEEN EVERY DAY: You might for a short period of time until you see how much that food is costing the operation. A month into it and you will be happy with rice and beans with the rest of the staff. Besides, after a while you won’t even want to look at those beautiful items on your menu.
6. I AM A PEOPLE PERSON AND WILL ENJOY HIRING AND WORKING WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE DEDICATED THEIR LIVES TO FOOD AND SERVICE: There are many who are those dedicated disciples of the restaurant business. These are the people that I have always tried to hire and develop, but finding them is not always easy. Additionally, no matter how focused a person is on food and service – they will have bad days and guess what: their attitude becomes your problem to solve. As a restaurant owner you will spend as much if not more time on human resource issues than you do on serving the guest.
7. OWNING A RESTAURANT IS A PUBLIC SERVICE THAT GIVES GUESTS AN OPPORTUNITY TO ENJOY AN EXPERIENCE THAT MIGHT NOT BE AVAILABLE OTHERWISE: well, yes – you are in the business of creating an experience and this is what people do seek out. It will be that “experience” that brings them back and builds your reputation as a restaurateur. This is a noble objective, but never lose sight of the fact that you are running a business, not a non-profit organization. The experience is your responsibility, but so is maintaining a financially successful business that allows the experience to continue.

The restaurant business provides ample opportunities for creative people, individuals who love to serve, passionate cooks, budding entrepreneurs, food and wine lovers and gracious hosts, but the restaurant forum for these activities must be treated as any other business if it is to support those dreams and aspirations.

Like many others I follow the great success stories: Alfred Portale and his staff are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Gotham Bar and Grill in New York City. This has consistently been rated one of the top restaurants in America and one that continues to dazzle guests with wonderful food and hospitality. LeBernadin is a Michelin rated restaurant in New York that recently made the list of the best restaurants in the world. Chef Eric Ripert runs a tight ship that ensures that this is consistently the case. Thomas Keller is world renown for the “finesse” offered at The French Laundry and Per Se and his warm “down-to-earth” offerings at Bouchon and Ad Hoc. His relentless pursuit and insistence on perfection is common knowledge among those in the field. Mario Batali has elevated Italian Cuisine and the “fun” connected with dining in his catalog of restaurants from Babbo to his collaboration with Eataly in New York and Chicago. Restaurateurs like Drew Nieporent from the Myriad Group, Danny Meyer from Union Square Hospitality Group, Richard Melman from Lettuce Entertain You and Jean-Georges Vongerichten from Jean-Georges Restaurants continue to reach new pinnacles of success. So what is their secret?

Most restaurateurs would agree on a simple list:
INCREDIBLE WORK ETHIC
THE RIGHT LOCATION
CONSISTENCY
SUFFICIENT CAPITAL
SUPERIOR STAFF
INVESTMENT IN TRAINING
A GREAT PRODUCT
EFFECTIVE MARKETING
TIGHT CONTROLS
A SERVICE MENTALITY
and… A LARGE DOSE OF LUCK
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**NOTE: The picture in this article was taken using the “Waterlogue” app

PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant and Culinary School Consulting, Training and Coaching
http://www.harvestamericaventures.com

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SO GOD MADE A CHEF

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SO GOD MADE A CHEF

A Most Noble Profession
© Copyright 2014

This article was written in recognition of the wonderful piece that was done by Paul Harvey paying homage to American farmers. This version is a tribute to chefs and cooks who care for the crops and livestock that the farmer nurtures and in turn build flavors and textures to allow cooking and eating to rise from a process to an art form. In the words of Robert Bulwer-Lytton:

“We may live without poetry, music and art;
We may live without conscience and live without heart;
We may live without friends;
We may live without books;
But civilized man cannot live without cooks.”

SO GOD MADE A CHEF

Adaption by: Paul Sorgule

And on the ninth day (after making a farmer), God looked down on his planned paradise and said: “I need something to eat.”

So, God made a chef.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, pan the bacon, crack the eggs, brew the coffee, warm the Danish pastries and prepare to work all day in a hot kitchen until the last guest is served.”

So, God made a chef.

“I need somebody with a strong back, callused feet, hands that look like swollen and wrinkled tree stumps and arms that are covered in burns, but who can show enough finesse to delicately place a few snipped herbs on a perfect plate of food. Somebody who can swear like an angry sailor, yet care for his or her staff as if they were off springs. A person who could stare down a line cook with piercing eyes and in the next breath – smile as a passing guest says: thanks for a great meal.”

So, God made a chef.

God said: “I need somebody who will handle baby carrots received from the local farmer as if they were family heirlooms, fillet a fresh fish with a knife so sharp that it cuts through the skin and flesh like they were butter, trim the silver skin from a tenderloin without leaving the slightest trace of meat, pound out veal tenders with the power of a blacksmith and turn foie gras in a hot pan so gingerly that even the liver doesn’t know it is being cooked.”

So, God made a chef.

God needed someone who would work 24 hours in the first two days of a week that would certainly exceed 80 and do so with vigor and passion that is hard to describe. A person who knew at any given time what it cost to produce yesterday’s cup of coffee, could negotiate with salespeople who could barely tell the difference between a turnip and a potato and was obsessed with cleanliness and sanitation.

So, God made a chef.

God said: “I need somebody who is confident enough to handle hundreds of reservations, smart enough to know how much to prepare of each item, cautious enough to keep guests with allergies in mind, talented enough to build menu items that were able to create a buzz for the restaurant and strong enough in belief to always focus on the quality of the ingredients used.”

So, God made a chef.

God needed a person who was true to him or herself; focused – no matter how busy the restaurant became to not EVER sacrifice quality while making sure that each item contributed to the financial success of the business. He needed a person who was able to find a way to keep a family while giving 150% to the business and doing so without the need for accolades except – clean plates returning from the dinning room.

So, God made a chef.

God said: “I need someone who isn’t always right, but is never wrong; someone who never eats, only tastes; someone who respects heat and sharp objects and abhors anyone who doesn’t respect them as well. I need someone who would rather cook than anything else; someone who is comfortable wearing white jackets, hounds tooth pants and tall pleated hats and who considers his or her feet the most important part of their body.”

So, God made a chef.

“Somebody who is compassionate, but firm; caring and always giving; a mentor, psychiatrist, medic, big brother or sister, fair and honest, hard working and filled with passion for food and service. Someone who would laugh and cry when his or her son or daughter says they want to spend their life doing what dad or mom does.”

So, God made a chef.

________________________________________________________________________

A tip of the toque to all who work in kitchens, those who came before and set the standards for us to follow, those who aspire to become the next generation of cooks and most importantly – those family members who put up with us along the way.

**WATCH FOR THIS PIECE COMING OUT ON YouTube THIS SUMMER!

PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER

Harvest America Ventures, LLC
http://www.harvestamericaventures.com

Follow our blog at: http://www.culinarycuesblog.wordpress.com

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FOOD IS THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

In case you missed this one.

Harvest America Ventures

FOOD IS THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

Once you brush away all of the superficial things that we accumulate in life and begin to prioritize those that are important it is remarkable to see that everyone shares the same list. It all boils down to family, faith, health, companionship, meaningful work, how we treat others and how they treat us and those things that allow us to continue to survive: food, water, basic shelter and clothing. Unfortunately, people tend to get caught up in those things that feed our desires outside of the foundations of a good life. This article will focus on one common denominator that addresses nearly every one of those foundations and can even stretch to encompass a few desires outside of the basics in life. That common denominator is food.

There is little doubt that we all face demons every day. People can easily get caught up in our differences whether they be…

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FOOD IS THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

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FOOD IS THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE

Once you brush away all of the superficial things that we accumulate in life and begin to prioritize those that are important it is remarkable to see that everyone shares the same list. It all boils down to family, faith, health, companionship, meaningful work, how we treat others and how they treat us and those things that allow us to continue to survive: food, water, basic shelter and clothing. Unfortunately, people tend to get caught up in those things that feed our desires outside of the foundations of a good life. This article will focus on one common denominator that addresses nearly every one of those foundations and can even stretch to encompass a few desires outside of the basics in life. That common denominator is food.

There is little doubt that we all face demons every day. People can easily get caught up in our differences whether they be political, territorial, religious beliefs, relationship disagreements, or even work related friction and as we see by watching the news, these differences can become the center of our attention. If there is anything that we can agree on – it is a good plate of food. So, how important is food beyond the basic need for sustenance? Let’s take a look at the role that food can and does play in life.

A baby is born and the first thing that he or she does is cry. What does the baby cry for? Is it attention, affection, discomfort or fright? Those who have watched the miracle of birth will quickly note that it is hunger that draws the first sound from a new born. There is an association that a baby quickly develops: “I cry and I get fed.” Food becomes a comforting crutch in life that we carry with us forever. We may not cry for food as we get older, but we realize that food is a friend when it is sometimes hard to find one. When we are happy –we eat. When we are sad – we eat. When we are lonely – we eat. When we are stressed – we eat. Food is comforting, it is fulfilling, it is a reward when we need it and a memory of people and things that we have encountered through our lives. Food is important.

We now know, although not everyone practices it, that “we are what we eat.” Selecting the right foods and preparing them well is the most significant contributor to a healthy body. Many of the health issues that plague mankind are preventable if we would only follow some simple rules of selection and preparation. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity are, to a large extent, preventable if we understand how important food is.

The once cherished “family table” was a time to sit down as a symbol of reverence for tradition and a time to share in each other’s day. The family table was a time to celebrate the small things and to comfort each other when our day takes a negative turn. The meal was a time to pass down the values of the family and to teach each other how to live, respect and cherish each other. The common denominator was a plate of food that was prepared with love, care and a sense of obligation to those things that keep a family strong. We have strayed from this over the years with the advent of a microwave oven society and the ease with which fast food and convenience items take over the traditions of old.

We do (thanks from everyone in the restaurant business) lean on restaurants now for much of that attention to tradition. Restaurants are a place where we can celebrate birthdays, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, promotions, first dates, breakups, business deals and even the lives of those who pass away. In all cases, it is good food that serves as that common denominator. We break bread to remember and even to forget. Food is a powerful catalyst that ties two ends together no matter how far apart they seem initially.

When it comes to appreciating great food there is no language barrier. The experience surrounding dining can and does go way beyond that typical biological family. State dinners sponsored by governments are used to create a common ground for discussion, compromise, support and understanding. No matter how deep the differences are between two people or even entire countries, we can always appreciate a great meal. This simple foundational need and pleasure can become the basis by which differences are put aside, maybe long enough for there to surface a spark of understanding and agreement. Food is important.

There are so many examples of the power of food as a communication tool – examples that each of us knows and holds close to our hearts. Here are a few:

One of the most difficult jobs on earth is farming. I have had the wonderful opportunity to visit farmers in the wine regions of France, California, Oregon and Washington State. During harvest, workers are pressed with the need to pick the grapes when they reach the correct sugar content and do so during a very short window of time. It is backbreaking work requiring those involved to bend at the waist, snipping bunches of grapes from the vine from row to row for many hours at a time. With the sun beating on their backs, hands that are rough and cut from the vine knife used and grapes weighing down on their frame it becomes work that would surely be considered intolerable by many. At the end of the day in most vineyards, something magical happens. The crew will sit down together to a meal prepared by the vineyard, break bread, clink glasses filled with the vineyards wine, laugh and truly enjoy telling stories about how many aches and pains they have. The next morning the process starts all over again. Food is a powerful and magical substance.

Restaurant work is, simply put, hard. Ten or twelve hours on your feet, the pressure of the clock, lifting, chopping and dicing, heat that is intense enough to cook a person, burns, cuts and aching muscles – this is the life of a cook. Service staff must attend to every detail in the dining room: polishing glasses and flatware, making sure that their station is impeccably clean, memorizing the art of the kitchen and the complement of wine and focusing on a state of mind that exudes service excellence and in some cases tolerance of unruly guests. At 4:30 in most restaurants all of this stops for 20 minutes or so while both sides of the swinging door get together for staff meal. When done correctly, this stress reliever goes way beyond nourishment. It is a time to talk, to share, to set aside tension, take a breath, laugh and set your mind at ease for the onslaught of business just around the corner. For the moment, everyone is equal around the plate. Food is incredibly important.

Each professional cook that I know has experienced that epiphany in life – that moment when a certain food, or food event has allowed them to pause and say: “wow, this is something that I want to dedicate my career and a good portion of my life to.” It is that first oyster with warm salty ocean brine that says “it doesn’t get any fresher than this;” it may be that hand picked heirloom tomato that is still warm from the July sun and eaten as one would an apple or sliced and simply drizzled with good olive oil and a pinch of sea salt that turns an average person into an explorer of food experiences; or it might be the first time that they enjoy a meal prepared by a serious chef who knows how to delicately handle those foods and take them to a new level of significance. In all cases, the power of food can move a person from a desire to find a career to defining a “calling in life.” Food is important.

Food allows us to maintain traditions and celebrate them with others, it allows us to pass down a gift of a treasured family recipe that becomes part of the family’s heritage, it is the one thing that we can freely give to others with a smile and a sense of understanding and appreciation.

I remember many years ago visiting with a woman restaurateur in Saranac Lake, New York who owned a business called the Blue Gentian. It was a neighborhood restaurant of great renown. People would line up around the block to wait for a table and enjoy her “blue plate specials,” as they were called. Nothing elaborate: roast chicken, meat loaf, and even a few casserole dishes. I asked her one-day what her secret ingredient was. She pointed to an empty jar in her kitchen and said that that was it. When I looked puzzled she said that the ingredient was love of people, love of life, and appreciation of others. This was what tasted so good at her tables. Food is important.

Over the past few Sunday’s I have watched the new Anthony Bourdain series on CNN called: Parts Unknown. No matter what you think about Tony, the series is brilliant because it shows the human bonds that are formed around food. It is a personal show that opens your eyes to other cultures and traditions and the honest purity of the human spirit once you focus on the foundations of life. He demonstrates both directly and indirectly that food is important.

Chefs, and cooks (both domestic and professional) have extremely important jobs. If we could just peel away the superficial stuff that gets in the way of life and just learn to “break bread” and appreciate our differences, we might be able to enjoy the human condition a bit more.

Photo by: Kristin Parker – Kristin Parker Photography

PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant and Culinary School Consulting, Training and Coaching
http://www.harvestamericaventures.com

Follow this blog at: http://www.culinarycuesblog.wordpress.com

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COOKS IN THE WEEDS – GASPING FOR AIR

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COOKS IN THE WEEDS – GASPING FOR AIR

There are times in a restaurant kitchen when things go terribly wrong. Every cook, every chef faces those moments that can only be described as desperate and out of control. There is so much truth to the theory of Murphy’s Law: “If anything can go wrong, it will”. There are many corollaries to this theory that point to variable approaches:
“If anything can go wrong, it can.” – Dr. Allen Roberds
This provides an opportunity to escape the worst- case scenario.

“If anything can go wrong, it should”.
This points to an understanding that you deserve what you get.

“If anything can go wrong, it will be all your fault and everyone will know it”. – Dean Izett
Noting that when things go wrong it is the “cover your ass” approach that allows others to feel less of the pain, passing on the full brunt of the results to one person (other than themselves).

The most important lesson from Murphy’s Law lies in understanding how important it is to plan, work through a variety of “worse case” scenarios, and focus always on being prepared. In kitchens one of the Cardinal Rules is to always make sure your mise en place is tight. Chefs always live by the theory that if your “mise” is in good shape, you can handle anything.

There is a certain level of comfort that comes from having your mise en place in order. I would consider it parallel to being lost on a desert road, but feeling OK because you have a full tank of gas. Great mise, like a full tank of gas gives you some elbowroom.

What the typical restaurant guest will never understand is the pressure that cooks face on the line every day and how dramatic it can be when they wind up “in the weeds”. So, what does this term mean? How can anyone adequately describe the feelings that are present when this happens? What can drive a line cook to this point despair and how can they, do they get through it?

The Urban Dictionary defines “in the weeds” as:

“When someone or something, usually in the food or beverage industry, becomes overwhelmed and falls behind.” Such as: “Hey chef, can you plate up those two fish for me?? I’m in the weeds….”

Honestly, this definition does not do justice to the situation or the feeling. When a cook is truly in the weeds he or she starts to lose track of what is going on. The dozen or so dishes that have been fired are now just a blur and the cook can no longer keep track of where each dish is in the cooking process. He or she starts to get that glazed over look, fails to respond to directives from the expeditor, becomes pale and may even start to tremble a bit. The cook can even break out in a cold sweat even though it is well over 100 degrees behind the line and will likely just stop in his or her tracks with a sense of hopelessness. A solid line team will begin to notice the signs a little bit earlier on and nod to the chef/expeditor that things are about to go south. Sometimes the line cook who is rubbing elbows with this individual at the next station might be able to bring things back by stepping in to help – that is “if” his or her station is under control. It will likely be the chef/expeditor who holds the key to recovery. Sometimes the line cook can be talked through the situation or in some cases the chef might need to pull him or her off the line for a time to get a grip. The chef would need to step into that role which may or may not bring the line out of “train wreck mode”. More often than not, the whole line will simply need to slow down, dinners will be slower coming from the kitchen, servers will need to temper the impatience of the guest by offering a free intermezzo or cocktail “on the chef” and the host will be instructed to hold back on seating anymore guests until the kitchen has a chance to recover.

For a time, the kitchen will become quiet as everyone tries to make sense of what has happened, find the cause, catch its breath and get the rhythm back. This may only take a few minutes, but while the kitchen is in this state it seems like time drags on forever.

What can cause this? There are a multitude of issues that can bring a great kitchen to a halt – most of them are avoidable. To begin with, it may be as simple as the line cook who did not have his or her mise en place together. Running out of ingredients and needing to stop and start chopping and dicing is a clear sign of disaster. It could be that the cook grabbed a hot pan, generating a throbbing burn and pulling that cooks concentration astray. It might be a disproportionate number of pick-ups on that night from one station placing undo pressure on a portion of the team, or it might be, and oftentimes is, a flaw in table management out front – seating too many people in a short period of time. Great table management is what some guests view as “why can’t I be seated now? I see you have empty tables in your dining room?” Communication between the front and back of the house can resolve most issues before they become problems.

Now you are in the thick of it. A line cook has mentally “dropped out”, the chef has stepped in behind the line to a back up of dishes and a lack of knowledge regarding where they are, the board is filled with dupes ready to be fired, and the rest of the team is waiting for direction. There are times when some cooks may wonder how the chef got to his or her position. They may question his or her ability to understand or do what each line cook does on a daily basis. The service staff is facing a crisis situation in the dining room with an increasing number of disgruntled guests waiting for their meal. This is the time when a true chef can earn respect and demonstrate why he or she is in that role. This is that moment when the chef is the chef. There is that moment when everyone holds their breath waiting for a defined course of action that will bring everyone out of deep water, gasping for breath, but knowing that things are going to be OK.

The chef takes a breath and says to the dining room manager: “For the next few moments we cannot seat anymore guests. I will be the only person who will communicate with service staff from this point on. Give us 20 minutes to right the ship and get back on track.” The chef then turns to his line staff to determine where they are with each ticket and simply states that they will take one ticket at a time until the board has been taken care of and then proceed to allow more diners to enter the fold.

Guests wait a bit longer, a few free drinks are passed their way, the dining room manager pays extra attention to those guests waiting (without placing blame anywhere), the bar is cranking as parties wait to be seated and slowly, but surely the line gets back its feeling of confidence as the board is nearly clear before a new set of clicks from the point of sale bring the kitchen back to where it was.

What is most important is that the line cook who was relieved (temporarily) is focused on re-building mise en place, brought back to the line after he clears his head, is welcomed by the other line cooks and supported by the chef. It can happen to anyone and probably will to each of the cooks working that night at some point. It likely will not happen to the line cook in question again for some time. His or her mise en place and focus will be razor sharp from this point on.

Once the night is over, a review of what happened will be important, but the incident must be behind them. Tomorrow will be another day, the crew pulled together and survived. This is what teams do.

To the guest, there was disappointment and a lack of understanding regarding what happened or why, but the front-of-the-house did what they do best: attend to the guest and make it right.

In the weeds, yes, but recovery can happen. This is a day in the life of a restaurant.

**photo by: Kristin Parker – Kristin Parker Photography

PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER

Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant and Culinary School Consulting, Training and Coaching
http://www.harvestamericaventures.com

Follow our blog at: http://www.culinarycuesblog.wordpress.com

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TYLER SCOTT: A YOUNG CHEF MARKS A PATH TO EXCELLENCE

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TYLER SCOTT:  A YOUNG CHEF MARKS A PATH TO EXCELLENCE

New York City has been called the center of the universe. For chefs and restaurateurs it is the mecca for the best talent to be found and a place for aspiring professionals to earn their chops, refine their talent and build their personal brand. New York is also very tough on cooks. The best restaurants are in such demand by young cooks that many agree to work as a stage’, dedicating countless hours for little or no money in exchange for knowledge and a resume builder. Thousands of cooks look to cut their teeth in New York while others might enter the New York landscape having built their skill set elsewhere and now seek approval from a very discriminating dining public. There are nearly 25,000 options in the boroughs of New York for guests to find a restaurant meal – an incredible amount of competition. In this type of environment the strong survive and the weak shall perish.

I find that it is always fascinating to follow young cooks who have the passion, the commitment and the patience to set a path from learning how to cut an onion to plating some of the most sophisticated food to be found on any table. The shear dedication and determination necessary to ride the train from point A to point Z can be hard to imagine with many bumps along the way. Those who make it – deserve it.

I have had the pleasure to watch many young culinarians reach their goals and feel for even more who falter along the way leading them to seek a different career path. One who has followed his dreams and continues to impress all who know him and enjoy his food is Chef Tyler Scott. He agreed to this interview as an opportunity to demonstrate a path for others. He is an inspiration to me.

1. What or who influenced you to pursue a career in food and beverage?
“I would have to say my mother and aunt. Growing up, even though she was working full time, my mother still made time to produce bread, and pastry items from scratch as well as can jams from all the summer berries. We didn’t have many traditions or family rituals but I always looked forward to cinnamon rolls at Christmas and strawberry short cake well into long Western New York winters.
My aunt, on the other hand, taught me the importance of being specialized and that if you are liberal with the use of anything let it be butter. She only cooked three things: French toast, Snicker Doodles, and city chicken, but all of them were uniquely hers in some fashion and delicious”.
2. Who mentored you in your pursuit of this career?
“I worked for a number of talented chefs over the years but two really guided me: Brian Skelding and Michael Powell. Chef Skelding instilled the foundations of cooking in me. Then later in my career Chef Powell schooled me on management and leadership”.
3. How would others describe your style of management?
“I believe that others would describe me as being fair and understanding with a strong emphasis on educating the people we employ”.
4. Do you have a business philosophy that drives your operational decisions? If so, can you describe this philosophy?
“Teamwork – I strongly believe that working as part of a cohesive unit is a crucial part to being successful”.
NOTE:
Chefs quickly realize that there is less room for individualism in kitchens than one might think. There are way too many tasks to accomplish, far too many variables that can distract and enormous pressure to be ready for anything and everything to even attempt to work without the complete cohesive nature of a team. This goes beyond “teamwork” and parallels the relationship that a successful sports team would encounter. All for one and one for all is the motto that kitchens live by.
5. Can you name a particular food experience in your life that was your epiphany? An experience that stands out as the moment when you said, yes, this is what I need to do.
“My first job after graduating from Paul Smith’s College was at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. I worked more and with more intensity during my time there than I ever had before in my life, but the first time I really held down a station on the main line and felt that rush of adrenaline I was hooked”.
6. What is your pet peeve about working in the food and beverage industry?
“The never-ending debate over meat temperature correctness drives me nuts. It is comical as well as irritating, especially in an age where chefs are so popular and information so accessible. This may appear to be a small thing, but it seems impossible to find two people (cooks or guests) who can agree on what medium rare looks like”.
7. Who are your most valuable players in the operation where you currently work?
“Hands down Oscar. We have a small staff at Ze Café and it is easy to see when someone is not pulling their share. Oscar is young with no formal training prior to this job, but you can see that he understands the foundations of what makes you successful as a cook on a daily basis”.
8. If you had an opportunity to provide some guiding light to young cooks, bakers or hospitality students looking to make their mark in this business, what would you tell them?
“Hard work pays off – period. Also, when the time comes and someone gives you a shot – have a clear idea of what it is that you want to do and how you are going to do it”.
9. When you hire people to work in your business what traits are you looking for?
“I look for a positive outlook on life, adaptability, and a willingness to learn. A positive outlook is huge for me in the work place, I try to smile and keep a bright mind set. This attitude helps with productivity and creates a more pleasant work environment. So I try to employ people with a similar attitude”.
10. If you were not working in food and beverage, what would you choose to do for a career?
“I would choose something that would keep me in close contact with the outdoors. I am an avid fly fisherman so maybe a guide”.
11. What would you like people to know about your current business and the products that you produce or sell?

“Ze cafe is a small restaurant with a French influenced menu. We focus on freshness and quality of product. During most of the year we are privileged to receive fruits, vegetables, and eggs from our owners farm just south of Albany, New York”.

NOTE:

I had the pleasure of watching Tyler grow from his early days as a culinary student and captain of our student culinary team. Tyler’s experiences since then brought him from the Greenbrier, America’s premier American Plan Hotel to his current role as Sous Chef for Ze Café. Along the way, he followed his culinary dreams from coast to coast as defined in this bio from Ze Café website:
“Born in Buffalo New York, Chef Scott spent his pre-college years working in restaurants. Upon graduating high school he attended Culinary Arts and Service Management at Paul Smith’s College.
While at Paul Smith’s Tyler was the Co-captain on the school Cold Food Team, which received two gold and silver medals at the New York City Food Show.
Shortly after graduating he was selected for the apprenticeship program at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia where he was immersed in the world of Classical French Cuisine.
Returning home after three years, he worked as a Sous-Chef to Chef Scott Bova at The Athenaeum Hotel in Chautauqua, NY for the summer season of 2008. The following fall, Tyler moved to Portland, Oregon where he was able to pursue his interests in farm to table dining, butchering and Charcuterie working as a Sous -Chef under Ryan Bleibtrey at Urban Farmer Restaurant.
Tyler returned to Western New York to work for Chef Jonathan Haloua at La Fleur a Four Diamond Award Restaurant in Mayville, NY. After working at La Fleur, Tyler was offered the Chef de Cuisine position at the Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club where he worked for 4 years. He returned to work with Chef Jonathan in the summer of 2013 at La Fleur and joined the Zé Café team Fall of 2013.”
______________________________________________________________________________________
Ze Café receives exceptional reviews as a top tier French inspired restaurant in New York. The next time you are in “the city” stop in for dinner and ask for Chef Tyler. Satisfaction guaranteed! Visit their website at:

http://www.zecafe.com/

PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant and Culinary School Consulting, Training and Coaching
http://www.harvestamericaventures.com

Follow our blog at: http://www.culinarycuesblog.wordpress.com

Realistic Expectations for Culinary School Graduates

A post from two years ago that is still relevant today.

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This is an article that I posted two years ago regarding the expectations that young graduates of culinary education oftentimes have when first entering a professional kitchen. I felt that it fit well with the series of recent posts that I made regarding line cooks, bakers and the path that they take en route to the position of “chef”. So, forgive the “repost”, but hopefully you will note the timeliness of the content.

I am not sure where it went wrong.  Maybe it is an over-zealous admissions staff, maybe it is the Food Network.  The source could be instructors hoping to inspire young people to early greatness or quite possibly it is the parent who truly believes that their son or daughter is born with the Emeril gene.  To some degree it is probably the “return on investment” need for instant payback on a very expensive culinary education, or who…

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IN THE KITCHEN – HIRE PASSION, TEACH DISCIPLINE

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IN THE KITCHEN – HIRE PASSION, TEACH DISCIPLINE

Chefs seem to always lament about the difficult task of finding the right staff to fulfill the mission of their kitchen. “Where can I find good cooks who will show up to work prepared, who have a strong foundational knowledge about process, and who will give me a good days work for a good days pay”?

Turnover rates in restaurant operations seem to be significantly higher than in other professions with the average shelf-life of a cook oftentimes less than a year and dishwashers – well, sometimes we measure their likely time with us in months or even weeks. A good chef friend of mine once told me to just keep hiring cooks and dishwashers because if you don’t need them today you will tomorrow. Where are we going wrong? Is it the business and should we just continue to accept this as “the way it is”? What is missing in the formula for building a great team? Is it the hours that kitchen employees work? Is it the pay and or benefits (or lack there of)? Is it the conditions that people work in (heat, on their feet, burns and cuts, heavy lifting, pressure of impossible time constraints)? Is it all of the above?

There are certainly ample books and articles written about these aforementioned conditions yet young people continue to flock to culinary schools for a jump-start on a career in food. Tens of thousands of those students graduate each and every year, yet chefs still complain that they cannot find “good cooks who will show up prepared to work, who possess a strong foundational knowledge about process and who will give the chef a good days work for a good days pay”. Something just isn’t right, there must be an answer.

Having worn a number of hats that are part of this story (employee, chef/employer, culinary instructor, school administrator) I have searched for the answer for many, many years. Here is my conclusion broken down into three parts:

1. There is no question that we need to look at the conditions, pay and benefits afforded kitchen employees if we want to hang on to them. Health care, respectable pay based on the skill set for a particular job and the ability to advance are all pretty basic needs that people have. Without them, any employee will begin to look elsewhere.
2. Hire passion and expect to train those who have it. Passion is not something that is as common as one might think. Chefs can certainly build passion, but there needs to be a spark to begin with. Passionate people are always looking for something to take to heart and dedicate their energies to.

Aldous Huxley once wrote: “I want to know what passion is. I want to feel something strongly.”

If a chef wants to build that team focused on the larger objectives defined for the restaurant, he or she must seek out people with that spark – that need to know passion. One might assume that if a young person chose to attend culinary school and invest the time and money to attain a degree then the passion must be there. Unfortunately, I have found that this is quite often – not the case. When a person has that spark of passion they realize that they must be willing to give in to it, to sacrifice much in its pursuit, to make choices that could very well be difficult. Far too many young people are not ready to make that commitment, to sacrifice things in pursuit of a dream. Those who have the spark can be easy to filter out from the pack, but it must be something that the chef looks for, insists on, and makes a top priority. In building a dynamic team there is no substitute for the spark of passion.

“There is scarcely any passion without struggle”.
Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

If the passion is there, then the chef has an opportunity to set the young cook on a course for success – a course that will, in time, benefit the restaurant and even more importantly – benefit that young cook as he or she proceeds to build a career. The chef must take this spark of passion, encourage it, keep it in check, teach and train and help the cook to build a solid path. Even that dishwasher who might typically only stay a few months at a property can be developed into a great employee, maybe a prep cook, line cook and eventually, with the right coaching, a chef in his or her own right.

“Persistence, Perfection, Patience, Power, Prioritize your passion. It keeps you sane.”
Criss Jami, author of Venus in Arms

3. Discipline is the hallmark of success in a professional kitchen. Uncontrolled passion can lead to chaos and although kitchens may often appear to be chaotic, they are typically controlled chaos. These young cooks and team members must understand that a kitchen runs most efficiently when it is modeled after the military structure that served as its beginnings under chefs like Escoffier, Careme and Point. There is a reason for this that most who had experienced an efficient operation would understand and agree with. Kitchens operate under sometimes impossible deadlines with each individual player responsible for a plethora of minute preparations before the onslaught of orders clicking their way into the kitchen from the dining room. This pre-opening pressure is accompanied by a cacophony of sounds including banging of pots, pressure steamers, interplay between cooks, pounding of meats in preparation for station work and the rumble of speed racks and Queen Anne carts thundering down the narrow paths between stoves, coolers and dining rooms. To keep the pace, ensure everyone remains on task, and maintain a level of safety it becomes imperative for there to be a respect for chain of command and attention to the many details facing each cook. This again is where “yes, chef” becomes the most important response, one that all cooks, especially those just starting out, must adhere to. With all of their preparation in class, many young cooks out of school do not understand or appreciate this. The result of too much deviation from this plan will bring down the ship, something that a chef cannot allow to happen. When there is discipline, there is focus. When there is focus, there is calm. When there is calm, there is efficiency and success. This is the job of the chef and this is what keeps a team together and allows that passion to take form.

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishments.”

Jim Rohn – entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker

“Confidence comes from discipline and training”.

Robert Kiyosaki

A chef who understands and implements a plan for addressing those foundational needs of his or her team, hires individuals with a passion to learn and a love of food and who establishes a system of professional discipline in the kitchen will build that team that is so desperately needed.

PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER

Harvest America Ventures, LLC
http://www.harvestamericaventures.com
Restaurant and Culinary School Consulting, Training and Coaching

Follow Culinary Cues at: http://www.culinarycuesblog.wordpress.com