Tag: passion



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.


Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant and Culinary School Consulting, Training and Coaching

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



I am far from a wine expert, however, as is the case with many things in life – I become more knowledgeable and appreciative as the years go by. I know what I like to drink, I know which foods I enjoy with certain wines, I am very open to trying anything new, and I have become very enthralled with the people who dedicate their lives to the grape.

Case in point, although I am not that fond of white wines, I am very enthused with Sauvignon Blanc, and in particular, those grapes that wind up as a Sancerre. Having visited the town of Sancerre many times and having built some familiarity with the Loire Valley, I consider myself to be a bit of a Sancerre advocate.

I have enjoyed the privilege of tasting wines in the private cellars of noteworthy wine makers in Sancerre and in particular that of Daniel Chotard. After many years I now consider Daniel to be my friend (even though his English is almost as shaky as my French – almost). I have hosted Daniel and his wife in Saranac Lake, have worked diligently with my other French friends: the Weissberg’s – to get Chotard’s wine on regional lists, and have had the pleasure of breaking bread in various bistros throughout the Loire with Daniel and a cadre of enthusiastic chefs and wine afficandos.

I read the following review of Chotard’s Sancerre; in this case a 2009, by the Wine Spectator and Robert Parker:
“90 points Wine Spectator: “Super fresh, with lots of chive, fleur de sel, lime and chalk notes backed by a strong flinty note on the bracing finish, which really stretches out. Drink now.” (12/10) 89 points Parker’s Wine Advocate: “Daniel Chotard’s 2009 Sancerre is diversely scented and flavored with papaya, grapefruit, cassis, and passion fruit. A distinctly saline overlay – along with bright acids – helps convey a sense of invigoration and refreshment and offsets the relatively bitter cast to a persistently zesty finish. I suspect this will be best enjoyed over the next 12-18 months.” (08/10)
Not a bad review; one that certainly would help Daniel move his wine into certain American restaurant circles, however it really doesn’t tell the whole story. There is something else about wine that is more social that taste, flavor and aroma. Certainly anyone who enjoys Sauvignon Blanc would find Chotard’s to be quite exceptional, but to me it is impossible to separate the wine from the person.
Daniel Chotard, and now his son to follow, is 100% dedicated to the grape and his wine. Whether it is Chotard, Mondavi, or Helen Turley, that passion is what really makes a wine sing. Whatever the situation, it is the grape that comes first. To a wine maker caring for the grape is comparable to caring for a child. It requires so much time, knowledge, passion and luck, that it becomes quite apparent that the wine maker must pass on some of his/her own characteristics to the end product. Just as a parent influences how the child evolves and the type of person they become, so too does the grape reflect this caring relationship.
Daniel Chotard is a wonderful, hard-working, dedicated, caring person who in turn produces a wine of unique character. As is the case with those who are as dedicated to wine making, as a chef is dedicated to cuisine, Chotard represents all that is right in the world of wine.
I would certainly encourage anyone who can find a bottle or two of Chotard Sancerre to saver it, but more importantly I would encourage you to plan a trip to the Loire and pay my friend a visit. I guarantee the wine will become more than a great beverage, it will become a reflection of the man and a memory for life.
Harvest America Ventures will be planning a Educational Adventure Wine Vacation to France in September of 2013. Daniel Chotard is one of the program contributors. Visit our website for more details as they unfold:
click on Wine Vacations

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