Tag: team



“The chef really needs to motivate me today”. How often have you heard this type of interplay in the kitchen? People have a tendency to relegate their performance, attitude, and outlook on their job to someone else. A restaurant employee is off of their game, riddled with doom and gloom, prone to make dumb mistakes, or simply miserable to be around and thus looks to those “in charge” for a reason to change.

No person can motivate another. This is the reality that so many choose not to understand. Managers, chefs and coworkers cannot dictate that an employee or peer approach their job and their coworkers with a positive attitude, only the individual suffering from this downward approach can choose to self-motivate. All that management, the chef or that person’s peers can do is to set the stage for self-motivation.

Now, this being said there is much that the chef or manager can do to create an environment for self-motivation. If you subscribe to the age-old theory of Abraham Maslow then you understand that the first three steps associated with his Hierarchy of Needs relates to tangible areas that management and the chef can control to some degree.

Survival needs relate directly and indirectly to a livable wage. The challenge with a livable wage is that it means something different to every individual. Survival goes beyond the basics of food, shelter and clothing – it relates to the level of food, shelter and clothing that the person has become accustomed to and most importantly relates to the skill level required to perform certain tasks. What chefs and managers can certainly do is provide an environment where individuals can improve their skills and prepare for the next level position that does offer increases in compensation. Training, mentoring and coaching all play well into this formula. The second step in the Hierarchy of Needs focuses on Security. The chef has an obligation to the business to operate in a manner that enhances the opportunity for financial success. This same fiduciary responsibility will create a business climate that protects the jobs of those who actively participate in this process. If the business succeeds the employee can feel more comfortable about their job security and if these same employees contribute as expected then they can rest easy when it comes to longevity. The third level deals with a Sense of Belongingness. Building comprehensive orientation programs, using the in-house buddy system for initial job acclimation, offering on-going training and assessment and developing opportunities for staff members to interact on and off the job will help individuals feel at home with their position and allow the other members of a kitchen team to feel at ease and part of the acclimation process.

The final two steps in Maslow’s Theory are Self-Esteem and Self Actualization: both can certainly be impacted by the chef in a property, but they rely heavily on the individual’s desire to excel, work ethic and willingness to take full advantage of the positive environment that has been created by management. Self Esteem- how a person feels about themselves, their work, the product or service they provide, the perception of others and the value of their existence is one of the deepest topics associated with human psychology. Self-Actualization is in essence the ability to “be all that you can be”. The interesting point about this is that we can never really be all that we can be, so if the environment for this opportunity exists then individuals will be constantly looking at how to improve, reaching eternally for that carrot – the Japanese refer to it as Kaizen, a core principle that they live by as a culture. Not all people are equal in terms of their desire to perform, their willingness to take on challenges or to even seeing the opportunities before them. Self-motivation is exactly what it sounds like. Dictionary.com defines self-motivation as follows:

“Self-motivation. Initiative to undertake or continue a task or activity without another’s prodding or supervision. They learn a sense of self-confidence and self-motivation, and it stays with them into their adult lives.”

When self-motivation kicks in there is very little that can get in the way of a person’s progress and eventual success. It is this important trait that separates those who know they can and do from those who think they can’t and don’t. No one has control over this except the individual. Those who try to place the blame on others for their inability to self-motivate will likely never find success.

Sorry, the chef cannot motivate you is something that should be realized by the individual seeking an outside push and must be realized by the chef or the manager as well. Create the environment, hire those who will view this environment as an opportunity and recognize the efforts of those who choose to take the bull by the horns.

As a footnote it should be acknowledged that if the chef or manager fails to create the environment for this to work then the result would be stifling to those who have potential. When the environment for self-motivation does not exist then individuals with potential will seek opportunities elsewhere. To this point, Maslow fails to address some additional components of the self-motivation process. Those properties that provide the physical plant that allows cooks (in this example) to execute their craft effectively and feel pride in the product that they produce will help to set the stage for great things to happen. Additionally, those operations that have a philosophy of operation that aligns with those in their staff who have the raw materials for self-motivation – will have an added bonus of building not just successful employees but loyal ambassadors as well.

Motivation is not a simple concept, certainly not one that can be addressed in a short article, however there is typically agreement on the part of the hundreds of authors who have studied and preached their beliefs on the topic that more weight needs to be placed on the individual than the organization or its management.

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



What are the differences between a group, teamwork and a true team? This definition may shed some light, however, it falls short of the real meaning of team:


“A group of people with different skills and

different tasks, who work together on a

common project, service, or goal, with a

meshing of functions and mutual support.”

Most people would agree with the interpretation offered in this definition, but does it really clarify why some teams consistently reach and exceed goals; goals that are focused on results both professional and personal? Any group can be directed to work together to accomplish a goal. This is, after all, why we have managers and supervisors. The question is “what happens in the absence of directive”?

Those of us who have experienced a real “team” situation understand how special that is. “Teams” go beyond the obvious: there is chemistry, a bond that stems from understanding, appreciation, support, dedication, resolve and friendship. This connection, once experienced, does bring about great results in the moment but also evolves into a sense of family that is just as strong as any biological family unit. Team members care for each other, are truly interested in what each member is doing and gains strength from that connection.

I spent last weekend with fellow chefs who were a part of the 1988 New England Culinary Olympic Team. I have, in previous posts, told the story of how this team came together and what we accomplished, but this weekend served as a reminder to me just how important this bond was and is. The four days we cooked together, broke bread, toasted with a few glasses of wine and simply enjoyed each other’s company, was by far one of the highlights of my year.

We became familiar with each other’s recent professional accomplishments, talked about family, and laughed constantly. We were humbled by Chef Charles Carroll’s work with “Operation Hot” in support of our troops in Afghanistan, were amazed at the work that Joe Faria was doing at Quail Valley Golf and River Club, were riveted to the stories that Michael Beriau shared about his ski patrol work outside of his culinary commitments at White Oaks Country Club and went to school watching Walter Zuromski demonstrate contemporary techniques for food preparation. It was a true demonstration of what can happen when “team” takes place.

Thank you Joe Faria and Amy Haase-Hughes for putting this weekend together. It is my understanding that the week of charity at their property will raise over $400,000 in support of children’s programs in the Vero Beach area. We were treated like kings and were proud to have contributed in some way to the success of the events.

Cooking together was so easy. It was like the 25-year separation from our group didn’t exist. From the moment we first hugged each other we were back in 1988. I wish that everyone would find an opportunity in their lives to experience this type of bonding. I feel very blessed.

The 1988 New England Culinary Team was:

Anton Flory – Team Manager
Roland Czekelius – Team Captain
Charles Carroll (pictured)
Michael Beriau (pictured)
Walter Zuromski (pictured)
Joe Faria (pictured)
Paul Sorgule (pictured)
George Higgins
Lars Johansson
Danny Varano
Neil Connolly

This weekend was dedicated in memory of the team members and advisors we have lost in recent years: Anton Flory, Roland Czekelius, Neil Connolly, John Carroll, Gino Correlli and Bud Matheson.

For more information about the team members in attendance:

Joe Faria: http://www.quailvalleygolfclub.com

Charles Carroll and Operation Hot: http://www.chefcharlescarroll.com

Michael Beriau: http://www.whitecliffscc.com

Walter Zuromski: http://www.chefservicesgroup.com

Paul Sorgule: http://www.harvestamericaventures.com



After the day one results in Frankfurt, the New England Culinary Olympic Team was truly energized. Mickey Beriau and Danny Varano had set the bar very high with their gold medal performances. This now became everyone’s goal and the team would rally behind each chef preparing to show.

We were not free of issues that would throw us a curve ball. I had mentioned how easy it was to get through customs on our way into Germany. That changed when they apparently read our manifests and realized that our team had brought in some proteins that were banned in Europe. We were, of course, unaware of this until they threatened to confiscate our supplies and maybe even hold us in custody. Thanks to our team manager – Tony Flory and team captain Roland Czekelius (both born in Austria) and their diplomacy we reached an agreement. Some items were discarded and customs assigned an agent to insure that each day after judging we would discard everything from our presentation tables. Additionally an important part of our pastry displays was to be sugar work under huge, custom made glass domes. These domes arrived in Germany from the manufacturer cracked. Another adjustment was in order.

Despite these set-backs the team continued to work 20 hours a day executing our programs and doing so with high expectations.

Each day brought more excitement as chef after chef was awarded a gold medal for his performance. Joe Faria worked through a stomach bug, a few items on our programs didn’t work out as planned so the team rallied to help with solutions, sleepless nights began to take their toll as evidenced by the state of the kitchen we were using each morning (the chef of the facility was beginning to regret his generosity), and it appeared that a few of our finished items in coolers found their way on to platters presented by the Austrian Team with whom we shared the kitchen. Through this, the team continued to exceed everyone’s expectations.

In the end, the team walked away with 19 gold medals, 1 silver, 1 bronze and recognition as the overall best team competing in the Culinary Olympics that year. The day that the team walked onto the stage to receive this recognition was, by far, the most exhilarating accomplishment of my professional career. Each chef: Roland Czekelius, Mickey Beriau, Danny Varano, George Higgins, Neil Connolly, Lars Johansson, Walter Zuromski, Charles Carroll, Joe Faria and myself would be changed forever.

What was most satisfying was how the team evolved from a group of individuals to a cohesive team. We respected each other’s abilities, complemented each other’s weaknesses, supported each other’s efforts, honestly critiqued each other’s work followed with help and advice on how to improve, took great joy in each other’s accomplishments but most importantly placed the team before the individual.

I have, over the years, used this model of unity and performance in everything that I have attempted, with every organization that I have worked for and with every individual who has worked beside me.

The picture on this post is that of Anton Flory, Certified Master Chef and manager of our team who set the tone for our accomplishments, mentored each of us, and supported our work in any way that he could. Whether we needed someone to brunoise a vegetable, slice a terrine, polish a platter or wash a pot, Anton was there.

Tomorrow’s post will complete the story and reflect on 25 years later for Team New England.

Chefs and Servers with Different Motivations

When chefs and service staff are not on the same page the guest experience is confused and disjointed. When I have referenced the importance of team in the kitchen I am concerned that some might think that if that “culinary island” is in sync then the guest experience will be great. Team refers to a cohesive effort on the part of all staff members to create that exceptional dining event.

What motivates your staff on a daily basis (keeping in mind that you, as a manager or chef, cannot motivate another employee. This is something that they must do for themselves)? What can you do to help insure the right customer event?

Your official job is to create the environment for positive self-motivation. This, of course, begins with selecting the individuals with the “right stuff”, orienting them to the operation and its philosophy, training with gusto, investing in providing the right tools, creating forums for open communication between all team members, empowering people to make decisions, recognizing people for their role and thanking them for going the extra mile, setting the example for others to follow, providing honest critique and when necessary demonstrating how to correct areas that need attention. The most important piece is creating ample opportunities for open communication.

Chefs are typically motivated by the creative process. Their motivation is the tactile process of work that brings an idea to fruition on the plate. The hard facade that often accompanies the image of a chef is really just a protective crust that hides the fragile artist underneath who takes real pride in bringing out flavors, presenting their art on a canvas (plate) and seeing clean plates return from the dining room. That mis-step that brings excellent food to ordinary, incredible ingredients to ruin, fresh food to something that is dry and inappropriate or a smiling guest to the unhappy recipient of a plate of food that is below their expectations is devastating to a serious cook or chef. Self-loathing happens on a daily basis among cooks and chefs who are serious about their craft. As “up” as they may be when things go right, the lows are pretty severe when they don’t. They eat, drink and sleep “food”, their closest professional companion. They relish incredible ingredients and bow to those who are able to make magic food out of what they are given to work with.

Servers are certainly pleased when guests are happy with their experience, however, the compensation system that restaurants have adopted for waiters drives them to work for the reward of a great tip. In the end, it is the gratuity that demonstrates to the server that they have performed at an acceptable or greater than acceptable level. It is rare to find a server today who is just as pumped about food as the chef. You rarely see a service staff member blurry-eyed from reading cookbooks until 2 a.m. or spending their day off hanging out at other restaurants to help refine their craft. We (restaurants) have not created the community of food lovers who know as much about the ingredients, cooking and flavor profiles as the chef. This is not the fault of the server, it is the fault of leadership not paying attention to how critical it is for chefs and servers to share a similar passion. Without this passion and commitment, the guest experience is disjointed.

On those rare occasions when I have experienced a restaurant in complete sync, it is incredible to sit back and watch what transpires. Cooks and service staff carry on conversations about food, other restaurants, as well as wine and food/wine pairings they have experienced. The staff meal is a collaborative event with front and back of the house laughing, sharing stories, quizzing each other on tonight’s preparations and truly enjoying each other’s company.

The end result is always a better customer experience because service staff and cooks are truly interested in how the food is perceived, how the flavors marry with that wine that the sommelier suggested, and how many times the guest pulls out their smart phone, not to talk, but to take pictures of the food.

When chefs and servers share the same inspiration, the guest can feel it. These rare restaurants are always first on everyone’s list when it comes time to make a reservation.


The cadence of orders in a busy kitchen seems unrelenting. A staccato clicking from the point of sale printer sends out a drum roll of orders while the expeditor calmly, yet seriously calls out tickets in kitchen lingo to the battery of cooks on the line. They in turn signal back receipt of the order by either repeating it or simply saying “yes chef”. Ordering, fire, picking up, re-fire, I need an “all-day”, is part of the script that every professional cook understands and responds to with surgical precision. Orders are pre-fired and finished, plated as per the accepted design, edges wiped, placed in the window, inspected and finished by the chef/expeditor and passed on to servers in a seamless stream of syncopated and rehearsed activity.

To watch this interplay is truly amazing. The orchestration by the chef/expeditor is possible because everyone on the line is in sync. To allow this magic to occur every cook must be on their game. They must have impeccable mise en place (prep and organization), must know not just the details of their station but that of every other station, they must have the desired flavor profile of each dish embedded in their flavor memory, and must approach each single plate as if it were their personal work of art that makes a statement about their abilities and passion for food. Each cook must accept their role and understand how important their role is to the whole. They must respect the chain of command and never question directives from the chef, and must at all costs maintain the desired quality of their work. They must support those who are “in the weeds” and be comfortable asking for help when they see the same issue creeping into their station.

When it works, the busy kitchen is a beautiful thing. WHY? Because this group of cooks has become a team, not unlike any other professional body with a focused mission. Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, the military, or for that matter any driven business adheres to the same “call to arms”: Understanding, acceptance, discipline, preparedness, practice, respect, passion and common goals = TEAM. TEAM = SUCCESS.

Contrary to what you see on these very un-realistic television “reality cooking shows”, kitchens cannot work when there is a lack of any one of the aforementioned components. Chefs who yell and belittle do not inspire great cooking. In fact, this will do just the opposite. This type of chef (and I use the term loosely here) will create an environment of winners and losers and survival of the fittest. The result will almost always be chaos, back stabbing, inconsistent food, and unhappy guests.

Effective chefs can learn from those leaders in any business who aspire to create a team environment. To do so will lead to a cohesive group of committed, proud, supportive and successful cooks. These individuals will relish the opportunity to work in such an environment and treasure their employment as a result. Great teams = longevity among a restaurants cooking staff.

Given the chance, every diner would benefit from touring the kitchen of a restaurant they choose to dine in. If the operation is clean, if the cooks seem focused, if they are able to occasionally smile and if the chef works like a coach whose job it is to support, encourage and orchestrated, then I can assure you that the food will be great.

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