Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cultivation of Kitchen Spirit

Cultivation of Kitchen Spirit

Ah�.the day is finally over, paperwork is done, kitchen is cleaned
and closed down�or is it?

Party of 750 tomorrow, one for 200 on Saturday and a ton of
reservations for both days. Went over banquet event orders and
reservations with my Chef de Cuisine and my Sous Chefs, all the
ordering's done, all the systems in place, scheduling is completed,
produce called in, final prep mise en place for the morning is
accomplished. Man, I love my job. Not only do I love it, I love
sharing it, which is one of the great things about being a Chef,
cultivating a spirited staff that I can depend on.

As a Chef, we must take it upon ourselves not only to set the pace
and quality in our kitchen but having the type of staff we can rely
on, especially one of the most important factors of our profession,
our Chefs de Cuisine, and our Sous Chefs.

As a culinary professional although it is important to express so
that others understand our philosophies of our food---taste, color,
texture, quality, final product. It is our job to develop our
management staff into being all that they are capable of being
without having the fear of "pushing the envelope".

Our world today, is much different than it was when we were growing,
studying, learning-we have come to learn that compassion goes a lot
further than the insanity of the "old school" methods of developing
culinarians. Many of us will remember the norm as having the chef
screaming, throwing tantrums and slinging rondos across the kitchen,
telling you that your food looks like crap, pulling plates out of the
window while he is asking if you would rather wash dishes that
evening. We sure have come a long way baby!!!

The growth in my management style I can honestly say is a tribute to
my friend, teacher and mentor,Executive Chef Scott Monteverde. There
are important factors that you must address continuously with and
through your Chefs de Cuisine and your Sous Chefs, they are the
backbone of not only your establishment, but of you , your image and
your food.

I have acquired a certain amount of ideologies from Chef Scott that I
attempt to always share with my entire staff, both front and back of
the house, it makes for a better work environment and a strong spirit
in our kitchens.

Cook together
Rubbing elbows and exchanging sweat with your cooks and chefs is one
of the greatest teachers of them all. Leading by example. You can
teach your staff what you expect not only from flavors, colors,
textures and presentations, but what you expect them to be-everything
they can be... It doesn't even come close to stopping there, because
our world is so much more than food, food is only one point of a our
extreme multi-faceted circle---from cleanliness and sanitation, from
ordering, scheduling and punching numbers, to having that sense of
urgency, quality, efficiency, to being cool and level headed in the
heat of the pressure. They say that children live what they learn,
well, so do our cooks and chefs�

Share everything
This is not the type of business where we should pull punches (never
mind throwing them). If costs are out of line, if cleanliness and
sanitation aren't up to standards, if food presentation or quality is
lacking, (among a hundred thousand other variables) and
these "variables" are not what we expect, we need to share this
information. The key of this being successful in the development of
your staff, is undoubtedly in the cultivation of their spirit ,
having the ability to express your thoughts, never compromising your
ethics, and never unjustifiably alienating anyone. I refuse to
sacrifice my ethics for any reason, but in the same token, I make it
a point to express myself in a clear, decisive and non-intrusive
manner. I feel that this is very important in the world of
communication, not only with your staff, but with everyone in your
life. Also, the same goes with the positive situations as well, if
they rock and roll, then tell them, if they develop something that is
awesome, then tell them, positive re-enforcement is one of the
greatest things one person can receive from a mentor.

Nurture independence and personal growth
Although there may be questions concerning flavors, textures, method
of execution, so on and so forth. The staff that gets micro-managed
often becomes a dependent staff. Everyone at one point or another
should be able to bring something to the table and should be
receptive to all ideas and suggestions of their managers as well as
their peers. As far as our Chefs de Cuisine and our Sous Chefs, they
should constantly be able to bring something to the table because you
want them to grow and accept ownership of the products they are
permitting to leave your kitchen. Chef Scott once asked me what I
considered myself to be (I was Chef Scott's Executive Sous, we didn't
have a Chef de Cuisine) and I explained to him that although I
consider myself an accomplished culinarian that I was an extension of
his thoughts, visions, flavors, textures and quality. This is exactly
what I expect from the culinarians under my tutelage, although I
always give them the opportunity to express themselves, I encourage
them to have their own independence and make their own decisions.

Give room

Going with my independence and growth thought, it is up to us as
managers to give our management team the room to grow and expand
their horizons. Unfortunately this sometimes leads to some of our
strong people leaving the establishment, but we must expect that some
of our best culinarians will one day want to branch out and either be
on their own or find another culinarian to study under to improve the
overall professional that they are/desire to be. I personally never
criticize a person for wanting to expand the individual that they
want themselves be. One key that I have found is to give them room to
be who they want to be, give them a sense of direction of where I
would like them to go, give them the tools to recognize and attain
that next plateau and above and beyond that, support them win or
lose, success or failure. After all we are their teachers.

Michael "Cheffy" Hayes

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